|Ohio's Freedom Center gets financial help|
|Written by LISA CORNWELL, Associated Press|
|Sunday, 01 July 2012 06:22|
CINCINNATI (AP) — The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is getting help with longstanding financial problems through a merger into the Cincinnati Museum Center's corporate structure and from a $1.8 million grant.
The Museum Center's board of trustees recently approved a resolution allowing it to become the Freedom Center's parent organization with financial oversight of the national center. The merging of the organizations' operations allows cost savings intended to provide financial stability for the Freedom Center and eliminate a $1.5 million annual budget shortfall, Museum Center spokeswoman Elizabeth Pierce said Friday.
Freedom Center officials said last year that the annual shortfall could force the center to close by the end of 2012 if the money wasn't found. The Freedom Center, which opened in 2004, also said that while attendance was up slightly in 2011 over the previous year, it has declined since a 2005 peak.
Museum Center officials have said the partnership offers financial strength and new opportunities for both organizations.
The Museum Center houses a history museum, a children's museum and a natural history and science museum. The Freedom Center, which is now its fourth wholly owned subsidiary, focuses on the 19th century Underground Railroad for escaping slaves and on freedom throughout the world.
The Freedom Center's board changed its bylaws earlier this year to allow for the merged operations, which will enable reduced administrative expenses in areas including human resources and finance, Pierce said.
The Freedom Center will remain responsible for its fundraising, programming and efforts to enhance its image.
Pierce said both organizations will retain their separate brands and missions and will remain separate legal entities for the purpose of charitable gifts and revenue.
"This collaboration also gives a level of operating efficiency that will allow both organizations to better deliver their education missions," Pierce said.
Much of the three-year $1.8 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's American Healing program, also announced last week, will be used to increase awareness and understanding about the history of racial oppression in America and to create interactive and multi-media education programs. About $400,000 of the grant will be applied to the Freedom Center's endowment fund, officials said.
A Kellogg Foundation official said the Freedom Center plays a significant role of "community-based healing" by sharing stories of past racial trauma.
"Storytelling is essential to healing the wounds of the past," Gail Christopher, vice president of program strategy for the foundation, said in a release announcing the grant.
Kim Robinson, the Freedom Center's chief executive officer, has said the grant reinforces the center as a "source of inspiration for multicultural cooperation."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
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