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Pa. grocer makes Capitol donation in Chambersburg

December 31, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A family-owned grocery store company extended a helping hand to a Chambersburg landmark Tuesday.

"Our business has been good. People of this community have helped us, and we're giving a little back," said Dean Martin, president of Sunnyway Foods Inc. as he presented Capitol Theatre officials with a donation of $10,000.

The gift, presented Tuesday morning in the lobby of the Capitol Theatre Center, included a letter of additional commitment. The family-owned company, which operates grocery stores in Greencastle, Pa., and Chambersburg, pledged to give the theater $25,000 over three years. The $10,000 was the first installment.

"That's incredible. Thank you so very much. This is a great boost," said Paul Cullinane, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., which owns the historic theater and surrounding buildings.

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Opened in February 1927 as a movie house and performing arts center, the Capitol was most recently owned by Chambersburg residents Gordon and Marlene Madison, who "put their heart and soul into it," said Chuck Nelson, president of the Capitol Theatre Foundation, which was established two years ago to manage funds for the complex.

The Wood Foundation provided the initial money for Downtown Chambersburg to purchase the theater in 1996, and has since provided about $1.2 million to build and sustain the theater and to develop programs to reach underprivileged and under-served children in the community, Cullinane said.

The 852-seat theater hosts community plays, concerts and recitals. A recently completed $5 million expansion of the Capitol Theatre Center left the South Main Street structure with a new facade as well as an updated interior: renovated lobby, a larger concession area, coat room, expanded restrooms, a more visible box office and a gift shop.

Lynn Easparro, executive director of Capitol Theatre Center, said the center has four tenants:

-- The Chambersburg Community Theatre, a local amateur theater company.

-- Caledonia Theatre Co., a professional theater organization that performs at Totem Pole Playhouse in nearby Caledonia, Pa.

-- The Chambersburg Ballet Theatre School.

-- The Council for the Arts, which sponsors community shows such as the Brown Bag series, and other local programs.

"Downtown Chambersburg bought three buildings and put them together," Easparro said. The second-floor Wood Center contains a catering hall, she said, and everything is handicapped accessible.

In presenting the gift, Martin offered to promote the theater on the flaps of his company's advertising fliers. "In talking to people, I know that the public doesn't know what's here," he said.

Nelson said that Sunnyway's gift is "important for a community of our size. It's vital that businesses support us.

"Seven thousand people come through here annually," he added. "This can be a substantial cultural force."

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