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OTA receives $98,000 grant

Sequim welcomed an out-of-town visitor with a very important gift Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, hand delivered a $98,000 check to Elaine Caldwell, Olympic Theatre Arts fundraising coordinator, for the nonprofit organization's building renovation project. The money will be used to install a fire-suppression and alarm system next week.

"I can't even begin to scratch the surface of his accomplishments," Caldwell said during a speech welcoming the congressman to Sequim and to OTA, "but I do know this: I wrote Norm Dicks a letter and told him about our vision, our goals, our history and our need to restore this historic building. Within one month, there was a personal phone call to our office saying he was going to make this happen."

"Just before Christmas, my phone rang in my home and the caller ID read, 'Congressman Norm Dicks,'" Caldwell continued in front of a crowd of friends, fellow board members, volunteers and supporters. "He asked me if we had gotten the money yet. Now, he is here and he doesn't have to ask if we have the money because he is giving it to us."

The money is part of an economic development initiative through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Congressional representatives are able to recommend projects in need of funding, explained George Behan, chief of staff for the congressman.

Dicks, a Bremerton native, is a longtime supporter of the arts. He was first elected into Congress in November 1976 and has been successful in bringing Urban Development Action Grants

and other federal programs to stimulate the revitalization of downtown Tacoma and to redevelop the waterfront areas of Bremerton - both projects starting with the renovation of theaters.

"I happen to think this is a very meritorious and worthy project and am pleased we are able to support it," Dicks told the crowd. "I think in every community across the country there are groups like yours committed to the arts and there's no reason why Congress shouldn't support that."

"Kids who are involved in the arts do better in other areas of life - it's proven," he continued. "The arts lift our spirits and make us feel better as Americans."

Despite a great deal of controversy, the OTA building was shut down by the city of Sequim on Feb. 26, 2007, smack-dab in the middle of its three-phase reconstruction project. Since its closure, plays and rehearsals have been held at various community facilities, primarily the Sequim High School performing arts center.

The theater is expected to reopen in September 2009, according to Caldwell. "We are still working with the city on the bathrooms and handicap ramps and exits codes," she said.

More than $1.1 million has been put into restoring the 414 N. Sequim Ave. building, including transforming the previous kitchen and bathrooms into a main stage, raising the roof four feet, adding to the building's length to increase the amount of backstage space and painting the exterior.

Board members still need to raise $98,000 to finish the project, Caldwell said.

The new main theater will seat 160 people.

OTA's next production is the musical review, "A Night on Broadway," premiering in the Sequim High School performing arts center Sept. 12 and continuing through Sept. 21.

The group's annual meeting will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 7. New officers will be elected and the 2008-2009-season schedule will be released. The public is invited.

For more information, call OTA at 683-7326.

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