MONTICELLO — Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Monticello has met its $8 million fundraising goal for the “ALL IN For Allerton” campaign.
And then some.
The effort, which was launched in 2014 in conjunction with the University of Illinois’ “With I” campaign, officially wrapped up on June 30 with a total of $8.8 million raised. Donations have funded garden renovations, mansion upgrades, natural areas restoration work, and programs, as well as setting up endowments to ensure future funding.
Allerton Director Derek Peterson said every dollar — from coins dropped in donation boxes to gifts valued at more than $1 million — have made a difference.
“All donations matter because every dollar given is reinvested in Allerton. It’s very rare that you come across a place like Allerton that is free and isn’t part of a taxable base that is maintained to the quality that Allerton is,” Peterson said.
The road to reaching the goal included 3,291 different donors contributing 6,242 times over the eight years of the ALL IN effort, with the largest single gift being $1.14 million. Donors reside in 41 states and five countries.
Peterson said the $8 million figure was originally seen as “lofty,” noting that some on the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois-owned park originally floated a $3 million goal.
“It was ambitious. We received a few bigger gifts to get us going, and then those gifts, along with ongoing annual support from the community steadily increased over the eight years.” Peterson said.
Allerton Public Advisory Board President Joseph Vitosky agrees it was an “aspirational goal to take on,” but is not shocked the goal was met.
“The Allerton staff and donors truly stepped up to the challenge,” he said, pointing to the leadership of Peterson and the rest of his staff.
“I believe the key factors in meeting the goal were Allerton’s leadership by Derek Peterson, the creative and endless positive energy from staff, and the demonstrated improvement in Allerton’s programs, gardens, trails, and facilities over the recent years,” Vitosky said.
The campaign funded several projects in recent years, from formal garden upgrades and mansion improvements to installation of a grand entrance and new programs.
When major projects are taken on, the park has also required endowments — dollars invested with interest collected for continued maintenance — to make sure long-term upkeep continues.
“All of our larger projects have an endowment, so the space is not only renovated, but that endowment is there to forever maintain that space,” said Allerton’s Associate Director of Advancement Bridget Frerichs.
Peterson said groundwork for the successful fundraiser began in 2012, when university officials and Allerton staff decided to make the park a “community asset.”
“We’re going to open the doors, we’re going to let people in. And I think the public saw that and saw that need for support,” he said.
He added the university has helped fund some major projects, as well as issuing loans for others, including a necessary $2.8 million roof and chimney replacement at the 1900-era mansion.
But don’t expect the park and retreat center to rest on its laurels, Frerichs said.
“It’s great and we’re celebrating this, but we’re also kind of just getting started. We have come a really long way, but there are still so many projects, so many ideas for programs. Some of them can happen outside of donations, but many will take a lot of public support,” Frerichs said.
Some of those future efforts will include expansion of programming space in the Artisan Village, a Wandering Woods accessible path off the Main Parking Lot, a dedicated bicycle trail, and mansion updates.
In the meantime, Vitosky said there is already plenty to do at Allerton.
“We welcome everyone to get out and discover what Allerton has to offer. It’s time well spent.”
What did $8.8 million fund?
—2014-present: Concert Series and Holiday GLOW (sponsors and Friends of Allerton)
—2016: McDonald Family Trails (Diana and Ward McDonald)
—2016-present: Natural Areas support (Chris and Mark Golden, Jan and Ted Gill, Dennis Killian)
—2017: Bulb Garden renovation (Christie Roszkowski)
—2018: installation of a grand entrance/accessible driveway and sidewalks to the mansion (Debra and David Rathje)
—2018: Triangle Parterre Garden renovation (Dana Brehm and Larry Baumann)
—2018-2021: staff and equipment for trail improvements and invasive species management (Friends of Allerton)
—2019: restoration of the mansion Butternut Room (Deborah and Michael Westjohn)
—2019: a master plan for a children’s garden space (DiAnne and Terry Hatch)
—2019: Brick Wall Garden replanting and accessible sidewalks (Westjohns and the U of I)
—2020: establishment of an Artist and Naturalist In-Residence program (Joan and Peter Hood)
—2020: updates to mansion third floor guest rooms and Marble Hallway (Friends of Allerton)
—2020: restoration of Robert Allerton’s Bedroom (Rathjes)
—2020: ongoing restoration of the mansion Library (Susan and Steven Zumdahl)
—2021: conversion of the Ice House into a studio apartment for artists and naturalists In Residence (Brehm and Baumann)
—2021: ongoing Fu Dog Garden and mansion Solarium improvements (Rathjes)
—2021: ongoing restoration of John Gregg Allerton’s Room (the Schowalter family)
—2022: ongoing renovations for a new Visitor Center (the McCraw family)
—2022: additional plantings and accessible path in the Peony Garden (Westjohns and Friends of Allerton)
—2022: Estate gift for trail, mansion, and statue upkeep (David Taylor)