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Guest Editorial: Major gift helps Polly Klaas Theater reach fundraising goal

Every once in a while, an event occurs that is so amazing, it leaves a person stunned. This is what happened when Vickie Soulier called me to say that the Vickie Soulier Foundation was bestowing a major gift to the Polly Klaas Community Theater renovation. Soulier’s gift combined with other year-end gifts from the community, made it possible to reach the fundraising goals to kick off the theater’s renovation.

What began with a tour of the theater on a quiet Monday morning, concluded with the best news, the single largest gift the theater has received since beginning the capital campaign in early 2020. In addition to the unexpected generosity of Soulier’s donation, is the deep passion she has for performing arts, and her devotion to ensuring that communities (particularly children), have access to these experiences.

Soulier explained how she had enjoyed a multitude of art programs when she was a child, and how necessary arts education is for a young person’s learning experience. “Not every child excels in academics or sports,” Soulier said. “Some children find their home in the theater, and every child deserves a chance to experience, and thrive in whatever they are passionate about.”

When theaters are open, Soulier can frequently be seen at live performances from Sonoma County to San Francisco. During the COVID-19 shutdown, Soulier was still supporting the arts by attending drive-in performances presented by Transcendence Theater Company, which she also supports. We really do live in a tight-knit community. As it turns out, Transcendence had already expressed an interest in using the Polly Klaas Community Theater post-renovation.

Other performing arts groups toured the theater back in March, before the shut-down, including Petaluma School of Music, Alchemia, Cinnabar Young Repertory, Petaluma Readers Theater, West Side Stories, Petaluma City Schools, Kent Street Pioneers, Sirens, Youth Debate Teams and a multitude of local performing art groups that expressed a need for a community theater. So many of our local organizations have no place to call home, or have grown out of their current performance space.

This year has been a very challenging year, and many arts organizations have suffered immeasurably. But in spite of a pandemic and recession, our community has come together to support renovating the Polly Klaas Community Theater with so much love in their hearts, and a commitment to see this project through.

Team Ghilotti came to the project as a Premier Partner and has championed the project since the beginning, along with Capitol Electric and Alicia & Justin Hansel, all which began making commitments during the initial fundraiser hosted by Petaluma Rotary back in February of 2020. Many others came on board throughout 2020, including TJH Construction, Northgate Ready-Mix, Summit Engineering, ADR, 15000 Inc, Reared in Steel and Rigney Plumbing, who are among our major project partners. The list goes on and generosity from the community continues to find us. This is a wonderful example of a public-private-sweat equity project. The City of Petaluma has been an incredible partner, clearing the way to allow the renovation to happen.

Anyone who contributed towards this project should feel great about their support. It took donations of all sizes to reach this goal.

The theater will always need to be supported by the community, through sustaining gifts and patronage, that is how performing arts organizations are primarily funded, but to start 2021 with the resources needed for construction is truly a miracle.

Soulier’s donation is a gift to our community and our children, one that is needed now more than ever, as schools rarely offer performing art-education as part of their regular curriculum due to budget constraints.

“I am so happy to help provide a space for these after-school experiences.” Soulier said, then added, “Besides, you can’t take it with you, and I would rather see all the great things I can help to make happen while I am still here!”

Community leaders who have been working on the campaign from the beginning promise to make Soulier proud when she attends opening night, which is now closer than ever, thanks to her love of performing arts and incredible generosity.

To support the theater, you can mail checks to Polly Klaas Community Theater, PO Box 2009, Petaluma, 94953; or donate online at PollyKlaasCommunityTheater.org.

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