Community center foundation reaches initial fundraising goal

Friday, July 1, 2016
Jean Elderwind, Fatima Truer, and Diane Murphy help Kate Wicker pick out the perfect t-shirt to show her support for the Highland Community Center. (Photo by Tavi Ellis)

Last Thursday, Eureka Springs residents visited the farmers market to paint their dreams on a giant canvas as part of a fundraiser hosted by the Eureka Springs Community Center Foundation. Less than a week later, one of the foundation's dreams has come true.

Diane Murphy, chairwoman of the foundation, reported Wednesday that the foundation has raised its initial $200,000 fundraising goal. Murphy said that amount has been raised in six months by more than 400 contributors. She thanked these contributors, saying every person who has believed in the project is helping to make it a reality.

"Eureka once again proves itself to be a totally amazing community!" Murphy said.

At the fundraiser June 23, Murphy said the foundation had raised around $165,000. She noted that the "Paint Our Dreams" fundraiser brought in $240 of that before the farmers market was even halfway over. Local artist Larry Mansker donated the canvas and prepared it to be painted, she added.

"He prepped it all and gave everybody a great start," she said. "It was looking fun before it was even painted."

Fatima VanZant, a member of the foundation's board, pointed out that some furry friends helped paint the canvas, too.

"We had a puppy paint," VanZant said. "There are paw prints."

When the community center is built, Murphy said the finished canvas will hang in the hallway there.

"We'll make it our first piece of community effort that all came together," Murphy said.

Now that the foundation has reached its first fundraising goal, Murphy said she'll be focusing heavily on completing a lease agreement with the Eureka Springs School District. The Eureka Springs School Board voted unanimously at its June 21 meeting to extend the deadline for signing an agreement on the lease-purchase to Aug. 1. Jean Elderwind, secretary of the foundation, said on June 23 that she believes the foundation is close to completing the lease. Murphy agreed, saying the foundation recently discovered some issues with the old high school property.

"There were just some late discoveries with the property itself no one knew," Murphy said.

She reported Wednesday that the lease should be finalized in July. Another part of the next step, she continued, is figuring out where to start working to renovate the property.

"We're actually going to start working on figuring out the actual physical process of the improvements we're doing and what we can offer up there and let the community participate in," Murphy said.

She noted that foundation is very open to community input. Murphy said a town meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30, at the old high school to discuss the trail system. A press release from the foundation says the meeting will start with a short refresher on the master plan for trails, with Guy Headland from the National Park Service speaking on how trails relate to the community center. The audience will then break out into discussion groups, the release says, and everyone will present their ideas about the project after 30 minutes. The release adds that the meeting will conclude with a question and answer session.

This meeting, Elderwind said, will give the community a chance to work with the foundation on ideas for the community center. Elderwind explained that she wants the foundation to continue moving forward to accomplish more goals and, hopefully, meet some of the needs of Eureka Springs residents.

"It takes everyone to work on it. We aren't complacent in any way," Elderwind said. "We can start discussing things, which is a whole other phase."

As the foundation works on making the community center a reality, Murphy said she will be sure to let the community know about what's going on.

"We'll keep you posted as work begins," she said.

For more information on the community center, visit http://www.eurekaspringscommunitycenter.org.

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