Cash-strapped Explorit appeals to community for support
For 28 years, Explorit Science Center has been a gem of the Davis community and an educational boon to the Sacramento region, providing hands-on science opportunities for thousands of families and schools.
Now, the center is confronting a challenge that science can't address. Financial struggles are threatening the existence of Explorit's main site at 2801 Second St., which was purchased in 2006.
In response, the center is appealing to the community for support.
"We know this is a philanthropic community, and one that strongly believes in furthering the education of our children," says Lou Ziskind, executive director. "We need help to keep the Explorit mission alive."
Ziskind attributed the financial difficulties to the down-turned economy and unfortunate timing in the center's purchase of the Second Street site.
"Government funding for education is down, corporate donations and grants are scarce, and understandably, individuals just cannot contribute like they could a couple years back," he said. "Income from program fees, also a key revenue source, have shrunk as well."
"The bigger concern, however, is that in 2006, when the economy seemed sound and real estate values were rising, we obtained bridge financing to complete the purchase of our building," Ziskind said. "With a drop-off in income, we are struggling with the repayment terms of our $1.6 million loan. Without additional financial support, our ability to run our Second Street facility will be in jeopardy."
Ironically, the museum is thriving in many ways. It is breaking attendance records -- 2,391 visitors in November was a 40 percent increase over November 2008 -- and visitor evaluations have been very positive.
"We've finished our phased-in opening of the museum so there is more fun stuff to do than ever," Ziskind said. "We've also been getting great media attention with new attractions like our streambed table and new promotions like "Toddler Tuesday."
Explorit's Board of Directors and staff believe that the need for the center's informal science education programs is greater than ever.
"In Davis, we're fortunate to have a school budget that allows for science education in elementary classrooms," said Betsy Elzufon, an Explorit trustee and mother of two. "Sadly, in many other towns, the students' only hands-on science experiences are those provided by Explorit's traveling programs. For those schools, it is truly a blessing to have us help fill the void and educate these students about the importance science lends to our daily lives."
To keep the Explorit vans rolling and the museum open, Explorit offers a package of ways to lend support, says Peter Willson, the development director. The organization is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization; donations are tax-deductible.
"We have a 'Donate' button on our website, of course," he said, referring towww.explorit.org. "That's the easiest and fastest. We also gladly take cash or check donations at the museum during visiting hours or through the mail (to Explorit at P.O. Box 1288, Davis CA 95617). Then our website has lots of other information about ways to help, including a new car-donation program."
He and board members are hopeful that the center will weather the recession.
"This place has been a great part of the community for over a quarter-century and has meant so much to the families in Davis and the greater Sacramento region," Elzufon said. "It would be a sad day if we were not able to continue offering our many valuable programs to the many families, schools, and educators who depend on us."
For more information about Explorit, please contact Peter Willson at (530) 757-4530 ext. 112 or e-mail him at PeterW@explorit.org.