By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Quincy University today announced it will hold a benefit auction March 23 to generate funds to put a new roof on the St. Francis Solanus Chapel.
The 101-year-old chapel is one of the university's most precious buildings, and QU officials are undertaking a multi-phase effort to protect and preserve the structure.
The university plans to carry out the needed work step-by-step instead of all at once.
"We really have a lot of work to do in the chapel," said Matthew Bergman, QU's director of advancement. "We identified the roof as the first need because there's some water damage and some other damage in the chapel, and we can't start fixing those pieces until we have a new roof."
The roof repairs alone are expected to cost around $250,000, Bergman said. QU officials have quietly raised nearly $100,000 of the funds needed for the project. They hope to generate the rest -- or at least a big chunk of it -- at a gala benefit auction scheduled for 5 p.m. March 23 in the QU Fitness Center, 18th and Oak.
The admission cost of $50 per person includes dinner and the opportunity to bid on a wide range of items featured in live and silent auctions.
For example, some of the featured items include trips to Ireland, Africa, Paris, Colorado and Florida.
In addition, the auctions will feature several exclusive in-home dinner parties and some one-of-kind QU experiences -- "things you wouldn't normally get to do," Bergman said. This would include an opportunity to ride with one of the university's sports team on a bus trip to an away game. A winning bidder also will receive a free warm-up outfit and have lunch with a coach.
The silent auction will feature hundreds of items and gift cards from area businesses.
"The auctions should appeal to a lot of different people because there are a lot of big-ticket items but there are also tons of gift cards and services and things of that nature," Bergman said. "I think it will be a real fun night."
Reservations for the dinner/auction can be made online at www.quincy.edu/auction or by phone at (217) 228-5226.
The roof-replacement project represents the first phase of a long-range plan to renovate and preserve the historic chapel, which celebrated its centennial last year.
A chapel-preservation committee last year identified several critical needs for the chapel. In addition to the roof, Bergman said, some of these include various exterior repairs, such as brick, masonry and stone work; repairs to the building's Munich Pictorial-style stained glass windows; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning enhancements; and some interior improvements to the walls, ceilings, floors, pews, organ and other elements.
"We really have no idea what some of this stuff is going to cost," Bergman said. "Right now we're just focusing on the roof."
He said the university could begin work on the roof by next fall "if we get close enough" to raising the necessary funds. Then the university could start looking at some of the chapel's other needs.
Bergman said the chapel, with its Romanesque-style architecture and Byzantine artwork, is a favorite building for QU students and alumni as well as staff members and faculty.
"The chapel is the heart of the university," he said.
"When students come here, they begin their experience in the chapel," Bergman said, referring to how incoming students routinely attend a convocation in the chapel as part of their orientation weekend.
"Then when they graduate from here, they finish in the chapel" at a baccalaureate service, Bergman said.
"So it's a symbolic beginning and end. And then, of course, hundreds of alumni come back and get married in the chapel, and many bring their kids back here to have a chance to experience it."