Beverly Arts Center Fundraising Gets Boost From Alderman's Shift at KFC

By Howard Ludwig on December 4, 2013 9:11am 

BEVERLY — Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) flubbed more than one order on Tuesday night while working the drive-thru window at KFC.

Employees of the restaurant at 10421 S. Western Ave. seemed willing to put up with the politician's rookie mistakes, though more than one eye roll was witnessed.

O'Shea was at Kentucky Fried Chicken to encourage customers to mention the BAC Challenge — the fundraiser announced on Sept. 26 to save the financially plagued Beverly Arts Center.

Julie Harrigan, owner of KFC, agreed to donate 15 percent of the restaurant's sales on Tuesday to the struggling arts center. Customers merely had to bring up the BAC Challenge, and O'Shea was there to remind them.

One hungry customer mentioned his support for the arts center before placing an order and was greeted by the alderman's voice over the loudspeaker.

"That's what I'm talkin' about," O'Shea told the surprised patron.

The KFC fundraiser, could raise as much as $2,000, came on the eve of a kick-off event for the BAC Challenge.

One of the actresses who plays Elphaba in the popular Broadway in Chicago stage show "Wicked" will perform at the fundraiser's launch, which is set for 6-9 p.m. Wednesday at the arts center, 2407 W 111th St.

The evening is intended to provide residents with an update on fundraising as well as set a new goal — $1 million or more, BAC Challenge co-chairman Michael Stanton said.

Three months into the fundraising effort the arts center has raised $275,000, Stanton said.

The original goal for the BAC Challenge was $500,000. This fundraising target came on the heels of a $250,000 city bailout of the center announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As part of the deal, $4.7 in mortgage debt held by Fifth Third Bank was renegotiated into two loans.

The Cincinnati-based bank reduced the loan amount for the 40,000-square-foot arts center to $1.75 million. A second loan of $2.5 million was also written, but the bank agreed to forgive $2 million of the debt if supporters of the performing arts building at 111th Street and Western Avenue managed to raise $500,000 in one year.

"We are very confident. We know we are going to raise the $500,000," said Stanton, who serves as a vice president for BMO Harris Bank.

More than doubling the amount raised would not only wipe out one loan, but the additional funds would also cut into the remaining mortgage debt. By doing so, Stanton believes the Beverly Arts Center would be able to find a new lender — preferably a private lender with a philanthropic interest in the arts — to take on the remaining loan.

If the loan is completely stricken from Fifth Third's portfolio, the bank has promised to reduce the mortgage by another $200,000, Stanton said.

"Because we had such a great response from our big donors, we decided to take [the mortgage] all on," he said.

The Baffes family, owners of County Fair Foods at 10800 S. Western Ave, are among the large donors. The family  will present a $125,000 check to the center as part of the Wednesday kick-off event. The donation was promised in September and has already been counted toward the fundraising goal.

There won't be any golf outings, charity balls or benefit concerts to reach the new $1 million goal. Rather, organizers are taking an ask-and-you-shall-receive approach, Stanton said.

Thus far, it seems to be working. Some 300 individuals have already given donations, he said.

Several small businesses have also stepped up. In addition to KFC, Kean Gas Station has agreed to donate 5 cents from every gallon of gasoline sold in December to the BAC Challenge. The full-service gas station at 2362 W. 111th St. has roots in the community that go back three generations, O'Shea said.

Home Run Inn Pizza at 10900 S. Western Ave. will donate 20 percent of sales to the arts center on Tuesday for all customers who mention the BAC Challenge. Top Notch Beefburgers at 2216 W. 95th St. will donate 15 percent of sales on Dec. 17 for customers who do the same.

Finally, Waldo Cooney’s Pizza, 2410 W. 111th St. has agreed to donate 14 percent of sales on New Years Day to the BAC Challenge when customers mention the promotion upon ordering.

Mary Fitzpatrick-Duleba of Morgan Park has three daughters under age 6. They all take ballet classes at the center. On Tuesday, she ordered a bucket of chicken for her family and waved to the alderman behind the counter.

"Who knew BAC stood for biscuits and chicken?" Duleba said.

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