OUR FOUNDING FATHER
If you got to know Bill Stevens when he was in Belleville as the minister of the Methodist Church, you had to like him. I first saw him walking down Main Street in a light blue suit and straw hat going twice my speed, standing straighter and looking more like a banker than I. I wondered who he was…
I don’t think he was in town more than a month or two before he asked me to join his church (I was a member, so to speak); to give him a bank loan to finance bringing a Christian singer named Merrill Womach to our town (1300 people came to town to hear Womach sing, why… even the merchants were grateful); to guarantee $100 of that loan for him if Womach did not go well (try that with your banker); and to help form a Kiwanis Club. I told him Kiwanis would not work in Belleville as we had the Community Club. He proved me wrong.
He wore me out. To fill our gym for the Merrill Womach program, he and his wife went up to the Madison Library and went through telephone books within 70-80 miles of Belleville and wrote down the church names and addresses and then hand wrote envelopes and invitations to numerous churches.
He wore everyone out just watching him. I later saw him cutting the Church grass and the extra lot with an old hand rotary mower in the same light blue suit and straw hat. He was the most properly dressed lawn mower and Church and Public servant. I gave him an old power mower. He shoveled snow on the Church walk by hand. I gave him my old snow-blower. He typed the Church Bulletin and everything on an old typewriter. I gave him a computer and printer. Don’t know if he ever used the mower, the blower or the computer. What I do know is he had more energy than anyone I knew and he was 30 years older than me.
He served several churches in Wisconsin including Beaver Dam before retirement. In retirement he served Belleville. After Belleville, in his 70’s he served a small North Madison Church scheduled to close. He did not want to be remembered as closing a church. Nearly 80 years of age he begged for an appointment to Stoddard Wisconsin along the Mississippi. I thought the Church sent Bill there to retire. The Stoddard church had no money when Bill arrived and in a couple years had $57,000 in the bank! What could each of us do for our community in comparison?
He was what he believed. He was proud of his faith and his Church. He was the Founding Father of the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation. He directed several meetings until we formed a Foundation that would not fail. He founded the Belleville Chapter of Kiwanis. Kiwanis and BACF – two service groups still serving our community.
You see, he believed we should serve each other. We should contribute something to our community. He expected more from each of us than what we were usually willing to do, and he would do all he could to help us become better servants to our community, and if we did not do our duty, he did it for us.
Bill passed away the end of March. He can’t any longer do for us what we should do for ourselves or for each other,
I can think of no better Memorial to Rev. Bill Stevens and to future generations in Belleville than for all of us to help make the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation a huge success. You can learn how to help and join by going to www.bellevillearts.com or by reading our brochure. Join for Bill’s memory, for you, for your kids, for your neighbors, for your community. Create a Memorial for yourself or a loved one.
Some may think Bill Stevens pushed too hard. Some may think he was too determined. Some may think he expected too much. I think Bill will still be pushing us from up above. He set an example for our community. Bill Stevens will be missed. When God made Bill, He threw away the mold. It will take a lot to fill Bill’s shoes. Maybe together we can all do it!
~ Gary Bahr
A MESSAGE TO POTENTIAL MEMBERS…
All any of us can do as individuals is to give our families and future generations an example to follow. The Belleville Area Cultural Foundation is that example of what our community can do with everyone participating. If you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, a business, are living or teaching in our community or just love good entertainment, you should be a shareholder of the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation. I am proud to be a shareholder -member, a director, a founding father and former President of the Foundation. In November 1987 Rev. William Stevens, the founding father, brought Merrill Womack to Belleville with a personal bank loan and packed our high school gym with 1300 people – many from as far away as Lake Geneva and Green Lake.
The next year Rev. Stevens got school teachers or administrators Joe Hageman, Gary Loertscher, Anne Spencer and Gary Bahr to meet several times to create a Foundation we all could be proud of for the Belleville area. Attorney Bill Fahey did all the legal work for us and we became the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation, Inc.
