Arts organizations struggling in pandemic join forces for group fundraiser

NOW: Arts organizations struggling in pandemic join forces for group fundraiser


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Summertime in St. Joseph is usually filled with live music and arts festivals, but those are among the many things put on hold this year due to the pandemic.

Now, arts organizations are just trying to survive, and ten groups – all without profit right now because of COVID-19 – were chosen by the Berrien Community Foundation to be part of a fundraiser thanks to an anonymous donor and arts lover.

From the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra to Children’s Music Workshop, all were forced to cancel a full summer of events and fundraisers.

After learning of these groups dire financial need, the Berrien Community Foundation searched for a donor to make a pledge. That anonymous person’s generosity exceeded all expectations.

“This donor thankfully said ‘Sure, let’s do a challenge to them to raise funds and I will match every dollar up to $75,000,’” said Susan Matheny, program manager for the Berrien Community Foundation.

Those efforts include sending out letters and an online auction — two of the prizes, a boating excursion and a golf outing.

All of the proceeds go back to these 10 local organizations — currently shut down and struggling to survive the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has been very difficult because we’re a live theatre and even now the Governor’s order will not allow us to open with more than 25. And so we had to close completely until we’re allowed to have 100 or 80 people,” said Marty Hesse, executive director of Ghostlight Theatre.

The fundraiser is also providing these organizations the unique opportunity to work together for a change.

“It’s so important in a time like this for all of us to come together to help each other instead of kind of working against each other,” said Adrienne Glisson, executive director of Children’s Music Workshop.

As the future became more uncertain for each of them, this fundraiser should help them thrive in the future.

“With the support we’re getting from the Berrien Community Foundation and other lovers of the arts in the community I think we will,” said Sue Kellogg, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra.

Each organization has contributed their own funds, bringing the total to $29,160 of $75,000. Those interested in donating can mail checks to the Berrien Community Foundation at 2900 S. State St. Suite 2E St. Joseph, MI 49085 or donate on their website  

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