Developers in the city of Portsmouth are pledging $100,000 in matching funds to help raise $200,000 or more to help arts and hunger nonprofit organizations get through the next 100 days and into the summer season.
Mark Stebbins, managing partner of XSS Hotels, and Jeff Johnston, principal at the real estate investment development firm Cathartes, launched the Portsmouth Together 200 Challenge from the Rooftop at Envio on Vaughan Street last Thursday.
Stebbins said he is hopeful that Portsmouth will rebound this tourist season after last summer when COVID-19 kept many people away from the destination location.
“Both Jeff and I are feeling very optimistic about this summer. With a lot of needles in people’s arms, we believe that Portsmouth is going to be overrun in the summer, and the restaurants will be thriving, and people will be able to go back inside into venues and so forth, so this is, we’re bridging the 100 days to get us to the summer,” Stebbins said.
To support nonprofit arts organizations, XSS Hotels and Cathartes have partnered with The Music Hall, 3S Artspace, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Seacoast Repertory Theatre and the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center.
Officials at Prescott Park Arts Festival announced on Wednesday that they will present the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” on the Wilcox Main Stage from July 9 to Aug. 15. The festival did not take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Director Courtney Perkins said they are also hoping to host national touring musical acts in July, August and September, as well as summer camps for children.
XSS Hotels and Cathartes have also teamed up with Cross Roads House, Take Out Hunger and Gather to address the immediate need for healthy food for hungry families who have been affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19 on the Seacoast.
Deb Anthony, executive director of Gather, said that the need right now is great. The nonprofit, which provides food to the needy in the Seacoast area, was named a Champion in Action by Citizens Bank in January.
“We are seeing hundreds of people more a week than we have ever seen. And we’re seeing people we typically wouldn’t see,” Anthony said. “People that worked in Portsmouth and had jobs at some of the local shops, or worked at restaurants, and now they’re not.”
Helen Crowe, founder of Take Out Hunger, who works as a conduit between restaurants and food providers, said she is seeing new relationships emerge and that is exciting.
“Everybody is looking for a way to give back to their community, and it’s giving them the opportunity to connect with nonprofits that they were not aware of before,” Crowe said.
Crowe said many people in Portsmouth want to continue to address the issue of food insecurity and create a new model for how it is handled on the Seacoast as organizations pivot out of pandemic mode. She has hope keeping the issue in the spotlight will be a catalyst for long-lasting change.
Donations to the Portsmouth Together 200 Challenge can be made through the Together200.org.