Eckhart Public Library has announced a $12 million capital campaign that will renovate and restore the historic library following a fire, grow and expand services for all ages and build an endowment fund for future maintenance and emergencies.
“For Every Citizen: A Capital Campaign for Eckhart Public Library” builds upon the philanthropic legacy of library founder Charles Eckhart, whose goal was a library “not for any particular class or group, but for every citizen.”
During an event Monday thanking the community for its support in the year since the fire, the library announced a $4 million matching lead gift from The James Foundation, as well as a bequest of $981,967.01 from Auburn resident and library patron Dorotha B. Schrader, who died in November 2016. Combined with pledges already received and insurance settlements, the campaign is about 75 percent to its goal.
The campaign goal will meet these needs:
- $6 million to restore and renovate the main library, purchase books and materials to replace the entire collection destroyed by the fire, and make other capital improvements to the campus
- $1.5 million for growth and expansion of teen and children’s services
- $4.5 million in an endowment for maintenance and an emergency fund
The announcement Monday culminated a day of gratitude for the community. The Lemonade from the Library saw lemonade served at all library locations and around Auburn, a reference to area children who showed their support by starting lemonade stands to raise money for the restoration.
“Throughout its 108-year history, the Eckhart Public Library has been the grateful recipient of the generosity of this community and of its patrons, beginning with Charles Eckhart,” said Carolyn Foley, Board of Trustees president. “As a result of this support, the library has never bonded or borrowed for capital improvements or for improvements of its services. We are deeply appreciative of this enduring commitment to the Eckhart Public Library and the services it provides, especially during this time of renovation.”
All donations from the community since July 2, 2017, have been matched by The James Foundation and will be used for the restoration and renovation. The community has donated $155,845.01 to date.
Vicki L. and Rick L. James will co-chair the capital campaign committee. Vicki James is president of The James Foundation. She leads her family and friends by example through her philanthropic dedications to various organizations and her church.
Rick James is chairman of the Board of Directors for both The James Foundation and the Board of Trustees of Trine University. He remains involved with Metal Technologies Inc., founded in 1997, as chairman.
“I have been an advocate for many years for the library,” Vicki James said. “Rick and I couldn’t believe that someone would try and destroy such a beautiful building and a piece of Auburn’s history that has served many from all kinds of backgrounds. We decided right away that we wanted to be a part of the campaign to rebuild this iconic building. It is a piece of history that needs to be restored. We hope that you all will take a part of putting this beautiful building back together. We also are committed to supporting the endowment, which will ensure the long-term success of the library in serving the community.”
Vicki James currently serves as vice president of the newly formed Eckhart Library Foundation. She served a four-year term on the board of library trustees, serving during the addition of the library annex, parking lot, teen library and Secret Garden in the Children’s Department.
Both are longtime members of the Friends of the Eckhart Public Library.
The capital campaign fundraising committee has identified prospects to donate most of the remaining 25 percent, but stressed that everyone – every citizen – will be needed to make the campaign a success. To rebuild the library now, and fortify the library for generations to come, every gift matters.
Last year, before the fire, the library completed an extensive financial analysis and facilities assessment, funded by a Dekko Foundation grant. Because operating funding is limited by Indiana’s tax laws and is unstable from year-to-year, the library wanted to identify diverse, reliable operating funding.
An endowment goal of $4.5 million, as identified by the financial consultant, will take pressure off taxpayers and place the library on firm financial footing for years to come. It will improve the library’s ability to enhance services and maintain facilities, including completing capital repairs across the library’s campus as identified by the facilities assessment. Significant portions of the James Foundation and Schrader gifts will go toward the endowment.
More details about the capital campaign, as well as a link to donate, are available at foreverycitizen.org.
The event Monday marked one year since the devastating arson fire. On July 2, 2017, while the library was closed overnight, a lit firework was dropped into the book drop. The ensuing explosions and fire destroyed the 1996 addition side of the library’s main floor. Smoke, soot, and water caused heavy damage throughout the rest of the building, including into the library’s ductwork, from the basement to the attic. All exposed areas had to be cleaned by hand, repainted, and sealed, because of the toxic nature of the smoke, and all circulating materials had to be replaced.
Construction has begun on a new park-side, ground-level entrance on the library’s west side, with interior stairs and elevators allowing access to the library’s three levels. The interior changes will create additional programming space.