Stronger Together!

When I learned about Together 200, a fundraising challenge launched by Jeff Johnston and Mark Stebbins, I was shocked and delighted. How generous – and smart – to leverage their own support for nonprofit organizations to generate a community-wide campaign! Once I got over my surprise, I wanted to do something to acknowledge this incredible act. An invitation to nominate champions for the Governor’s Arts Awards arrived shortly after and it seemed meant to be. I got right (write) to work.

Governor’s Arts Awards, hosted by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, recognize outstanding contributions made by individuals, organizations, and communities to the cultural life of our state. Based on their incredible commitment and innovative approach to supporting our Seacoast community through their Together200 fundraising challenge, Jeff Johnston and Mark Stebbins are good candidates for such recognition.

Jeff (of Cathartes) and Mark (of XSS Hotels) are well known on the Seacoast and have long been supportive of The Music Hall and other nonprofit organizations. Jeff has served on The Music Hall board for several years and, through Portwalk Place, serves as a Season Sponsor. His history of generosity had not prepared us for this unprecedented initiative, however. 

Mark has explained that he and Jeff, recognizing the need was great, were contemplating making individual contributions to various Seacoast nonprofits when they realized the impact they could generate by pooling their resources could be much greater. When they committed to a matching challenge to leverage additional contributions, Together 200 was born.

Jeff and Mark have challenged the Portsmouth community to raise $100,000 and will match those donations with their own contribution of $100,000. Funds raised will benefit The Music Hall as well as our nonprofit peers: Cross Roads House, Gather (Take Out Hunger), 3S Artspace, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Seacoast Repertory Theater, and the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center. The intent for the fund is to bridge the critical 100 days leading up to what we all hope will be a busy summer season; this inspired the timeframe for the challenge.

Both men have acknowledged the importance of arts and social service organizations in maintaining a thriving region. As Mark said, “The community is very important to us both emotionally and economically, and we know from the three hotels we own together how important the arts are to the community and bringing people into the community and bringing tourism into the community. We know we’ve got to keep our community healthy, and so keeping people fed with healthy foods is a very, very important part of keeping a community healthy.”

The Music Hall is thrilled to have Mark and Jeff advocating for the nonprofit organizations in our community, and supporting that advocacy with action. We are all fortunate to benefit from their ingenuity.

All donations to The Music Hall help us meet our goal and unlock those matching funds! To make your contribution, donate now!