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Lyric board named Volunteer of Month

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT The Friends of the Lyric Board of Directors is the recipient of April’s Volunteer of the Month, as chosen by the Rugby Area Chamber of Commerce. Pictured board members from left to right are: (back row) vice president Bonnie Kuehnemund, Dave Bednarz, Sue Blessum and Kipp Johnson; (front row) treasurer Fr. Tom Graner, Jodie Kirchofner, secretary Holly Niemi and president Sue Steinke. Not pictured is board member Steve Mueller.

Singling out one person wouldn’t do justice for April’s Volunteer of the Month as chosen by the Rugby Area Chamber of Commerce.

The revival of the Lyric Theater in downtown Rugby is all about volunteers, so the chamber decided to recognize the entire Friends of the Lyric Board of Directors.

“This community wanted the Theatre to not close, so last year we had a meeting with the community,” said Shelley Block, Chamber executive director.

“Out of this meeting these people stepped forward and have volunteered many, many hours to help raise moneys, find the volunteers to work every weekend and have run this business as volunteers. I am very thankful for all they do.”

The nine-member board includes president Sue Steinke, vice president Bonnie Kuehnemund, secretary Holly Niemi, treasurer Fr. Tom Graner, and members Steve Mueller, Dave Bednarz, Sue Blessum, Kipp Johnson and Jodie Kirchofner.

“The project is too big for one person when you don’t have a general manager,” Steinke said. “Many volunteers have helped and you need a lot of help from an active board. It would not happen without continued volunteer support of the community.”

Johnson and Mueller lead one of the group’s biggest endeavors yet as the Lyric forges ahead in it’s second year since reopening. The pair was on both night trips to Fargo last week to pick up 340 theater seats that were being replaced. The seats are in good shape and would’ve been thrown away had the Lyric not moved to upgrade its seating. Levi Heisler and Doug Schneider provided trailers for the trips and Terry Wentz donated storage for 108 chairs picked up on the second trip (April 9-10).

“Having these chairs has saved us a lot of money, so the fundraisers can go toward other important repairs like the heating system,” Steinke said.

The men who traveled to Fargo even received help from Rugby natives Isaac Schaan and Joe and Tom Heilman. The groups worked through the night and early morning to accommodate work schedules.

The theater may look for more seats before installing the recent acquisitions. The Lyric currently has 357 seats. The theater had 650 seats when it opened in 1922. Graner, who is enjoying his time on the board, said it can fit between 450 and 500 seats with moderate spacing.

“It’s been a lot of fun because a lot of people have taken on roles that are good for them,” Graner said. “We’ve had callers for volunteers and business will take care of a night or weekend of volunteering per month.”

Weekly responsibilities at the theater include running the projector (four people are currently trained), making deposits, box office reports, hanging posters and purchasing for the concessions. Graner said the board didn’t realize how many volunteers would be needed. The community stepped up.

“We hoped for a lot and I think it’s gone beyond our expectations,” Steinke said.

Johnson, the president of the Rugby Job Development Authority, said buying the theater was the easy part, but the volunteers are what’s going to make the theater thrive.

“If that theater closes they’ll go to Minot to eat and shop and Rugby would miss out on that economic boost,” Johnson said. “We’re even getting (moviegoers) from Towner.”

The board is hosting its annual meeting on Thursday at Rugby Eagles Club. It will also be a volunteer appreciation night. The 6 p.m. freewill offering meal is open to the public and free to volunteers.

The Lyric has sold 8,652 tickets from the reopening in mid-March 2013 through the first week of this month.

Other volunteers involved in retrieving the seats from Fargo include Bednarz, David Jaeger, Wes Hall, Brian Jordan, Ryan Graber, Steve Nelson and Craig Zachmeier.

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