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U.P. Children’s Museum looks to pay off loan

April 8, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The Upper Peninsula Children's Museum is looking for 18 adults to help the museum meet a big milestone.

The Marquette museum is scheduled to make its final mortgage payment in July of 2013 and has kicked off a special fundraising campaign to help raise the remaining $55,000 needed.

"To be able to pay off the mortgage is huge," said museum Executive Director Nheena Weyer Ittner. "We've been paying religiously every month for 22 years."

Article Photos

The annual New Year’s Eve ball drop at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. (Journal file photo)

The campaign, called "Torch the Mortgage," seeks to identify 55 donors who can contribute $55.55 per month over the course of 18 months to help meet the remaining amount the museum owes.

Those 55 donors would then become part of what Weyer Ittner said would be an exclusive group of individuals who made paying off the mortgage possible. Currently the $3,000 monthly mortgage payments the museum makes comes out of the organization's operational budget.

Having donors cover that amount would free up that funding to be able to reinvest in the building and its programs, Weyer Ittner said.

Because of a clause in the museum's mortgage contract, paying off the mortgage in one lump sum is not possible. Funds collected through the "Torch the Mortgage" campaign will be deposited in a restricted account, which will make the payments each month.

"It would set aside all the money needed so it wouldn't come out of the our operating budget," Weyer Ittner said.

So far 37 donors have signed on to the campaign, leaving 18 to fill the rest of the payments.

Donors can give in installments of $55.55 per month, a one-time gift of $1,000 or two gifts of $500.

In 1991, the museum building was an empty cold-storage warehouse on Baraga Avenue. On Nov. 1, the museum entered into the financial agreement to purchase the building for $400,000, with no down payment and a 7 percent interest rate for 22 years. Before opening, the museum had to install lights, insulation and the exhibits themselves, and this year celebrates its 15th anniversary of opening.

Each of the "Torch the Mortgage" donors will receive a plaque at the front of the museum, recognizing their contribution to the museum. Donors will be invited to special recognition events throughout the first half of 2013, ending in a community bonfire event in July to celebrate ownership of the building and a symbolic torching of the deed.

Over its 15 years, the museum has grow to be not only a place where kids can learn and play, but also get involved in designing the exhibits and volunteering, making it a popular destination for families from around the Upper Peninsula.

"For so many kids, this is it," Weyer Ittner said. "It's a great place.

For more information or to become a donor, contact Weyer Ittner at 906-226-3911 or via email at

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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