OHPRI reaches $4 million mark
Back in 2008, it was a perfect time for Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island to find a deal on a tall ship hull, but a formidable year to launch a multimillion dollar campaign to acquire the vessel and finish its build-out as Rhode Island’s official Education at Sea school ship.
The Newport-based organization this month surpassed the $4 million mark in its $6.6 million goal to complete the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, a 196-foot three-masted square rigger to be used as a platform for experiential education that supports and promotes sail training, marine trade workforce development and marine conservation and environmental stewardship to students of all ages.
“With the commitment early on of several private donors, we were able to acquire the steel hull of the former HMS Detroit, which had been built by a group in Canada,” said OHPRI Chairman Bart Dunbar. “In the three years since we moved it to Rhode Island, we have made great strides in our fundraising efforts.”
Most recently, the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust awarded a grant for $200,000 to OHPRI. The trust provides grants to organizations focused on environmental preservation that enhances the quality of life in Newport.
This momentum spurred OHPRI board member Regis de Ramel’s Stratus Foundation to put in place a $500,000 challenge grant, whereby if any new or existing donor contributes $500,000, the Stratus Foundation will increase its current commitment of $250,00 to $500,000, thus earning $750,00 in new philanthropic revenue.
“These major gifts, added to the generosity of our many Plank Owners, will build the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry as our state school ship between now and 2013 when we want to begin enrolling students,” said Tom Goddard, OHPRI’s fundraising chairman. “That $500,000 donor is key to our 2012-13 shipbuilding efforts, yet we will eagerly welcome 500 more Plank Owners.”
Two years ago, the organization began offering recognition as a Plank Owner for donors who pledge $1,000 or more over two years, and over 200 people, businesses and foundations have since signed on. “At our first strategic planning retreat back in 2008, we knew we had to be creative and thoughtful in our fundraising to gain momentum and come out strong when the economy improved. This was when our Plank Owner program was conceived,” said Goddard.
The roll out of the Plank Owner program was followed with an announcement that formalized a boat donation program through Block Island Maritime Funding. Boats donated to Block Island Maritime Funding are chartered for three years to prospective owners and then sold, with proceeds directed to OHPRI.
“We have already earned $175,000 from this initiative and expect a total of $550,000 with the inventory of boats recently donated,” said Dunbar. “This program is a real winner for all parties and we hope to keep seeing the boat donations in the future.”
With $4 million now committed, including a $1.6 million conditional construction loan from Bank Newport, OHPRI is in overdrive in its quest for the final $2.6 million. “With continued support, we will be able to finish construction of the ship in Rhode Island and charge ahead with the design of our educational programs,” said Dunbar, emphasizing that an educational director, Betsey Hyman, has been in place for several months, and OHPRI is cooperating with Rhode Island colleges, as well as public, independent and charter schools to operate academic programs aboard the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. “This project has the ability to change this community for the better and we need all hands on deck. We are committed not only to providing Education at Sea opportunities to young people, but also engaging the community’s waterfront related organizations in every step of the ship’s development and showcasing and supporting the marine trades that have become so vital to Rhode Island’s economy.”
With the help of many generous supporters, OHPRI is well into the second phase of construction, which has included transportation of the hull from Newport to Promet Marine Services in Providence for government inspections, design work and the beginning of major steel and mechanical work.
So far, 75 percent of the ship will have been completed before the ship returns to Newport waters for the third phase of construction. With a berth at Louis Jagschitz Pier on Long Wharf, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be viewable as an educational public exhibit, and its masts, rigging and hardware will be configured and installed while interior accommodations and other improvements are finished.
The fourth phase has the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry sailing as a working vessel, supporting itself with Education at Sea programs and employing approximately 17 people, with an offi ce, staff and crew that has an operating budget of $1.4 million each year. The ship will have a strong physical presence in Rhode Island waters and will run its programs throughout New England, Canada and the Great Lakes during the summer and the Caribbean in winter. It will have a capacity for 100 people for day sails, and 13 crewmembers and 36 students for overnight sails.