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State Lions Clubs supporting Heritage Center expansion

Posted 12/14/09 (Mon)

Efforts to enhance the interpretation of North Dakota’s history are receiving a roaring boost from North Dakota’s Lions Clubs. On October 30, the delegates to the 2008 State Lions Convention passed a resolution to support the expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center.

The resolution asked each local Lions Club to consider a pledge for five years to the State Historical Society of North Dakota Foundation in support of the expansion plans.

In addition, each local Lions Club has been asked to promote the expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center to its members at club meetings. Each club has received a case statement and expansion DVD, detailed information about the expansion. There are 3,200 Lions Club members in 110 clubs across the state.

Lions are also showing their support at legislative hearings in Bismarck. Chuck Esser of Mandan, who is a member of the Bismarck Lions Club, testified at the January 12 hearing before the House Appropriations Committee. “The time is at hand like never before to make sure the story of our state and the story of our people is presented in the finest way possible,” Esser said at the hearing. “We have been gifted with a dedicated and extremely talented team of visionaries who can see this project through. It’s time to finish the job of our Heritage Center. Let’s give our people something to show off with pride.”

Longtime Lions member and SHSND Foundation development officer Bill Schott of Bismarck has been coordinating this statewide effort. “Having this strong support by the state Lions clubs gives this expansion campaign a big boost,” says Schott. He has been working with Don Walz of Bismarck, SHSND Foundation Trustee, to involve all statewide service clubs to support this campaign. Contacts have been made to Sertoma Clubs, Optimists, Kiwanis groups and more.

“We are excited about making an investment in the further expansion of the resources of the State Historical Society,” says Bruce Schwartz, Past International Director of the North Dakota Lions Clubs. “An expanded North Dakota Heritage Center is central to the marketing of the extensive network of heritage tourism attractions all across the state. We are thrilled to be part of this effort.”

Virginia Nelsen, executive director of the SHSND Foundation, says the expanded North Dakota Heritage Center will make a wonderful gift to the people of North Dakota for the 125th Anniversary of Statehood. “How exciting to open the doors of this new facility for this celebration in 2014,” says Nelsen. “The support by the statewide Lions Clubs is helping to bring this closer to reality.”

Nelsen says grassroots efforts by Lions members are essential to development of main street support for the project. In his executive budget Governor Hoeven has authorized the expansion of the Heritage Center for $30 million and put $18 million in the budget, with the expectation that another $12 million in private support will be raised. “Now our focus is to ask the Legislature to authorize the master plan for the North Dakota Heritage Center, which is $51.7 million, and sustain the Governor’s initial funding for the project,” says Nelsen. “We want to see the building built as a one-time project for North Dakota.”