By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Clack's Foundation's annual meeting Saturday night won't be a typical annual meeting: It's a public celebration of the Heritage Center's recent successes.
After struggling financially to keep Havre's cultural center open, the foundation board is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The event, including a talk by a local paleontologist, will showcase the area's culture and heritage.
"It used to be a business meeting with some entertainment. Now we have entertainment with a short business meeting," said Gary Wilson, director of events for the foundation.
"We were sort of looking at this as a new beginning," he added.
Lou Lucke, a member of the county museum board, said holding events like this Saturday's Heritage Night to raise awareness of the foundation's activities is a good idea.
"I think anything they can do on the PR side, and anything we can do to help them with that, is a good thing," Lucke said.
His primary concern, he added, is making sure the Clack Museum, housed in the Heritage Center, continues to have a permanent home.
Ron VandenBoom, chair of the museum board, said celebrating the foundation's success is appropriate.
"I certainly think the foundation has done a marvelous job over the last several years in bringing these various cultural events," he said.
Havre City Council President Rick Pierson made similar comments.
"Anything they can do to make the building successful, I believe anyone on the City Council, including myself, would support," he said.
"They put on some very fine programs at the Heritage Center," he added.
Wilson said the event will be very casual, and people are welcome to come as they are.
"Or they could try out their Halloween costumes on us. It's just a fun night," he said, adding, "We're always trying to attract people who have never been in he building."
Some of the focus on the foundation in the last few years hasn't been positive. In 2001, the foundation told the city of Havre it couldn't come up with $15,000 owed to the city. The city needed the money to make a final mortgage payment to buy the old post office from the U.S. Postal Service. The city purchased the building in 1996, with the agreement that the foundation would provide the mortgage payments.
Several community members made donations to the foundation, including an anonymous donor who contributed $15,000.
The high cost of operating the old building continued to plague the foundation.
Members of the board approached the city and county earlier this year, saying the foundation might have to turn operation of the building over to the city if it didn't get some financial help.
The Havre City Council approved providing services to the center, and the Hill County Commission allocated $600 a month.
Recently, the county museum board approved transferring a $50,000 endowment fund for the operation of the museum into the foundation's endowment. The transfer will put the foundation fund very close to $250,000, Wilson said. Once the fund reaches $250,000, the foundation can start drawing 80 percent of the fund's interest to operate the Heritage Center.
Problems will likely still arise, VandenBoom said, "but we've leaped the first hurdle, and that is exciting. It does offer us a degree of security we didn't have before."
The Heritage Center board is taking steps to emphasize its goal of providing more cultural events in Havre. Heritage Night is part of that effort.
"We're trying to get the business part of (the meeting) very short and make it more entertaining and get people to better understand why they should support us. We're trying to stay very very positive," said Elaine Morse, vice president of the foundation board.
VandenBoom said he has seen several outstanding events at the center, particularly the creativity workshop 155 area children attended during the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce's Art on the Avenue last summer.
Other events, like the celebrity luncheon series now in its third season, children's art workshops held by the Havre Art Association, art displays in the Clack Museum gallery, and the museum's own displays, show the success of the foundation, VandenBoom said.
Wilson said the decorations at Heritage Night will illustrate that. Posters promoting the events of the last three years will be displayed on the wall-length mirrors on one side of the third-floor courtroom, he said.
The featured entertainment at Heritage Night is a presentation by local paleontologist Vicki Clouse, and musical performances by Havre pianist Marge Holt and vocalist Mavis Filler of the Timely Trio. Raffles and giveaways will be held.
The entertainment is the culmination of the foundation's four-week membership drive, Wilson said. Current members can come to the event for free. Nonmembers also can attend for $10 a person or $15 a couple. A minimum donation of $25 will cover the cost of an individual membership, $50 a family membership, and lifetime memberships start at $2,500.
A raffle for a wine basket costs $5 a ticket, and a 50/50 drawing will be held. A $25 gift certificate from Creative Leisure will be given away.
The event starts at 6 p.m. with Holt's performance, wine and hors d'oeuvres. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m., Clouse's presentation will run from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and a joint performance by Holt and Filler will follow.
The foundation's financial situation, while not perfect, is in much better shape, Wilson said. The improved situation is translating into additional support, he added, citing the Bullhook Bottoms Barbershop Chorus' recent purchase of a $500 memorial mailbox in the old post office, one of the foundation's fund-raisers.
Continued financial support from the community is needed to increase the activities and events, and to handle emergencies, he added.
"The main thing is, I think we can basically handle the day-to-day stuff. The problem is if we get a crisis, a boiler going out, something like that," Wilson said.