DULUTH – Thanks to an outpouring in response to its urgent pleas last month, the Duluth Children's Museum raised enough money to stay financially afloat.
After learning in December that the museum would not receive an expected $70,000 state grant, the attraction's board chair warned that it could be in danger of closing and losing its new building in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood.
An online fundraiser raked in $25,000 — much of which came from small $10 or $20 donations, said museum President Cameron Kruger — and the Duluth-based Members Cooperative Credit Union contributed an additional $12,000.
"We want to express our thanks to the community for stepping up for us here," Kruger said. "The response — not just in dollars, but also through all the chatter on social media — has been overwhelming."
The museum, a destination for families, field trips and youth groups, was closed from March to July due to the governor's emergency order. It shut down again in November, when COVID-19 cases spiked in Minnesota.
Now the nonprofit is moving out of leased space into a museum-owned property and must install a new furnace and complete additional renovations before opening.
The Duluth City Council had also said it would cut all funding to the group, but after hearing the museum's plight, it voted to allocate it $5,000 in tourism tax dollars in 2021. The nonprofit expected to get $20,000 from the city in 2020 but only received $11,000 after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged tourism tax collections, which consist of a levy on hotels, food and beverages.
Kruger said the recent contributions will allow the Duluth Children's Museum to continue work on its new home, which is slated to open later this year as health guidelines allow.
The museum has drawn 51,000 guests in recent years and has a roughly $500,000 budget, Kruger said. It first opened in 1930 and is the fifth-oldest children's museum in the country.
The new facility will feature an indoor play center and could include a kitchen for kid-friendly cooking demonstrations.
"It really matters to the community that we be here," Kruger said. "That's my takeaway from all this."
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478