Christmas comes early for cultural center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 26, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes.

Just ask Betsy Brothers, executive director of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

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On Wednesday, Santa Claus – aka Ernie Hefferon – and Mickey Garcia, local businessmen, dropped off a little gift: A $5,000 John Deere Gator.

&uot;This gift is from the Garcia and Hefferon families – $2,500 each,&uot; Garcia said.

Additionally, his company, Garcia Development Corp., penned a $25,000 check for the arts center’s capital campaign.

Hefferon’s company, Top of the Line Painting, is donating an additional $5,000. At the same time, C. Phillips Ferguson, who serves on the board of the Petersburg-based First Federal Savings Bank and Union Finance Corp., delivered a $5,000 contribution.

&uot;We’re pleased to be sharing in the Christmas spirit,&uot; said Ferguson, a Suffolk High graduate. &uot;We’re looking forward to the cultural arts center’s opening and the opportunities it will avail to all Suffolk residents.&uot;

The latest round of contributions moves arts center’s capital campaign into the final stages of its $4.5 million fund-raising goal, said Brothers.

&uot;This is fabulous,&uot; said Brothers, perched atop the seat of the John Deere. &uot;With $4 million (in private contributions) raised so far, we just have another $500,000 to go.&uot;

The $20-million renovation of the arts center, which got under way in August, will be done in phases, Kacky Gallotta, the center’s executive coordinator. The first stage includes demolition, abatement and window restoration.

&uot;The project is on schedule and is due to open early 2006,&uot; she added.

When completed, the facility will host plays and musical performances in a 550-seat auditorium, as well as feature classrooms for music, dance and crafts. It will also include a rehearsal hall, a center for senior citizens and a cafeteria with an outdoor caf\u00E9.

Fundraising has been particularly successful in recent months, Gallotta said.

&uot;Santa’s been pretty good to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts,&uot; she said. &uot;The end of the year is a nice time for donations; things always pick up right now.&uot;