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Historic Masonic Theatre’s Heart of the Community Campaign Exceeds Goal

Clifton Forge, VA (Dec. 6, 2019) - The first Capital Campaign of The Historic Masonic Theatre and Amphitheatre, “Heart of the Community, Fulfilling the Vision of John Hillert” has ended by exceeding its million dollar campaign goal. The final amount raised in the 18 months of the campaign is $1,197,424.00. Theatre Board members, Heart of the Community Campaign committee members and donors celebrated recently in the Thomas P. Dean/Racey & Dean, INC Underground with a “Sweet Endings” reception featuring cake and coffee.

Erin Hillert, daughter of the late John Hillert, spoke, “If my dad saw potential in you, then nothing would stop him from helping you reach your goals. BUT he always realized and respected they were YOUR goals. So, as much as he was a part of making the dream of restoring this Theatre a reality—because he saw the potential in it—he first and foremost saw the potential in this community.

That was always his motivation and driving factor—restore the Theatre so this community can grow and thrive. And-that’s why I think this campaign, this successful, over-one-million-dollars-raised campaign—is so appropriately named the ‘Heart of the Community’. Because YOU did this. Every single person in this room, and every donor who could not be here today, made this campaign successful, and contributed to a future for this Theatre.”

The celebratory “Sweet Endings” reception took place on November 30, which coincided with John Hillert’s birthday. “Preservation, Programs and Partnership”, the theme of the Heart of the Community campaign will continue to be the Theatre’s mission and vision and the money raised will be spent on those efforts.

At the Heart of the Community Campaign is the heart of PRESERVATION — keeping this beautifully renovated structure maintained and protected so that it survives and thrives. The Historic Masonic Theatre will be 115 years old in July 2020. This building was home to silent movies, thrilling vaudeville shows, magicians, live animal acts, political forums and many famous visitors; its place in history is a unique story to be shared.

The Heart of the Community Campaign lives by its PARTNERSHIPS, which include area businesses, restaurants, caterers, florists, printing companies, hotels, B & B’s, and contractors. The Theatre and Amphitheatre also work with local schools, civic, arts and non-profit organizations; forging relationships extending to Abingdon’s Barter Theatre, Roanoke’s Children’s Theatre, and Richmond’s Virginia Opera.

The Heart of the Community Campaign is fueled by PROGRAMS. Since re-opening in July 2016, the Theatre and Amphitheatre have hosted more than 495 unique ticketed, private, and free community events, with more than 260,000 visitors. The versatile, four-story structure hosts weddings, receptions, reunions, meetings, and Grammy-winning musicians. The variety and scope of the events are designed to appeal to a broad cross-section of the region. Forty nine percent of Theatre ticket-buying patrons live more than 45 miles away, 21% live outside the commonwealth, and the percentages keep increasing. Local area restaurants reported a 35% increase in business on event days and a 5% increase on non-event days. Theatre ticket buyers spend an average of $23 per person, per visit (not including the price of the ticket).

Jeff Stern, executive director of The Historic Masonic said, “We are deeply grateful to the businesses, individuals, civic groups and foundations that helped us exceed our goal. The Heart of the Community campaign raised $1,197,424.00 in cash and pledges. To date, we have received 535 donations from 347 donors. While most of our donations were one-time gifts, we were humbled that donors chose to make multi-year pledges. By 2022, when all pledged donations will have been completed, we will have received a combined total of 614 donations”.

The Historic Masonic Theatre was built in 1905 by Masonic Lodge 166 as a meeting place and opera house. The Theatre has had a long line of owners and managers, and in 2009, the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation Board was formed by local resident, John Hillert and local attorney, Meade Snyder with the goal of restoring the Theatre to its original glory. In 2015, funding was in place to begin the 6.9 million dollar restoration, and the fully restored Theatre reopened on July 1, 2016. Two weeks later, John Hillert was diagnosed with stage 4 non-smokers lung cancer and he died in May 2017.

The Theatre, under the guidance of Jeff Stern, executive director and an active Board of Directors, has stayed true to John Hillert’s original vision of being an economic, educational and social catalyst for community growth while providing a gathering place for the community.

Board president, Gayle Hillert served as chair of the Heart of the Community campaign committee with Jane and David Newkirk serving as co-chairs. Other committee members included John Rainone, Brandon Caldwell, Erin Hillert, Jeff Stern and Johnette Roberts.

The Heart of the Community “Sweet Endings” reception ended with Erin Hillert saying, “And, the best birthday present we can give my dad is to enjoy ourselves in this beautiful building, keeping in mind—this is a commitment we have to keep making over and over again; the commitment to keep giving back to this Theatre
but for now—thank you, and congratulations!”


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