OAKHURST – The Children’s Museum of the Sierra (CMOS) is widely considered one of the area’s most popular assets, yet remains poised on a perilous financial precipice.
Now, organizers seek community support to offer long term planning and solutions to benefit the museum and the communities it serves.Everyone is invited to attend a Community Meeting on President’s Day, Feb. 18, at 10 a.m., in the multi-purpose room at Oakhurst Elementary School. The intention of the group is to gather ideas and corral volunteers in an effort to ensure the museum’s future operation and continual improvement, in a sustainable way.
CMOS Director Steve Montalto wants anyone who is interested in the museum to attend Monday’s meeting. While 2012 brought about new leadership, fresh programs, generous donations and a huge upswing in annual membership, the museum continues to face big challenges, needing substantial capital and an army of regular volunteers to keep the museum Discovery Center open.
“It will not survive, otherwise,” says Montalto. “Museums and similar organizations, regardless of size and location, cannot financially survive without fairly significant financial support, because it takes a fair amount of money to run a facility and then even more to breathe life – activities – into it. Many similar organizations have major foundation and/or corporate sponsorships. We do not.”
Membership and admission fees cover less than half of operating expenses, according to Montalto. “It is roughly a year since many of us came together to ‘rescue’ the museum, after the departure of founder Jean Hand and what seemed to be near-certain, near-term financial doom,” says Montalto, who intends to provide an update on the organization’s status, recounting highs and lows.
“Much has happened in the course of this past year – actually that is an understatement. We feel the need to let folks know that despite all the activities, events and successes, significant financial challenges still exist. We need the community’s active engagement on a variety of levels to overcome these challenges in a sustainable way.”
From all appearances, the museum has thrived, thanks to the invaluable and continued assistance of long-time volunteers, and a very small staff. Appearances aside, the new calendar year arrives with new questions about the museum’s prospects.
“What we did last year with a lot of effort, on the part of just a few individuals, is just not doable this year without more people stepping up and getting involved,” Montalto explains, referring to the many well-attended programs and activities that grew up around CMOS in 2012.
Museum supporters are hoping their community meeting will bring out the best thinkers and doers in the mountain area. Montalto requests the presence of “anyone who is interested in actively participating and ensuring the museum becomes a thriving place in our region, and a sustainable one, both from a financial and activity standpoint. So, we’re looking for individuals as well as groups and organizations who want to be actively engaged.”
Ideas are already bouncing around, including that of a community garden to replace the “terrible eyesore between the upper and lower parking lots,” reports Montalto. “To really make it a success, make it grow, a group of folks need to ‘own’ it. They would be responsible for care and upkeep and pulling more people into that sub-community. The community-building part is such an essential aspect. We need much more of this.”