The Nicola Valley Theatre Society hopes to attract 1,000 members to its ranks in order to acquire government or corporate grants for the movie theatre and performing arts centre it wants to erect downtown.

“When we’re applying for grants that’s one of the big questions they always ask is how many members do you have?” society member Kurt Christopherson said, adding that groups with few members aren’t taken very seriously.

The society’s goal may seem daunting, but the society currently has sold nearly 400 memberships.

He said the society was made up of just a board of 12 directors until last Wednesday (Oct.28) when the society held a public meeting, which showcased what has been achieved so far thanks to the community’s support.

In a short time, the society has raised approximately $500,000 for the project, Christopherson said.

Last year the theatre society purchased a piece of property to build the theatre thanks to a $200,000 loan from the Norgaard family. Recently, the society had some blueprints of the potential building drawn up from an architectural company based in Penticton.

However, there is still a lot of work left to do if the theatre is to become a reality.

The next step for this project is raising $3.2 million to construct the building.

In their fundraising efforts, however, the society is currently facing an inability to offer tax receipts to donors because it is not yet a charity although it is in the process of trying to obtain charitable status, Christopherson said.

Christopherson – who is a city councillor – said the City of Merritt is offering a supportive role in the project in the form of assistance in finding grant opportunities and writing letters of support for said grants, but is not contributing taxpayer dollars.

In order to attract dollars from corporations, the society is trying to gain enough support and fundraising from residents to prove the project’s worth.

“They want to know that you’re serious, and I think our community is demonstrating that they really want to have this thing,” Christopherson said.

He said the society has kept track of the money it’s received and would make a commitment to refund donations if possible, in the event the project were to never get off the ground.

About 110 people attended the meeting.

Potential user groups currently have about three weeks to submit any feedback they may have regarding revisions to the building blueprints.