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The Mendel Center launches Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign

BENTON HARBOR, MI – The landmark year of 2020 has been pivotal for The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College. Like other performing arts theatres, conference centers, and meeting venues across the country, its doors were closed for seven months and now are open in only a limited capacity. For the Mendel Center, this has meant that the very core of what it does was put on hold, and continues to be dramatically curtailed.
As the Mendel Center plans for a future when it can open its doors wide and welcome the community back, it is launching the Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign. Thanks to a $50,000 challenge matching grant from The Frederick S. Upton Foundation, contributions to the Mendel Center can have double the impact as it looks to bridge the financial gap created by the pandemic.
“To keep the Mendel Center strong during this time when our stages are quiet and our gathering spaces are mostly empty, support is needed from individuals and organizations to help sustain operations. With this support, we can emerge stronger than ever to serve our communities,” Mendel Center Executive Director Mike Nadolski said.
Since March, more than 125 events scheduled at the venue have been canceled. These range from weddings, trade shows, and meetings to Speaker Series events, concerts, and community gatherings. This means that essential operating revenue has been and continues to be lost. To partially offset these effects, The Mendel Center has taken fiscally responsible steps including staff furloughs and reductions in hours, the elimination of a full-time staff position, and budget cuts in excess of 50 percent.
But that doesn’t mean the Mendel Center has retreated.
It has used this challenging time to reinvent itself through new ways that allow the community to connect through virtual and socially distanced avenues. These include Remotely Interested, an online performance series; Drive-in Live! concerts; live stream, micro, and outdoor weddings; and Mendel Center Connections, a video series of interviews with various community partners and performing artists. The Mendel Center staff is also conducting 100 Conversations, a series of meetings with area organizations and individuals to discover how The Mendel Center can better serve all populations within the southwestern Michigan community.
“While online events can’t replace the excitement and fulfillment of being here in person, these experiences give people something hopeful and productive on which to focus. In this way The Mendel Center can continue its role as a leader in advancing our communities and as a center for creative expression and personal growth,” Nadolski said.
Nadolski and the Mendel Center staff eagerly await a time when patrons and guests can return for activities at full capacity. The Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign will help make that possible. Campaign support will allow The Mendel Center to cover critical operational expenses including equipment maintenance, licensing, and retention of staff who are developing virtual opportunities now, and who will prepare for in-person programming when allowed.
To date, the Mendel Center has raised $14,500, which with the match from The Frederick S. Upton Foundation challenge grant, brings the total to $29,000 toward a $150,000 goal.
“We are incredibly appreciative for The Frederick S. Upton Foundation standing with the Mendel Center during this challenging time,” said Doug Schaffer, Executive Director of the Lake Michigan College Foundation. “Their generosity and commitment to this important regional resource means that the future beyond the pandemic is bright for performing arts and community collaboration.”
Those wishing to learn more or to contribute to the Creating Bridges Campaign can do so on the Mendel Center website, by phone at 269-927-8700, or email

Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign

Media Contact

Candice Elders
Lake Michigan College
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