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Gateway Theater gets big boost from Pepsi Refresh Project - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Gateway Theater gets big boost from Pepsi Refresh Project

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Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2010 1:00 am

When the Gateway Theater reopens late next year, it’s a fairly safe bet the beverage of choice at the concession stand will be Pepsi.

That is because Pepsi, and its “Pepsi Refresh Project,” is awarding the Theater Collaborative of South Jersey (TCSJ) its second $50,000 grant. TCSJ is the group working to reopen the 100-year old theater on Bay Avenue.

In both July and August, the TCSJ was a top-10 finisher in the Pepsi Refresh Project’s $50,000 grant category. The funds won in July go to fix the little pink theater’s roof. Once final approval is received, August’s grant will go to shoring up and repairing the century-old building’s foundation.

And what sits between the soon to be repaired roof and floor is a gutted theater.

In August, the TCSJ held three volunteer “clean it out” events – networked through Facebook – to empty out decades of damaged props, costumes and accumulated what-not from the theater. Gone are the seats and stage curtains. Wallboards are torn out and rugs torn up.

“There was a lot. We salvaged what we could, but most of it was worn or water damaged,” Jim Dalfonso explained. “It was about 16 box trucks full.”

Dalfonso, who heads up TCSJ with Keith Cooper, said the rafters were packed with old props and costumes that suffered quite a bit of water damage from the leaky roof.

“That’s why the roof is the first thing to be fixed,” Cooper said.

Now it’s onward and upward, creating a new theater for the community.

In a recent tour of the empty building, Cooper and Dalfonso pointed out very necessary repairs, but kept their eyes to the future.

“By the end of next year, that’s our goal. It’s definitely something we can do,” Cooper said about reopening the theater, casting a glance around the empty theater that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

The roof work should start in the next week or two, and then the foundation work would follow. Recreating the inside of the theater would be next.

A section of the seats that have been removed are being offered to the local historical society. Others, Cooper said, will be available for purchase.

Besides the physical labor exerted in August, and fundraisers including a donor wall (tiles still available) in the theater, the building’s upgrade is being made possible through local donations – from business and residents – and in-kind donations of material.

“We have a lot of in-kind gifts, that helps reduce our costs,” Cooper said.

One major gift, he said, is coming from the Harrahs-Caesars casino group, which is donating carpeting for the entire building.

And with the ongoing work, Cooper and Dalfonso can’t say enough good things about the Pepsi Refresh Project, and the effect the grants will have on the building.

“What Pepsi is doing is a great thing. It is hard to find grants for capital projects,” Dalfonso said. “Even more with the economy today, large grants to fix buildings just aren’t there. Working with Pepsi is a real shot in the arm to fixing this building.”

“Pepsi is spectacular. I wish there were more big corporations that would do such generous things,” Cooper added. “These grants let the work get started even sooner, and let us focus local fundraising on other areas, like what goes inside these walls.”

“And voting at Pepsi is a way someone can help us, without spending a cent,” Dalfonso noted. “You can show your support and it doesn’t cost you anything but a minute of your time.”

The Pepsi Refresh Project funds community ideas and projects of all sizes. In 2010, Pepsi is awarding more than $20 million to ideas listed at its site, www.RefreshEverything.com and letting the public vote on which ideas are most deserving.

The group is also planning local fundraisers. On Nov. 18, there will be a “Broadway By Request,” performance at the Avalon Golf Club. A wine tasting in Cape May is also in the planning stages. There will be a benefit performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at Grace Lutheran Church in Somers Point in December.

For more information about the TCSJ, the plans for the Gateway Theater, upcoming fundraisers and events, and a link to the Pepsi Refresh voting site, go to www.gatewaybythebay.org

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