The Tomorrow Project

Taking part in the presentation of $10,000 from the Dakota Hospital Foundation to the Main Street Center are Nila Fostvedt, Center board member, Susan Tuve, president, Dakota Hospital Foundation, Jennifer Steele, treasurer, Dakota Hospital Foundation, Allen Johnson, president of Center board, Kay Powell, member of center board, Crystal McGuire, director of Center, Donna Reedy, Center board member, Maxine Johnson, Center board member, and Tom Heinz, Dakota Hospital Foundation Board member. (Photo by David Lias)

Some changes are easy to make.

Those associated with the Senior Center in Vermillion have decided a change in its name is in order. The facility, located at 320 W. Main Street, is now known as the Main Street Center.

Other changes planned for the facility won't come as easily, but thanks to the dedication of the center's members and the assistance of community organizations, there is optimism that significant improvements to the center's facilities can be made.

The board of directors of the Main Street Center have launched The Tomorrow Project aimed at making significant improvements with an estimated total cost of $200,000 to the center's building in phases through 2014.

The project has received a significant monetary incentive from the Dakota Hospital Foundation which has pledged to provide up to $90,000 over the next three years as long as Main Street Center reaches fundraising goals over that time period that will be matched dollar for dollar by the foundation.

"The Dakota Hospital Foundation is really excited about The Tomorrow Project because everyone is seeing a lot of hard work coming together for all of the members of the Main Street Center. This process started over 18 months ago with a planning session with the Business Research Bureau, and a lot of work was done by the membership here and by Crystal to put together a vision for what they felt this center should be and would be for future generations," said Jennifer Steele, a member of the Dakota Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. "It's something to start now that will live on as a more updated facility. They looked at things like want the membership wants, what can be the best things to attract more members and to be a terrific asset to the community.

Fundraising activities kicked off a little more than a month ago when Crystal McGuire, executive director of The Main Street Center, and its board of directors sent a letter to banks in the community that includes a description of The Tomorrow Project and a request for pledges.

"We also personally visited with people at the banks," McGuire said. "That was our first step."

Last month, The Main Street Center also sent approximately 800 letters to community members and businesses requesting pledges to help finance the needed improvements.

"People are going to start knowing about us, and we have had people starting to call and offer their help," she said. "Somebody called the other day and wanted to volunteer his time."

Local architect Sandy Dickenson has developed a five-phase plan for improving the center's building. The first phase – an estimated $11,500 project that includes completion of an exercise studio, gift shop display and a recognition wall, is scheduled for this fall.

Phase II, scheduled to be completed by March of 2012, includes replacing the roof of the facility, and the remodeling of its computer and multipurpose/dining rooms. By March of 2013, Phase III should be finished with the remodeling of the center's activity room and board room, and it's the enclosure of its lounge.

Phase IV and Phase V are scheduled for 2014. By March of that year, administrative offices will be remodeled, the north entry will be enclosed and a new sign will be in place at the center.

The last and most ambitious phase has a November 2014 completion date. It includes remodeling of the kitchen and restrooms, improvements to the building's east ramp, the repainting of the facility and the addition of new tables and chairs.

"The Dakota Hospital Foundation donation and matching of funds go along with that staging of the plan," said Tim Tracy, CEO of Sanford Vermillion.

The foundation committed $10,000 upfront the Main Street Center during this first year of improvements to the facility.

"It then will match, dollar for dollar the next $20,000 for the first year. If the center was successful then, and it's important that there is a partnership there – the foundation didn't want it as an outright gift without any community foundation; it was thought it would be important for there to be broadbased community support if the center is going to be successful over the long term – so if they are successful in year one, year two begins with another $10,000 donation and another $20,000 matching dollar for dollar. Every dollar they (the center's members) raise will be matched by a dollar up to $20,000," Tracy said.

This pattern of funding from the Dakota Hospital Foundation will continue through the third year of the project.

"Based on performance and community involvement, the potential (funding from Dakota Hospital Foundation) is up to $90,000 over the three years," Tracy said, "but it really is predicated on performance. The project needs to progress and there has to be adequate funds raised from the community to supplement the rest of the project."

That means that besides raising funds to be matched by the Dakota Hospital Foundation, the center's members also must raise $50,000 to meet the goals of the project over the next three years.

"As the Dakota Hospital Foundation, we see the Main Street Center as being a really wonderful place to deliver health and wellness to our community," Steele said. "This is a hub and a meeting place and they have so many activities here. It is just kind of a natural process that we came together to help the center do something for the community to help in the areas of health and wellness."

The centers' building was constructed on Main Street in the 1970s using a very similar concept. Citizens interested in seeing a better Senior Citizen in Vermillion gathered financial pledges from local businesses and individuals, and also applied for grants to provide the revenue to construct the center. Two additions were added to the original building in the 1980s.

The building has been maintained over the years, but has never been renovated.

The center provides activities for senior members and is the site of the Dakota Senior Meals program. Its current membership is 206 annual members and 108 lifetime members. 

"One of the things we're trying to do is change our programming so that we stay up-to-date with the age group that we serve here," McGuire said, "and what they're interested in."

McGuire said people who wish to donate to the project may make financial pledges for each of the three years that the work will be taking place.

"In my eyes, I don't see this as being the end when we finish," she said, "because there are going to be more things that we can add or do. I do think the more that we get out in the community and make people aware of what we are here at the center, that is going to be a big indicator to us to what our needs are and what we can do in helping our community."

"I think part of the importance of this project is not only the improvements to the center, but also helping the community learn more. I think that the idea of making this place known to the community is almost the most important part of this project," said Maxine Johnson, a member of the Main Street Center's board of directors. "There will be a time when we all get to be senior citizens."

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