Save Our Strand Gala raises funds for Hamburg theater improvements

Members of the Hamburg Strand Theater Committee hold items donated for auction at the Save Our Strand Gala Oct. 29.  Left to right: Clare Benz, Bethany Sholl, Linda Wood, Vreeland Wood, Gerry Schappell and Our Town Foundation Executive Director Deena Kershner.
Members of the Hamburg Strand Theater Committee hold items donated for auction at the Save Our Strand Gala Oct. 29. Left to right: Clare Benz, Bethany Sholl, Linda Wood, Vreeland Wood, Gerry Schappell and Our Town Foundation Executive Director Deena Kershner. Anne Ostrowski — Digital First Media
Gala guests peruse the items offered for auction at St. Mary’s Parish Hall on Oct. 29.
Gala guests peruse the items offered for auction at St. Mary’s Parish Hall on Oct. 29. Anne Ostrowski — Digital First Media

Sometimes you have to spend a little in order to save something special.

That’s just what attendees did for the Hamburg Strand Theatre at the Save Our Strand Gala, held Oct. 29 at St. Mary’s Parish Hall in Tilden Township.

A buffet dinner and auction raised $13,000 in the latest event to support the Strand’s Capital Campaign. The highest bid item, at $1,700, was a one-week vacation package at Bethany Beach, Del., donated by Steve Keifer.

More than 90 people attended the event, which featured food catered by The Westy, an open bar, entertainment by the band Desperado, and auctioneer services by Tracy Wagner of Dennis Wagner Auctions. All of the items offered for auction were contributed by local businesses, members of the Theatre Committee and individuals. Among the more-than one hundred donated gifts were a private fondue-making class for six in New York City, a cubic zirconia necklace donated by Murphy Jewelers, an iPad Air donated by George Holmes, and two Trophy Club tickets to the 2018 U.S. Open Golf Tournament.

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Stephanie Adam, the Strand’s coordinator, said the Theatre Committee felt an auction would be a great way to help meet the fundraising goal, and to shine a light on the importance of keeping the theater alive.

“This theater has been here since the 1930s,” Adam said. “Supporting the Strand and keeping it open keeps activity going in the downtown area.”

According to Bethany Sholl, theater manager, one of the purposes of the Theater Committee is to offer events other than movies, like plays, bands and birthday parties.

“Our goal is to make the Strand a community hub,” said Sholl, “the place where you go, not just for the movies.”

The Our Town Foundation (OTF), which owns the theater on Fourth Street in the borough, and the Theater Committee have been raising money for the past three years to update the nearly 100-year-old venue.

“When we started the campaign in 2014, our goal was to raise $200,000 by the end of 2017,” said Deena Kershner, executive director of OTF. “Because of the money raised at the Gala, we still have approximately $20,000 more to go to reach our campaign goal.”

The campaign is being greatly helped by an anonymous donor who offered to match, up to $25,000, any donations received by the end of the year.

According to Kershner, every dollar raised has gone to make improvements to the facility. To date, they have purchased a digital projector, refurbished the marquee, built two new bathrooms on the first level, installed a new roof over the theater and garage, fixed an exterior wall, added new stage flooring and painted the interior.

Because of the addition of the digital projector, the Strand is able to present first-run movies, unlike other older theaters. Recent events included a girls’ night out showing of Bad Moms Christmas on the day it was released, and the annual Rocky Horror Picture Show presentation.

Kershner added that the money raised by the auction will go to make additional improvements to the interior of the building.

The Theater Committee is still accepting monetary donations for the Capital Campaign through the end of the year. Interested individuals may make donations online through www.hamburgstrand.org, at the Our Town Foundation office on State Street, or at the Hamburg Strand Theater.