For over 25 years, our organization has been bringing fine entertainment to Belleville. And, because of the way the Foundation and investment funds are setup and as a public 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation, we can continue to entertain you forever. With your help, we can do even more programs. With everyone’s help we can bring world famous talent to our community. With your share, contribution or memorial gift we can continue to meet our status as a publicly supported foundation and with interest earnings on the savings and investment accounts we can keep ticket prices very reasonable so everyone can enjoy our programs.
Membership is actually the purchase of a $500 membership in the Foundation. As a member you can do no more than pay the amount over time or volunteer to serve the Foundation as much as you want. As a member you can pay as little as $50 per year for 10 years, $100 for 5 years, $250 for 2 years or $500 for a membership. To some that may seem like a lot, but the annual cost is equal to a tank of gas, a meal out for two, sales tax on a TV, or a ticket or two to an event in Madison. We have made a share virtually affordable to all, because all households and all businesses should be members. We want everyone to be a shareholder because the Foundation is for everyone. And, every dollar you invest is put into a investment funds and only the earnings are spent on programs. Memorials and donations are welcomed and can also placed into the investment funds or otherwise used as directed. Your membership payments are even tax-deductible. The larger the investment funds the greater the programs.
There are now about 1600 households and businesses in the immediate area. That means an $800,000 investment fund could be possible within 10 years if every area household and business bought a membership today. Think about that! Discuss buying a share with your family today and pledge to buy a share tomorrow. As a business, there is no better form of advertisng than doing something great for your community. With the kind of fund we could have with everyone as a member we could bring just about any program to Belleville! And, our town would be an example to all small communities in the world.
Recently, we brought you two great groups to the Belleville High School Auditorium. Dividends you can see and that inspire. If you missed the October 19th 2008 program of the BHS Vocal Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Sara Rupnow and the UW MadHatters, you missed great entertainment. A free will offering was asked and several contributed.
The Foundation loves to support and include our youth in programs. We do this with a donation this year to the High School Choir, by creating a $500 Scholarship Program for 2009 for a High School student of the arts, by bringing programs to Belleville to inspire our youth and future generations, and by making school talent part of our shows. You cannot out give your community Foundation that inspires our youth, the community and future generations.
We have many to thank for the recent show and especially the over 125 individual, couple and business member-shareholders and memorial donations that make every program possible through their contributions and the earnings thereof. They have done their share. Find out who they are by visiting our “Contributors” page and join your relatives, friends and neighbors as shareholder members or make a memorial contribution.
In addition we thank Sara Rupnow and the BHS Jazz singers; the UW MadHatters; the other Foundation Directors with special thanks to Jerry Remy for coordinating the program, Carol Eberhardy for advertising, Mark Dohm for sound and stage management, Jill Wennesheimer for helping notify members of the program, Joan Root and Jeanine Mabis for registering guests for door prizes and Marian Adams and Atty William Fahey for being directors. We also thank Jennifer Woods and the High School Office staff for distribution of tickets, the School District for use of the theater, Dave Remy for design of our poster, the Belleville Recorder for printing our articles, the Belleville Printing Company for a good price on our brochures and other printings, and everyone who attended.
It takes many people in our community to inspire our youth, bring great entertainment to our community and put on a program. It takes the whole community to bring great shows to our town and to inspire the entire community.
But, frankly, we can only do greater things when every household and business buys their share in the Foundation. There is no limit to the number of member-shares you can buy, memorials you can make, or the size of your donation; and, no limit to what the Foundation can do if everyone buys at least one share.There is no better investment than the Belleville Area Cultural Foundation. Your contributions are safely invested in U.S. Government insured funds or conservative investments. The dividends you can see in the faces of our inspired children, teens and audiences at any program. No one else can buy your share in the Foundation. We want the Foundation to be community-supported by all. If 112,000 people can invest in Green Bay Packer shares, 1600 of us can invest in our community’s future.