COVID-19 saw the end of many beloved businesses in small towns across the United States. Cindy Binns knows that hers, a children’s museum in Marion, Ohio, called Explore-It-Torium, was almost among the victims.
Before the pandemic, downtown Marion was in the midst of a revitalization. Cindy Binns, a retired preschool teacher, wanted to be involved. She learned that children’s museums could have a tremendous effect on revitalization efforts – but the closest children-centered attraction to Marion was nearly an hour away.
“It was with a great sense of accomplishment that we opened the museum,” says Binns. “And I say we because I had a great deal of family and community support.”
The museum which opened in September of 2019, quickly, became a destination for young families, and it became successful enough that Binns, the museum’s founder and director, was able to afford operational costs with the revenue made from admission costs.
Then COVID-19 hit. Pandemic restrictions forced the museum to temporarily close its doors. But Binns found creative ways to continue bringing in revenue. Because so many kids were now learning through their computer screens, Binns and her team created interactive craft, science and writing kits to provide a hands-on learning opportunity for students – and a break for parents.
Still, the funds earned from the kits weren’t enough to cover the costs of the museum. The Explore-It-Torium faced the threat of permanent closure. Then the team got to work on more solutions -- including asking for donations.
To stay afloat, the museum sent out a call to its community for help. One of the many businesses that helped was DaVita Heart of Marion Dialysis.
“Explore-It-Torium was important to our team because of its mission to encourage fun and learning in children and families -- bringing a much-needed outlet to Marion families,” said Lindsey Miller, RN, facility administrator at Heart of Marion DaVita center.
The dialysis center, serving 30 patients from the Marion community, donated $1,000 to the Explore-It-Torium in 2020 through the DaVita Way of Giving (DWOG) program. The health care provider’s annual giving initiative puts its charitable giving into the hands of its teammates.
Each year, DaVita gives its nearly 2,000 centers across the U.S. the opportunity to participate in DWOG. Teammates have the option to donate to one of three national causes – The American Diabetes Association, The Arbor Day Foundation and Reach Out and Read – or to donate up to $1,000 to a local non-profit of their choosing. Since its inception in 2011, DaVita teammates have directed more than $15 million to local charities across the nation.
Binns said the unexpected donation from DaVita Heart of Marion literally helped to keep the lights on through dark times.
“We so appreciate receiving this unexpected donation… the community has been very supportive,” said Binns. “The donation from DaVita covered multiple months of utilities.”
Explore-It-Torium has continued to provide pandemic--friendly activities for families with pre-packaged crafts and safely spaced exhibits. In April, families were welcomed back and encouraged to explore in between sanitizing sessions.
With just six short months to build momentum before the pandemic struck, Binns feels relieved that the museum survived, and in many ways views it’s reopening as opportunity to build back better than ever.