Oct. 31 deadline for Rees quickly approaching: Organizers seeking donations big, small to save historic movie house

Fundraising for the Rees Theater continues, with Friday’s sold-out “Puttin’ on the Rees” the latest event. Donations – both large and small – can be made through the Marshall County Community Foundation, www.marshallcountygives.org.“Puttin’ on the Rees” emcee Mark Neidig.
By: 
Shawn McGrath
Staff Writer

(The list of items that will be on the block during the evening's live auction are at the end of the article.)

Organizers for a fundraising dinner and auctions – silent and live – in Plymouth on Friday said the event is sold out and hope it will raise close to $50,000 to save a downtown landmark.

Christo’s Banquet Center will be hosting the “Puttin’ on The REES” event Friday to benefit the Rees Theater, which will include a prime rib/salmon dinner, raffle and 50/50 drawing. A cash bar will be available and entertainment will be provided by Plymouth High School performing arts students.

Former Plymouth resident Mark Neidig will emcee the evening. There will be an after-party at Opie’s Deli, 114 N. Michigan St., once festivities at Christo’s wind down.

Randy Danielson and Brent Martin, both on the committee to save the theater, said Tuesday the group is closing in on 60 percent of its goal of raising $1.5 million before Oct. 31. If the group is successful, it will capture a $300,000 Regional Cities matching grant. The Oct. 31 date is misleading, however, Martin said, because organizers will have to finalize several things, such as completing various paperwork, in the days before the deadline.

All 280 tickets for Friday’s event have been sold. Each ticket was $50. Organizers said they believe the event will raise about $50,000, not including ticket sales.

Chris and Pam Kurtis, owners of Christo’s, are donating the use of the banquet hall and the food for “Puttin’ on the Rees,” Danielson said, meaning 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward the theater’s survival.

The overall goal is to raise a total of $3.46 million to rehabilitate and repurpose the theater. Of that amount, $600,000 will go into an endowment to support the theater’s continued operation, Martin said.

Both Danielson and Martin said they are optimistic they’ll reach the $1.5 million to qualify for the $300,000 grant. But they said organizers will be counting on small donations from the general public to reach the goal. Donations can be in cash, pledges or in-kind donations, such as construction work, organizers previously said.

Donations can be made on-line through the Marshall County Community Foundation at www.marshallcountygives.org or, for project details and specific donor levels, visit www.reesproject.com, according to organizers. Pledge forms are available at the Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Historical Museum, Bowen Printing or by calling 574-286-2391, organizers said.

Proceeds from the live auction will also be critical.

“We’re sitting on around $900,000,” said Martin, who is also serving as the project’s architect. “That’s a hell of a thing to accomplish with a 10,000 population in the community. I just feel that way. Even what we’ve got today is fantastic. But what we need is $1.5 million.

“To say I’m optimistic?” he continued. “Maybe I’m hopeful that we’re going to reach that goal – and those 280 people at the gala on Friday, you just better get your wallets out!”

Habitat Restore is removing the unsalvageable chairs to be broken down and recycled. This fall and winter, workers will remove the plaster ceiling. No asbestos was discovered in the plaster, Danielson said.

At the same time, the entire auditorium will be stripped down to the brick walls.

In the spring, organizers will again offer a memory tour so the public can see the bare-bones structure.

“With the film screen removed, that will expose the stage area,” Danielson said. “And we think (the evening of the tours) we’ll have some performances take place in there. It will be (standing-room only) performances – which are done a lot these days – just to give people an idea of what can and will occur there.”

Martin said South Bend-based Keller Structural Engineering is currently evaluating the east wall, the eastern portion of the north wall and the alley wall because there are “settlement issues” and possible issues with the foundation. The firm will also do some masonry work.

Once that is completed, Martin said, a new roof will be placed on the building. After that, work will move to the building’s interior.

The goal, both men said, is to have all work completed by spring or early summer 2020 to coincide with the theater’s 80th anniversary.

“Whether or not we meet that Oct. 31 goal, this project is going forward,” Martin said. “It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a hell of lot easier with that $300,000.”

Bidder, bidder!

From a “Woodstock” film poster to a tour of the Marshall County Courthouse’s bell tower, many unique items will be up for grabs during the live auction portion of the “Puttin’ On the Rees” event Friday evening:

– Commemorative Woodstock ticket, framed “Woodstock” film poster, tie-dyed shirt and CBD oil valued at $900 from Wellness 101 and Nelson Chipman;

– Chicago Cub urn valued at $700 from The Remembrance Center;

– Michiana Hot Air Balloon Ride and $20 Plymouth Chamber of Commerce bucks valued at $450 from Kathy Bottorff;

-- A tour for six of the Marshall County Courthouse’s bell tower as well as a picnic on the courthouse lawn valued at $600 from Curt Palmer;

– A wine tour of Michigan valued at $800 from Hoosier Food Services and Mary Beth Listenberger;

– A tour for eight of the tunnels under the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ convent valued at $350 from PHJC and Sister Judith;

– A stay at a bed and breakfast in Stevensville, Mich., valued at $600 from Dan Kunde;

– Two Rees medallion reproductions valued at $2,500 from Lane Lafoon;

– A prime rib dinner for 12 valued at $500 from Hoosier Food Services and Mary Beth Listenberger;

– Dinner for six valued at $600 from Dan Marohn;

– An Elvis Presley poster valued at $750 from Denny Bottorff;

– An 11-by-14 quilling of the Rees’ marquee valued at $500 from Anna Kietzman;

– A one-week stay in Steamboat Springs, Colo., valued at $2,500 from Ellen Skinner;

-- An advertising package valued at $975 from radio stations WKVI/WYMR;

-- Two tickets to Garth Brooks’ concert at the University of Notre Dame valued at $250 from Ellen Skinner.