Editorial

Nonprofits that support and enrich our city and our lives are struggling during the pandemic, and they need our support.

For example, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent did not host its field trips in the spring or its camp during spring break. Furthermore, summer camps saw half the normal attendance in order to accommodate safety measures. The museum has lost staff and daily attendance is way down.

Normally, during this time of the year, the museum would be in full planning mode for the gala, which was supposed to be Sept. 12. Obviously, that is not happening this year.

“We did really well last year, so we were looking forward to continuing that momentum, but the pandemic happened, and we don’t know how to make up the money we usually make at the gala,” said Liz Tise, executive director for the museum.

Small fundraisers and raffles are among revenue-generating options the board is considering in the future, Tise continued. Revenue from Palace Bingo and individual donations have helped in the meantime. Also, a recent $1,500 Humanities Texas grant has contributed to the well-being of the museum.

The museum has already started small, creative fundraising efforts. For example, Hurt’s Donut Co. of Katy pulled up in its donut truck to help raise funds, and the Royer’s Round Top Café pie sale, which ends Thursday (so get your pies on the Children’s Discovery Museum Facebook page by noon), also has helped.

“It’s cool to see the city and the community come together to help support us, and it’s cool to think outside the box,” she said. “Pies are fun.”

By Tuesday, the museum had sold 275 of its 300-pie goal. More than 10 different types of the iconic pies range in price from $32 to $34. The money raised will help with operating expenses for the museum.

“Financially, it’s a struggle because even though we weren’t open (for a while), we had to pay for electricity, water and trash, a mortgage – we still have operating expenses that do not stop. We keep paying for everything even when there is no income in return,” Tise said.

Tise said the pie sale is indicative of the museum doing what it can to make ends meet. The museum likely will hold another pie fundraiser closer to the holidays because the effort has been relatively simple and well-received.

“You’ll see other creative fundraisers coming out of here for the next few months and for the future,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”

Liz Jensen, executive director for the Texas Zoo, said the pandemic also has left the zoo with financial difficulties.

“We were really hit hard when we closed our doors during the highest season of the year,” Jensen said. “For the zoo, the biggest time to generate revenue, and to keep us alive, basically, is mid- to late-February through mid-August.”

The zoo reopened in May, which helped, but attendance dropped by as much as 50% some months. The Paycheck Protection Program funds, which paid for the staff during the summer, have been exhausted. As a result, Cari Wittenborn, animal health and welfare manager for the Texas Zoo, initiated a Go Fund Me account and ramped up efforts on social media to get the word out that money is needed.

“She has really helped the zoo through several fundraising vehicles, and the community has been incredibly generous and stepped up, and we are really grateful,” Jensen said. “We also have gotten a lot of donations of food for the animals, produce and meat, because feeding the animals is not cheap.”

Medical care for the animals also is expensive and necessary.

Because of the pandemic, the zoo had to hire more staff to implement social distancing and sanitizing measures.

“This put us in a position where we had to spend more money on salaries to handle that,” she said.

But the zoo cut back on hours, which allowed cuts to guest services staff, which saved some money. Furthermore, the maintenance department was cut completely, which put an added burden on the staff to pick up the slack or hire from the outside.

“We need support to pay the bills and care for the animals. It’s not easy. We have quite a collection of animals,” Jensen said. “It’s not like a museum that just closes the doors, so to speak. We need a full animal care staff to care for the animals properly, and that’s an extra burden.”

In spite of the difficulties, the zoo continues animal rescue efforts.

“We have been taking animals from ARK, Animal Rehabilitation Keep at the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas,” Jensen said. “They have animals that need homes and we have taken them in, and we have plans to take even more in. We are still rescuing and giving homes to animals.”

The zoo also continues to work with Texas A&M-Kingsville on a survival plan for critically endangered ocelots.

“We’re still doing important things for wildlife and animals regardless of the whole situation,” she said.

Jensen said the zoo is the perfect place to visit during a pandemic because it’s mostly outside and conducive to social distancing. The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

“If you want to get out of the house, come to the zoo,” she said.

The Children’s Discovery Museum and the Texas Zoo are just two of the many nonprofits in town that add to the community in important ways and need support during this critical time. Remember the ones that are near and dear to your heart when you have financial resources to spare and make a donation.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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