Center seeks to raise $70,000 to match grant
By ERIC STIRGUS
© St. Petersburg Times,
LARGO -- The Largo Cultural Center has six months to raise $70,000.
The money is needed to match a challenge from a donor who wants to give the center $100,000 but with a string: the center has to match it with another $100,000. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave the center's fundraisers a Dec. 31 deadline.
"The race is on," said Tarin Mohajeri, a development specialist for the center, who is one of the lead coordinators of the effort.
The donor has agreed to match whatever is raised by the end of the year, even if Partners N Progress for the Arts, the center's fundraising group, does not meet the $100,000 goal. The money will be used to create an endowment that will pay for arts programs.
Partners N Progress has raised $30,000 through donations ranging from $10 to $10,000 since the campaign began in January.
Will they be able to get the rest of the money in time?
"Yes," Mohajeri said. "I think people understand how important it is to have the arts in people's lives. Art is being cut out of the schools. Another opportunity to bring art in people's lives is through the Largo Cultural Center and the only way it is possible is through donations."
Supporters are hoping to collect a good portion of the needed money through a gala this fall celebrating the center's fifth anniversary.
The center would like to use the interest from the fund to create more children's theater camps, partnerships with schools near the center and theater workshops for adults.
"The endowment provides stability for Partners N Progress in the sense that there will always be funds for those programs, as long as we don't touch it," said Mohajeri.
Supporters actually would like to raise $360,000, which would make Largo eligible for $240,000 from the state. City commissioners raised the possibility of using taxpayer money to help reach that $360,000 mark, but city staff members discouraged the idea. They think it is important for residents to show their financial support for the center's success.
"Ultimately, for the theater to be successful, it has to be embraced by the community," said City Manager Steven Stanton. "And the way to do that is through support financially and through attendance."
The fundraising effort comes as city commissioners recently discussed how to make the 5-year-old facility self-sufficient. Now 48 percent of the center's $937,100 budget is paid by taxpayer dollars. Other area performing arts centers, while older and more established, do not nearly depend on city funds as much.
City Commissioner Harriet Crozier said center staff and its supporters must work harder to encourage businesses to give donations to the facility.
"I think we need to get out there and talk, talk, talk to people," said Crozier, who said she gave one-third of her leftover campaign funds, $110.61, to the endowment fund.
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