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Delaware teacher has ties to George Lucas’ new film

October 24, 2012

[caption width="250" caption=" The Arts Castle at 190 W. Winter St., Delaware. (GAZETTE | Dustin Ensinger) "][/caption]

DUSTIN ENSINGER

Staff Writer

Just a little more than a year after nearly shuttering its doors permanently, the Arts Castle is once again thriving.

The nonprofit organization has managed to create an operating surplus and a healthy reserve fund in the past 12 months, after financial conditions almost forced it to dissolve last September.

“The prior board felt that the situation was precarious enough that they were in the process of exploring how you go about shutting down a [nonprofit organization],” board of trustees president Ralph Hodges said.

Hodges took the reins and brought in an entirely new board — save for one holdover from the previous administration — that immediately went to work to save the organization that has fostered creativity in Delaware since 1988.

The board had to make tough decisions along the way, first cutting costs by moving to a virtually all volunteer staff before focusing on boosting revenues.

“To some degree we just basically had to go back to the roots of the Castle,” Hodges said. “One of the first things we had to do was reconnect with the traditional volunteer base and a new generation of volunteers.”

After taking a hard look at the organization’s finances and balancing the budget, the board then had to bolster its bottom line by finding additional funding sources. It has managed to do that through grants and other funding sources.

“Not only has it turned around, but some of the fundraising has actually produced operating reserves that we haven’t had in the recent past,” Hodges said.

Another key to the organization’s turn around was re-engaging the community by reaching out to schools, businesses and other nonprofit organizations. The board also re-examined the programs at the Arts Castle to make sure that they were still relevant to the community.

“The key was dedicated volunteers and dedicated staff spending the time and energy to reach out in the community,” Hodges said.

The community is better off with a once again thriving Arts Castle, Hodges believes.

“The Castle could very well have closed a year ago, and if that would have happened several thousands of people would not have the benefit of the positive experience that they have had at the Castle,” he said.

With the difficult times behind it, Hodges believes that the Arts Castle has put itself on firm financial footing, ensuring its existence for years to come.

“I think the Arts Castle is going to be here for many more generations,” he said. “This experience has made it stronger and set it on a course where it is going to be able to manage changes in the economy and the community more effectively.”