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North Country Children’s Museum gets financial boost, establishes endowment

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POTSDAM — Financial support from the Northern New York Community Foundation has reinforced the North Country Children’s Museum’s efforts to establish exhibit prototypes and establish an endowment.

The foundation’s Board of Directors approved a $10,000 grant Tuesday to fund the creation and development of the Sound Experience exhibit prototype and a $12,500 match challenge grant to build an endowment within the foundation. Melissa Wagner Telford, museum board member who is helping to develop the overall project, said the Children’s Museum appreciates assistance from the foundation because that means the agency has followed its progress since its establishment in 2011.

“Right now they’re a museum without walls, and their goals is to have a permanent location,” said Rande S. Richardson, Community Foundation executive director. “We feel it’s important to bolster their grant with some sustainability.”

Ms. Telford said the museum’s 10-member board and other supporters already have secured about $250,000 for an overall effort called the Regional Arts and Interactive Learning (RAIL) program, which will bring together the St. Lawrence County Arts Council and the museum to co-exist out of Old Snell Hall. She said an estimated $500,000 to $700,000 is needed for the entire project, which will eventually include 10 permanent exhibits for the Children’s Museum and gallery space for the arts council.

“We expect this fall for actual work to begin, really getting into the nuts and bolts,” Ms. Telford said. “The timing for complete renovations will be about June 2016. We plan a July 2016 opening, around the big Potsdam arts festival where the town comes alive.”

Between now and then, she said, the museum will focus on raising capital dollars to support the project and its programs. With the match challenge grant, she said, the museum has three years to raise the $12,500, for a possible total of $25,000 to begin an endowment.

“We’ll basically make it more stable to ensure the project moves forward,” Ms. Telford said. “It’s amazing because there’s so many nonprofits that it takes 10 to 15 years to take money to set aside for an endowment.”

The Children’s Museum was founded three years ago when a “group of dedicated educators with a vision and saw the path we were going down as a community.”

“We just want to make sure we provide an opportunity for kids to have a full educational experience,” Ms. Telford said. “We want to have families involved in the learning experience. With prototypes we’re able to introduce the Children’s Museum tot he community and equally important, we’re able to test out components with the community and actual users to gain effectiveness.”

The Innovation Station exhibit will showcase three-dimensional printing and robotics while the Kid Power exhibit will focus on fitness and movement. Another exhibit will explore music, performance and sounds. Many partners, such as SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, will help develop the exhibits, Ms. Telford said.

For more information on the Children’s’ Museum, visit www.nccm.us.

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