By Tim Leeds
Unless the museum foundation can raise $15,000 by Aug. 30, the Havre Heritage Center could revert to the U.S. Postal Service and the community would lose the services it provides.
"The foundation is basically broke so we do need the public's help," said Lynda Taplin, member of the H. Earl and Helen Turner Clack Memorial Museum Foundation board.
The foundation is leasing the building from the city of Havre, which purchased the building from the Postal Service in 1996. The lease agreement states that the foundation will pay $1,000 a year in advance, and an additional amount on the anniversary of the effective lease date, Aug. 30. The last additional payment, for $15,000, is due Aug. 30.
After that, once the city owns the building out right, the city would charge the foundation $2,000 a year to renew the lease.
The foundation uses the building to house the Clack Museum and art gallery, photographic and dance studios, and various cultural activities and events, and also rents out office space in the building.
Gary Wilson, vice president of the foundation, said the city uses the money it collects in lease payments from the foundation to pay off the Postal Service. If the final payment is not made, the building could revert to the Postal Service, which would likely sell the building.
Elaine Morse, a foundation board member, said the foundation has been trying to raise the money, but hasn't had much success.
"We've been trying, we've been trying desperately to raise money," Morse said. "There's an awful lot of folks that think we have money and just aren't stepping forward."
Morse said the building is extremely expensive to operate and maintain. She said part of the problem is most grants that are available are for "brick-and-mortar" projects, fixing a specific problem on the building. A project to replace the windows was started this summer and partially funded with grants. That money cannot be used for general operation and maintenance.
Morse said most such grants also require a percentage of matching funds from the organization that receives the grants. Much of the foundation's money has been used for matching funds, she said.
"There has not been one cent of our money that has not been spent on that building," she said.
Wilson said an asset the foundation has but can't use right now is an endowment set up to fund foundation activities. He said once the endowment reaches a value of $250,000, the trustees can distribute 80 percent of the interest earned. But the endowment hasn't reached the value needed to provide any money yet, he said.
Elinor Clack, past chairman of the foundation board, said the board had the money to purchase the building outright in 1996 but decided not to so it could have money set aside for matching grants.
Taplin said the board is working on future funding right now.
"We have a lot of possibilities, a lot of grants being written," she said. But, she said, it usually takes a long time to receive any grants once they are applied for.
Wilson said the job description for Debbie VandenBoom, who was hired about three months ago to manage the building, includes grant writing. He said the foundation has been providing her training for that job, and the situation is improving.
"At this point things are on track, the grant writing is going on and we're putting fund-raisers together, doing things we're supposed to do," he said.
"And Debbie (VandenBoom) has been absolutely wonderful," Morse said. "She has stepped in at a very difficult time and she has done a wonderful job."
Morse said the foundation took over the building knowing it wouldn't be a self-sustaining operation. She said the foundation took it with the intent of being the community's caretaker of the facility.
"But we can't maintain it without the community's support," she said.
Wilson said that since the foundation is a registered nonprofit group, contributions made are tax-deductible. He said contributions could be made in a variety of ways, including in cash gifts to the foundation, to the foundation endowment, by paying for one of the mailboxes in the building, by joining and becoming a voting member of the foundation, or any contribution method desired by the contributor.