Urbana Methodist Church will transfer deed to Gloria Theater to non-profit Grandworks Foundation.

Urbana theater gifted to the community

An Urbana church is handing over the deed of a renovated theater to a local non-profit.

Urbana Methodist Church will pay the final amount of a loan and give Gloria Theater to Grandworks Foundation.

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The idea for renovating the theater began to emerge five years ago and it was reopened a year later.

Pastor Jim Lillibridge was passing the theater in 2013 when he noticed a for sale sign.

“When I saw the sign, as I went by — this doesn’t happen to me a lot — but I heard a voice that I perceived as God’s voice saying ‘This is my house,’ he said.

He later went to church and spoke with the church’s contemporary worship leader, Clint Young. He too had driven by and seen the same sign.

“I am having this conversation with him about worship and he says ‘Did you notice that the theater is for sale?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I think God is calling us to do something with that.’ He said ‘Dude, God’s telling me the same thing. We need to do something,’” Lillibridge said.

A proposal was presented to the church and it voted to take on the project. The church would use the theater to reach, restore and revive the community socially, economically, culturally and spiritually. That action prompted the religious organization to start Grandworks Foundation. The non-profit was created by the church to manage the theater Executive Director Staci Weller said.

“We’ve got a four stage plan and the first stage was essentially to acquire the theater, make some renovations, restore it back to its original stage,” she said.

The group is now on stage two which is patient care improvement. It launched a capital campaign last November to reach that goal.

“The intent of this phase of the restoration is to essentially to improve the patron’s experience so that’s improved restroom facilities, improve concessions. We’ve got a cafe lounge,” Weller said.

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The organization’s capital campaign is $1.2 million dollars. So far it has raised a little over $65,000 and is actively pursuing grants.

It also wants to make infrastructure changes too. That will be done in stages three and four. The multi-level facility has banquet space.

So far, the 500-seat, multi-entertainment complex that reopened in 2014, has been successful. It would not be able to function without volunteers Weller said. Close to 12,000 hours of community service has been performed at the theater.

The non-profit wants the theater to be affordable and accessible to everyone.

“We’ve done things from targeting special needs groups who have been able to come in and enjoy some of the movies,” she said. “We’ve done free senior showings - so it gives our senior population an opportunity to come in.”

A community celebration marking the transfer of the deed is planned for 6 tonight, April 13.

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