Sterling Opera House Gets Endowment Fund

Save Our Sterling worked for years to raise money to help renovate and restore the Sterling Opera House in Derby.

Now, the grassroots organization has dissolved — in hopes of creating a more permanent way to give money to the same cause.

Save Our Sterling on Monday donated about $7,100 to create a new fund — the Sterling Opera House Endowment Fund — at the Valley Community Foundation.

The endowment fund will be used to help the city reopen the iconic Opera House on Elizabeth Street, and to keep the building open and operating for many years to come.

“When you start an endowment fund that has permanence,” said James Cohen, the president of the Valley Community Foundation.

Cohen met with Mayor Anthony Staffieri and officials from Save Our Sterling and other city groups Monday at the Valley Community Foundation offices for a press conference announcing the new fund.

Beth Colette, the president of Save Our Sterling, said the group will be able to seek more donations now, because money donated to the endowment fund is tax deductible.

Previously, donations to Save Our Sterling were not tax deductible, Colette said.

As part of the transition, Save Our Sterling officially dissolved.

However Colette and Markanthony Izzo, another member of Save Our Sterling, are the administrators of the new endowment fund.

The $7,100 was money the group had raised in the past for the efforts to restore the Sterling Opera House.

Once the Sterling Opera House Endowment Fund reaches $10,000, Colette and Izzo can distribute grants to projects for the Opera House.

The fund will keep earning interest for future grants, and the group hopes to continue seeking donations to add to the fund.

First Donations

The fund got its first two donations Monday during the press conference.

The Valley Arts Council donated $685 it raised during “Dark Side of Derby” history tours. Rich DiCarlo presented the check to Cohen.

And a former group called the P.R.I.D.E (People Really Interested in Derby’s Excellence) Organization donated $301.

Izzo said that money was what was left in P.R.I.D.E.‘s bank account. The group was active in the late 1980s, but no longer meets.

Derby resident Dan Waleski presented the check from P.R.I.D.E. to Cohen Monday. Click play on the video to see his presentation, along with Colette’s remarks during the press conference.

New Plans

In September, Derby announced new plans for the restoration of the building, which would cost between $3 and $4 million.

Architects Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, of MOS in New Haven, presented the new plans to the city after spending months researching the building’s history.

FILEThe Sterling Opera House theater opened in 1889 and was active until 1945. The building once also housed the City Hall and the police station, but has been vacant since the late 1960s.

The new design calls for flexibility — and space to house several different community functions.

If completed, the plans would bring the building up to fire code, and include elevators in the stage area, or “non-historic” portion of the building.

The Valley Community Foundation recently gave a $15,000 grant to the city to help officials distribute the new plans and seek bids for the work at the site, Cohen said.

After completing the exterior renovations last February, the goal is coming closer to a reality. The new endowment fund is another move in that direction.

“Each step brings us close and closer to the goal,” Cohen said.


posted by: Caryn Zlamany Rickel on December 5, 2011  9:58pm

This really is great ! I have always loved and admired some of the old historical buildings in Derby ! They are so unique and this antique heritage needs to be preserved.