Grants allow collaborations to continue: Susan Turner, executive director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, holds Wednesday one of the K-Packs that her staff helped assemble. The K-Packs are from the United Way of the Wabash Valley and help families prepare their children for kindergarten. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
Grants allow collaborations to continue: Susan Turner, executive director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, holds Wednesday one of the K-Packs that her staff helped assemble. The K-Packs are from the United Way of the Wabash Valley and help families prepare their children for kindergarten. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
Susan Turner said when she first learned about a $70,000 challenge grant opportunity for the Terre Haute Children's Museum in November, “I started crying.”

Turner, the museum’s executive director, had not been feeling well that day in November and she was “emotionally wrecked. We were struggling financially and approaching the end of the year, and I didn’t know how we were going to make it.”

COVID-19 was taking a huge toll on museum finances. In response, the Wabash Valley Community Foundation offered the challenge grant, with the understanding it would provide $1 for every $2 raised by the museum. The museum had to raise $140,000 in two months — December and January.

The Foundation also offered a $15,000 matching challenge grant to the Sheldon Swope Art Museum, which would have to raise $30,000.

Turner told Foundation staff, “I have no idea how I am going to raise $140,000 in 10 weeks, but if you think I can do it, I’m going to do it,” Turner said. The museum surpassed the $140,000 and went on to raise $162,000.

Swope Art Museum surpassed its target and raised nearly $40,000, said John Gedrick, Swope’s director of development.

On Wednesday, both museums received checks from the Community Foundation for their successful fundraising efforts — $70,000 for the Children’s Museum and $15,000 for Swope.

“It was all of us working together, telling the story of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and why it’s so important to invest in our children’s education and their love for science and technology,” Turner said during the check presentation. “We need the the museum in this community. We need it to be strong for our kids today and our kids tomorrow.”

Gedrick gave a “heartfelt thank you” to donors, the Terre Haute community and the Foundation for their generosity. “This challenge has re-invigorated us” and “fired us all up,” he said.

The Swope museum received donations from those it hadn’t heard from in awhile, while others increased their level of giving, Gedrick said. It prompted the museum staff and board to realize, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel ... People are going to come back.”

Last November, the Foundation provided a survey to nonprofit organizations and asked them to quantify their losses during COVID, said Beth Tevlin, Community Foundation executive director. “We found the numbers were staggering.” The nonprofits cited a reduction in private funding; canceled grants; canceled fundraisers; loss of revenue from program registrations and entrance fees as well as loss of individual contributors.

While many nonprofits demonstrated a significant financial need, the Foundation selected the Children’s Museum and Swope for challenge grants because their missions complement the community’s investment in downtown Terre Haute, which includes the Hulman Center renovation and construction of the convention center, Tevlin said.

“Visitor attraction and tourism are, have been and will in the future be key economic drivers of the economy of Vigo County,” Tevlin said.

Tevlin encouraged people to continue supporting their favorite charities and nonprofits, which have been harmed financially during COVID-19. “Our nonprofit community needs to remain strong for our community to be vibrant,” she said.

Turner said things are looking up for the Children’s Museum, which has seen about 50% of its business return since Christmas. “Slowly but surely, we’re getting back to where we need to be. We’re really hopeful that we have a good summer. We’re planning for summer programming right now, “ she said.
© 2021 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.