They Raised the Roof
neighborly businesses pitch in to aid theater group
A 50-year-old roof and some serious Wisconsin weather have made life pretty hard on staff members at the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, Eau Claire’s oldest community theater group, for the past few winters. Executive Director Ann Sessions said last year’s extreme weather took an especially lasting toll on the guild’s building, 102 W. Grand Ave.
Sessions said the group had originally planned to launch a fundraising campaign later this fall, but due to some spots in serious need of attention, they were forced to begin earlier. “The water started leaking in multiple places, including in the lobby, hallways, office, and on stage,” Sessions said. “With all the snow and rain this year, the ‘Raise the Roof’ campaign got moved up fast. … Mother Nature has not been very kind this summer.”
After figuring out the remodeling estimates for the 150-seat Grand Theater, the theater guild pinned the total cost at around $34,000. Along with the Raise the Roof campaign, the group also raised money through savings, appeals, and a $5,000 loan obtained with the help of neighboring businesses. “Pitching in that large of a sum is pretty significant,” Sessions said. “The $5,000 loan was a significant amount of money. Some of the businesses within the West Grand Avenue Business Improvement District are helping make the payments on a building improvement loan administered through RCU.”
Everett and Marty Fisher-Blakeley, owners of Quality Management Services in the business district and neighbors of CVTG, originated the idea for the donation. But the total allocation was a group effort by several neighboring businesses, including Quality Management Services, the Court’n House, Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral Home, and Herrick & Hart Law Firm.
Marty Fisher-Blakeley said most of the money allocated was through self-taxation by members of the business improvement district, or BID. She said this money is also raised to pay for the American flags hung on certain holidays and for the plants placed around the district, among other things.
“We are, for the most part, family-owned small businesses in that district,” Marty Fisher-Blakeley said. “As such, it’s the thing you do. You take care of your neighbor, you help your family. It’s that good Midwestern value of doing what needs to be done and getting it done.” She said the CVTG has been bringing business to the district for years, so it was nice to have the opportunity to help that continue.
The new roof was paid for and was installed by Eau Claire Roofing in August. Sessions said it took around a week to complete, but the staff couldn’t be happier to finally have some proper shelter. “These donations from these businesses and individuals are a fantastic show of support for not only the Theatre Guild but for this side of downtown Eau Claire and the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood,” Sessions said. “We are very considerate of each other, and I am personally touched by their response to our Raise the Roof project.”
Along with hosting some of the guild’s theatrical performances, the Grand Theatre also provides space for numerous other events. It hosts “all ages” concerts, the Chippewa Valley Book Festival, World Belly Dancing Day, Barebones Theatre Ensemble productions, nonprofit meetings, classes, and local fundraisers.
Sessions said the guild plans on making inside repairs to ceilings and walls this fall.
To learn more about the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, visit www.cvtg.org, and to learn more about the West Grand Avenue Business Improvement District, go to www.downtowneauclaire.org/get-involved/downtown-districts/west-grand-district.php.