The Beverly Arts Center (BAC), located at 2407 W. 111 St., delivered a payment of $500,000 to Fifth Third Bank today to meet its four-for-one challenge in which the bank will forgive $2 million of BAC’s long-term debt of $4.713 million. The residents and business owners of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood led the way in raising a half-million dollars in 10 months.

The bank’s four-for-one incentive was initially announced Sept. 26, 2013, during a news conference led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea and became the cornerstone of an ambitious fundraising campaign called the BAC Challenge.

In a prepared statement, Ald. Shea said: “We are very gratified by Fifth Third Bank’s generous support to help us fortify Beverly Arts Center’s future. Our community’s response has been much greater than we ever hoped or imagined. Three major donors— County Fair’s Baffes Family, Gary and Denise Gardner, and Lori and Ed McGunn — helped us exceed our initial goal. We also are grateful to Mayor Emanuel for donating $250,000 from unused privately-raised NATO funds, and to Ill. State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th District) for securing $100,000 to apply to the principal of the construction loan.”

According to Mike Stanton, co-chair of the BAC Challenge campaign, “As of today, our donors have contributed $1.147 million in response to the bank’s challenge. But a significant debt-burden still remains. So we want to reduce it more to ensure the financial strength of the arts center for years to come. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the debt. With our success to-date, we are confident we can further reduce the arts center’s long-term debt by raising an additional $500,000 between now and the end of August 2014.”

“Now that we have met our obligations for the first loan, we are applying the additional $647,000 of donations in-hand to our remaining debt,” said Tim Enright, treasurer of BAC’s board of directors. “At present, that leaves the arts center owing $1.039 million. We’re counting on our community’s continued enthusiastic support, allowing the BAC to commit more funds to programs,”

According to Heather Ireland Robinson, who was named executive director five months ago: “Plans are underway for new programs and classes. We’re adding more music and theater entertainment as well as fine art exhibitions. We also have focused considerable attention on building a sustained development program. We are revitalizing our 555 Club for donors who commit $500 a year for five years, expanding our member-benefits program and adding an annual appeal. The momentum the Beverly Arts Center has gained during the past year demonstrates our community’s commitment to ensuring the arts remain a central part of their lives.”