MATTOON — When COVID-19 restrictions on the size of gatherings are lifted, Lake Land College's recently opened Foundation and Alumni Center will be ready to host special events for past and present Laker Nation students.
In the meantime, this newly constructed building is providing office space under one roof for the Lake Land staff members who handle the college's alumni and donor relations, plus related scholarship programs.
Christi Donsbach, executive director for college advancement, said they moved on Oct. 6 into the center, which is located where the old Lake Land bookstore once stood.
"We are not fully unpacked yet, but we are getting there," Donsbach said.
The 5,700-square-foot center is located next to the Board and Administration Building, and the Luther Student Center. The majority of the floor space is comprised of a special events room with a west wall of windows and doors that open onto a patio adjacent to the Alumni Park.
Donsbach said this "indoor/outdoor concept" will provide a venue for Lake Land to host donor and scholarship receptions that previously needed to be held off campus, as well as a variety of other special events held by the campus community. She noted that a kitchen is located across the hall from the special events room.
"Now we will be able to have all of those events in our own space, eventually," Donsbach said. "Unfortunately, during the last year, a lot of our events had to move to virtual."
For example, the Lake Land College Foundation scheduled a Virtual Donor Reception for Monday evening and planned to announced its 2020 Foundation Philanthropy award winners then.
Special Events and Alumni Engagement Coordinator Amanda Tucker said she is excited that the development of the special events room and the patio, which have seating capacity for approximately, 160 and 50, respectively, has been completed. Tucker said she is sad that the room cannot host events yet but "so looks forward to using it."
Donsbach said the absence of in-person events gave her team members time to settle into their new workspace. She said their respective offices previously had been scattered between Neal Hall, Webb Hall and the Luther Center.
"All of us are in the same area for everybody to find us," said Donor Information and Database Coordinator Nicole Jackson, adding that this proximity will improve communications between staff there.
Donsbach, who was hired in fall 2019 as Jackie Joines prepared to retire from the executive director post, works at the center alongside Jackson, Tucker, and Scholarship Coordinator Hannah Crnkovich.
The center also houses a conference room where the Foundation Board and the Alumni Association can meet. Donsbach said the Foundation Board developed the idea for a standalone physical location for alumni and donor programs during a planning retreat three years ago. She said events hosted at the center will hopefully help build close relationships with scholarship recipients and other students with the goal of them eventually becoming alumni who remain actively engaged with Lake Land.
Lake Land has reported that the college's Board of Trustees committed $725,000 toward the $2.2 million construction of the center. The Foundation contributed $1.5 million from the Neal Charitable Lead Trust, a discretionary fund created for operational needs, separate from scholarship funds.
Donsbach said an open house and tours eventually will be held at the Foundation and Alumni Center.
"We definitely want to do that to show the building off," Donsbach said.