EPAC scores ‘Extraordinary’ gift Local organizations collect $72,470 in donations
By: MICHAEL C. UPTON Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
In his own words, Christmas came early for Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s Ed Fernandez. As artistic director, Fernandez knows exactly how expensive it is to put on a professional repertory theater schedule of shows. On Friday, Nov. 30, as part of The Extraordinary Give event, donors helped lighten the monetary load by contributing $11,400 to the non-profit theater group.
"We didn’t see this coming," admitted Fernandez. "We were wonderfully shocked. We thought we would walk out with maybe a couple thousand (dollars) and when we saw how many people gave we were just amazed and grateful."
The Extraordinary Give, an online giving event organized by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, took place last Friday and raised more than $1.6 million for local non-profits. Finishing seventeenth out of more than 190 non-profits, EPAC had 128 donors go online and donate. Fernandez was inspired and amazed by the amount of people showing their support. In the category of performing arts, only the Fulton Theatre had more donors. Fernandez said the money did not come without a lot of social networking from the EPAC community and its board of directors.
"We were on Facebook all day. We were on Twitter. It was a real social media driven event, which says a lot about current fundraising," Fernandez said. "It takes a lot of money to keep our playhouse — the building itself — going. Some shows can cost up to $30,000 to $40,000 to produce. That’s personnel costs, lumber, costumes and all that."
Fernandez said even though the Sharadin Bigler Foundation — the namesake donor for the Sharadin Bigler Theatre — provides EPAC with a "sizable, annual donation," they still owe approximately $150,000 over and above the donation to cover loan costs for the 2004 renovations to the theater. EPAC’s annual operating budget is approximately $500,000.
"The money will help us close out the 2012 season with less of a shortfall," said Fernandez. "There’s one show left for the season, ‘Anything Goes.’"
He hopes the increased support and attention will draw people to see the final 2012 show opening tonight.
"Theaters are in trouble all over. The economics have changed. The culture has changed. It’s been a hard year for ticket sales across the country," said Fernandez.
EPAC is no stranger to this trend: 2012 ticket sales are down. However, they are a bit lucky, too, and regularly beat national averages for ticket sales. Essentially, ticket sales are down, but support is up.
"But it’s not way up. We’re still climbing uphill because it takes a lot to maintain a theater this size," said Fernandez. "What The Extraordinary Give told us was the support is there. We’re going to take that and work on that. We really do need every penny."
Fernandez looks at the amount of support generated by The Extraordinary Give as a mandate. Coming on the heels of an extremely popular performance of "Spring Awakening," Fernandez said the donations show EPAC theatergoers appreciate cutting edge theater.
"’Spring Awakening’ was one of the few shows that exceeded budgetary expectations," said Fernandez.
Theatergoers are not the only ones showing support for EPAC. Fernandez said corporate sponsorship levels for 2013 will be better than 2012.
"We have a lot of 2013 sponsors lined up that are already pledged, more than we’ve had in a long time," said Fernandez.
Beyond events like The Extraordinary Give, those who would like to support the arts through donations to EPAC can go beyond just buying a ticket to a show. The EPAC website has an online donation form powered by PayPal. Corporate sponsorship information is also available online at ephrataplayhouseinthepark.org or by calling 733-7966, extension 3.
"Or people can subscribe," said Fernandez. "Subscriptions are really great because it is advance ticket sales, it gives us a bedrock to work from. We make it very easy. You can subscribe to three shows or the whole season. That helps the theater just like a donation." Several area non-profits participated in Friday’s ExtraGive event, accounting for more than $72,000 of the $1.6 million raised in Lancaster County.
The Lancaster County Community Foundation pledged to contribute an additional $250,000 to participating organizations based on each organization’s percentage of total fundraising. For example, if an organization raised three percent of the $1.6 million, LCCF would give that organization three percent of the $250,000 pool.
The leaderboard at extragive.org ranks local organizations as follows:
COBYS Family Services received 228 eligible gifts totaling $28,006.
Hospice and Community Care received 195 gifts totaling $20,162.
EPAC received 128 gifts totaling $11,400.
Ephrata Public Library received 108 gifts totaling $8,152.
Ephrata Area Rehabilitation Services received 24 gifts totaling $2,175.
Adamstown Area Library received 20 gifts totaling $825.
Ephrata Area Education Foundation received 12 gifts totaling $800.
Downtown Ephrata Inc. received 8 gifts totaling $750.
Ephrata Community Hospital received 5 gifts totaling $200. More GIFTS, page A6