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‘Wonderful surprise’ for YMCA

Hiller gifts Y with Marshall movie theater property

Photo by Deb Gau The Marshall Area YMCA said it has received a sustaining gift from longtime Marshall businessman Scott Hiller, which includes lease income from the Marshall 6 theater building complex on Lyon Street.

MARSHALL — Scott Hiller said he wanted to give back to the community — but his gift to the Marshall Area YMCA wasn’t just a one-time contribution. It included a source of income for the Y going years into the future.

Hiller, a longtime Marshall businessman, recently gave the Marshall Area YMCA a gift that included a cash donation, as well as a portion of lease income from the Marshall 6 theater building complex. In 2032, the YMCA will become the sole owner of the building, which includes the theater, 14 apartments and nine offices, the Marshall Area YMCA announced.

“We are living in a historic moment in time, and the Hiller donation was a wonderful surprise,” said Tom Bolin, CEO of the Marshall Area YMCA. “It is a unique gift with immediate benefits and a maturity date 12 years in the future. Mr. Hiller’s altruistic nature and utmost generosity will positively impact the YMCA and the Marshall community for many years.”

“This is a thank you to the community,” Hiller said Tuesday. He said his family has been blessed with “tremendous support” from the Marshall community over the years. A 1965 Marshall High School graduate, Hiller operated the Marshall Theater and the Starlite Drive-In together with his father Wray Hiller. Scott also founded the Starland Video rental business in Marshall in 1985, and Hiller Development built many condominium and townhouse properties in Marshall.

By passing the theater property on to the YMCA, “Hopefully this gift will impact the Y and the community for many years to come,” Hiller said.

Hiller said he had charitable plans for the theater property back in 1999. At that time, a charitable remainder trust was set up for one of the three parcels making up the building complex. After 20 years, the property had to be deeded to a qualified charity, Hiller said. The movie theater’s lease was up for renewal in 2019, so it seemed like a good time to also gift the other two parcels of land and establish a long-term lease with CEC Theatres, Hiller said.

Gifting the theater property to the YMCA was a process that took lots of discussions with CEC, the YMCA, CPA Pat Louwagie and attorney Paul Stoneberg, Hiller said. Bolin said Hiller will keep a partial interest in the property, as well as managing it, for the next 12 years. In January 2032, the YMCA will become the sole owner. The gift also included a cash contribution to the YMCA, as well as funds to be set aside for future improvements to the movie theater.

One unknown in the process will be the future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like movie theaters across Minnesota, the Marshall 6 had to suddenly close down for months. Hiller said he and the YMCA gave CEC a rent postponement, and the business has resumed paying rent. However, the movie theater industry does have a challenge ahead, Hiller said.

Bolin said the gift of the theater complex property gives the YMCA a new income source, which will be important as the Y weathers its own uncertainties from the pandemic.

“The current pandemic has had a profound impact on the Y’s nonprofit financial model, and we are in a battle to regain the level of income which is needed to operate a large facility,” Bolin said. While the YMCA has been able to sustain losses with the help of its cash reserves, he said it’s not a long-term solution. “Mr. Hiller’s donation adds to our ability to withstand the current conditions into the fall.”

Bolin said about 65% of the Y’s active members in March continued their membership until the facility reopened in June. New members have also been joining as the YMCA ramps up to a more normal operating schedule again. It has allowed them to make standing payments like utilities and insurance with less of an impact to reserves. The YMCA also received some COVD-related grant funding to provide emergency child care and to cover other expenses, Bolin said.

“We are not out of the woods in regard to the pandemic, but Mr. Hiller’s generosity provides a wonderful boost at a critical time for the Y in Marshall,” Bolin said.

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