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Where did Auditorium money go?

A group of Arcadians in the 1970s who dreamed of building a civic auditorium to stage live theater productions in town will finally see $100,000 of the funds they raised decades ago used for that purpose. Superintendent Dr. Joel Shawn confirmed to that the money assigned in 1993 by the volunteer Arcadia Auditorium Foundation to the Arcadia School District (then under Superintendent Terrence M. Towner) will be used as the final $100,000 needed to complete the nearly $25 million Performing Arts Center scheduled to open this fall at Arcadia High School.

But this isn’t all; funds raised by the Foundation resulted in donations of more than $60,000 to school music programs prior to 1993 and even more has been generated in the past 19 years from interest on the $100,000, all used for myriad music program needs ranging from rental fees for venues, transportation, etc.

Joe Sargis, one of founders of Arcadia Auditorium Foundation in 1977

One of the founders of the Arcadia Auditorium Foundation, Joe Sargis, explained the origins and evolution of the project and the fundraising in the following guest blog:

Arcadia old-timers probably wonder about the money that was raised for an auditorium.

It was early 1977 and Floretta Lauber was serving as Arcadia’s first woman Mayor. A performing arts void existed in Arcadia and the community envisioned building an auditorium. As usual, Charles Gilb responded to head up an effort. Randy Stoke volunteered the legal services of Latham & Watkins and the Arcadia Auditorium Foundation was formed. Trustees were Charles Gilb, President; School Board member Gloria Horstman, Secretary; and Joe Sargis, Treasurer.

Although the amounts may seem small, they were enormous in those days. Excitement built and activities began with the Winslows hosting a dinner to raise more than $400. A black tie dinner yielded more than $1,400, and more than $4,900 was received from individual donations.

The premier function was the Jog-A-Walk-Atorium held at the high school with the money pledged for persons jogging and walking. It was an absolute carnival atmosphere extravanganza with widespread community support. The very successful event raised an incredible sum of more than $58,000.

Unfortunately, as time passed there was insufficient support for a bond issue to build an auditorium.

Up until 1993, the Foundation had earned bank interest of more than $105,000. During that period, grants of more than $62,000 were made to the school district in support of its music programs. This was consistent with the purpose of the Foundation.

In 1993, the Foundation ceased to exist. The remaining funds of more than $108,000 were passed on to the school district, with $100,000 placed in a Trust and restricted for use only if an auditorium was built. All interest earned on the restricted funds continued to support school district music programs. The Foundation total administrative expense during those 16 years was a $20 filing fee. Its records have been placed with the Ruth and Charles Gilb Arcadia Historical Museum.

The recent Measure I Arcadia School District bond issue has provided funding to create a performing arts center at the high school. When it opens in the fall of 2012, the magnificent facility will greatly exceed any and all dreams of an auditorium for Arcadia. The school district plans to use the restricted $100,000 for the ending expenses of the construction.

The Foundation was another example of community participation and generosity of Arcadia old. It provided grant support for music programs for more than 30 years and it is fitting that Foundation money will provide the ending of the Performing Arts Center creation.

— By Joe Sargis

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