'Next Step' campaign seeks to raise $50,000 for Ellendale Opera House renovation work

O.P.E.R.A., Inc. today (April 21) kicked off a new matching fund-drive – Next Step – to help pay for improvements aimed at increasing business and community use of the historic Ellendale Opera House. The campaign goal is $50,000, with all contributions up to $25,000 matched dollar-for- dollar by anonymous opera house supporters. Those who donate $250 or more to the Next Step fund-drive between now and July 31 will receive a custom-designed O.P.E.R.A. mug. O.P.E.R.A. began its current "Building Our Future and Preserving Our Past" campaign to raise funds to restore the 1909 opera house in late 2018. In 2019, O.P.E.R.A. raised nearly $80,000 as part of the 80th birthday celebration for long- time opera house advocate Jeanette Robb. The group raised another $13,000 in donations from the book "Visions from My Childhood" with images created by Ellendale native Kevin Kendall. Last year, the group raised nearly $40,000 in a matching fund drive to help pay for rebuilding part of the building's north wall. The $200,000 wall re-construction was completed with a combination of O.P.E.R.A. funds and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan and grant. Now that the critical wall improvement is complete, the organization has turned its focus to upgrades that will help increase use of the building by business and community groups. That work would include:

  • Upgrading electric service for the first floor of the building.
  • Adding a fire detection/alarm system.
  • Renovating the storefront space next door to the Opera House Lobby & Gallery.
  • Upgrading the rear building entrance to meet ADA requirements.
  • Completing interior work on the remaining unimproved street-level storefronts.

Electricity to the opera house was added more than 20 years ago during renovation of the east storefront into the Opera House Lobby & Gallery. However, further restoration and occupancy of the building's street-level spaces will require a significant upgrade to the current electrical service. Installation of fire detection/ alarm equipment also is needed. "With the building stabilized and the proposed electrical and fire detection/alarm improvements, O.P.E.R.A. will be ready to make greater use of the opera house for community purposes," Executive Director Justin Meidinger said. Along with the new fund drive, O.P.E.R.A. is seeking a federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help in restoring the building's Main Street storefronts. Those now vacant storefronts were once occupied by Coleman Clothing, Randall's Grocery Store and the Coast-to-Coast Hardware Store. To contribute to the Next Step campaign, mail your donation to O.P.E.R.A., Inc. at P.O. Box 334, Ellendale, ND 58436, or donate online by clicking on the "Donate" button at the top. O.P.E.R.A. – Organization of People in Ellendale for Restoration of the Arts – was formed in 1992 to save the 112-year-old landmark from the wrecking ball. Because O.P.E.R.A. is a charitable non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. All donors will have their names listed on a display in the Opera House Lobby & Gallery. And, donations can be made to honor other individuals or family members and have those names listed on the donor display as well. For additional information, call 701-535-0347 or email jmmeid@hotmail.com