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Grants, gifts and donated time keep Discovery Station teaching

July 06, 2008|By THAISI H. VELASQUEZ

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of occasional stories about local nonprofit agencies and how they are dealing with difficult economic times.

HAGERSTOWN -- Paying $8,000 per month to lease a space might be inconceivable for many local nonprofit agencies.

But according to B. Marie Byers, board president of Discovery Station at Hagerstown, the price is worth paying because of the education that occurs within its walls.

Discovery Station at Hagerstown, the organization that leases the space in the Nicodemus Bank building, is a hands-on intergenerational learning museum that features a variety of exhibits and galleries. Visitors to the museum can view a full-scale replica of a dinosaur skull, explore the inside of a Mack Trucks diesel engine and walk through several giant storybook pages.

Admission to the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which is housed in the same building, is included in the ticket price.

"This is a very exciting place of learning for all ages," Byers said. "Science, technology, history and literacy education is our mission."

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Byers said that mission has, in some ways, been affected by current economic conditions. The organization continues to have an unpaid staff and has turned to new strategies to save and raise money.

"Yes, we are affected," Byers said. "We're all volunteers here, and no one is paid."

Byers said Discovery Station's board of directors "had projected by this time that we would have some paid employees, but we don't have the money."

The organization hopes by May 2009 to establish an endowment that will help provide money to pay some of its staff.

In an effort to be cost-effective, Discovery Station has implemented new strategies involving its displays.

"Rather than lease exhibits and pay $25,000 for a 10-week stand, we are creating our own," Byers said.

Discovery Station has a team of volunteers that produces the exhibits.

"Our goal is to have more permanent exhibits and cycle them to keep it fresh," said Leslie Hobbs, grant manager and a board member.

The museum's new Chesapeake & Ohio Canal exhibit would not have been possible without the support of several organizations, Byers said.

The exhibit was funded by a Washington County Gaming Commission distribution of $13,500 and grants from the Richard Funkhouser Foundation, Nora Roberts Foundation and Civil War Heritage Foundation, Byers said.

"These grants allowed it to become a $30,000 project," Byers said.

The organization also has received support from local and state government. The Washington County Commissioners raised their donation by $5,000, to $25,000, this year, Byers said.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson has been a friend to Discovery Station "from the very beginning," Byers said. "He has been instrumental in our success."

The organization also is taking advantage of technology, turning to the Internet to help raise money.

"We're providing the ability for people to send donations through credit card," Byers said.

The new feature should be on the organization's Web site by August.

"Online donations have a far reach," Byers said. "There are many people who are interested in helping science centers, but may not be able to come here. Now, they can donate and follow what we're doing with their donations on our Web site."

Funding Discovery Station is a challenge, but a rewarding one, Byers said.

"As more people know about we're doing, it's becoming a little easier," Byers said. "It has become a bit easier, but it's still not, at all, easy. And we could always use more volunteers."

Discovery Station facts



Organization: Discovery Station

Address: 101 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740

Phone number: 301-790-0076

Web site: www.discoverystation.org

Hours of operation: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.; Monday, closed

Admission prices: Adults, $7; children between the ages of 2 and 17, $6; seniors ages 55 and older and military, $5; children younger than 2, free

Officers: B. Marie Byers, president ; John Davidson, vice president; Patricia Wishard, secretary; Joan Schupp, treasurer

Board of Directors: John Barr, Art Crumbacher, Sondra Crumbacher, Carl Disque, Robert Garver, Arnold Hammann, Leslie Hobbs, Mary Kalin, Karen Lucas, William McGovern, Kurtis Meyers, James Miller, Stuart Mullendore, Grayson Oldfather, Sukey Rankin, Tom Riford and Kevin Tucker

Proposed annual budget: $298,000

Donations, grants and contributions received in 2007: $152,258.78

Money raised from paid admissions: $16,038.63

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