September 12, 2019 Local shop owner honors family and community with 'Give Back Days' for the REES by Jamie Fleury

PLYMOUTH —  Sandy Saenz, owner of ‘Simplee Stated Gifts’, will launch her first quarterly ‘Give Back Days’ event during Plymouth sidewalk sales in September. Saenz will be donating 15% of her sales to the Rees Theatre on Friday, September 20 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, September 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To Saenz, the Rees Theatre is more than a building. “Like any true, historic monument, in order to keep it alive will take some effort.” 

Saenz was raised by her parents Bill and Rita with a giving heart. “I’ve always been one of those people who has been about giving. Whether somebody needs this or somebody needs that, I have tried to help. That came from my parents who instilled that in my heart. Up until they passed away, it didn’t matter if they were struggling themselves, if they could help they helped.”

Giving back is a tradition she carries on with her husband Greg, who both taught the same to their children, Amber and Austin. “We both came from very good families. Both of us had very giving families. His family was just as giving as my family was.” 

“Giving is something that my husband and I, along with my kids have all tried to do in some way. If somebody needed something, we tried to help out whatever way we could. As a business owner, I still feel that is part of it. As a business owner, a lot of people will come in, a lot of groups, and want a donation for a silent auction. I donate to as much of that as I possibly can as a way to help them because I understand. I have been on plenty of fundraising committees myself for events and I know what that is like.” 

Saenz wanted to do more. As a business owner I was thinking ‘How can I help a little bit more?’ What could I do to make more of an impact? So I decided to launch ‘Days of Giving’ once a quarter to benefit a local not-for-profit organization.” 

Sandy explained why she chose the Rees to benefit from her first event. “It is very sentimental and I get a little emotional.” she shared as her voice broke against her tears. “It is an emotional attachment because I know what that theatre did for me. Small towns and small communities need these. We need to try to keep the Rees alive.” 

Movies have been important to Saenz and her family her whole life. She worked at River Park Theatre where she met her husband of thirty three years, “I grew up in South Bend. My first job at 16 years old was River Park Theatre. Candy girl. Concession stand. Selling tickets. I was eventually assistant manager and then manager. The whole thing. Like the Rees, it was one screen in a small community. But, I met my husband. So, it’s very sentimental to me. If it wasn’t for that job I would not be married to the man that I have been married to for 33 years.” she smiled with tears in her eyes. 

“I picked the Rees first because of what a single screen, small town theatre means to me. What it did for me.” Saenz was 16 years old when she started working for the River Park Theatre in South Bend. “Growing up and learning how to be responsible. I also met my husband there.” 

The Rees is important to Saenz for the same reasons that River Park Theatre was important to her. “I didn’t grow up in Plymouth. I grew up in South Bend, but I know the stories that people have told me. Even when we moved here in 2005 we attended several movies in that theatre as a family. It was because we liked that small town feel, that small town heart, the little theatre small business owner feel. That’s what River Park Theatre was.”

“How many stories can you tell about the movies. How many families attended family movie nights? How many people met their life partners at the movies? When you just think about walking in to the movies and the smell of the popcorn.” Saenz reminisced, “I can remember before we starting using real butter, we had to call it butter flavored topping.” she laughed. She also said that coconut oil contributed to the nostalgic smell of vintage movie popcorn.

“It really kind of had to be love at first sight,” Sandy laughed about how she met her husband. Neither of them were typically that forward when introducing themselves to other people or meeting new acquaintances. “He came in to watch a weird 3-D Frankenstein off the wall movie.” Sandy has the original movie poster to this day. 

“He came in with a friend. They were buying some popcorn from the concession stand. They called me by name. Since I didn’t know them I was initially surprised, but I was wearing a name tag.” she laughed as she reminisced. 

They invited Sandy to watch the movie after she got off work. “He asked me for my phone number. For one, I don’t know you. I don’t do that. But I did.” she laughed again. “I went in, watched the movie and sat down right behind them.”

“He called me and asked me if I wanted to go out. Although I didn’t really know him, I wanted to go. But I didn’t want to tell my parents. My mom and dad ended up finding out about the whole story many years later. But I did tell my sisters. ‘I’m going out with this guy. This is where I am going to be.’ That night we went to the movies. I met his aunt and uncle. I met friends. It was one of those things where we just fit.” Sandy remembers the exact date, November 15, 1982.

Sandy and her husband got married in July 1986. “He says because he got me so young he was able to straighten me out like he needed to. (She laughed) I think we did that together.” 

Saenz grew up in South Bend, her husband grew up in Osceola. They spent the first part of their marriage in South Bend until they relocated to Marshall County in 2005. “We built a home outside of Argos. Our children went to Argos junior high and high school.”

Saenz referred to her shop as her ‘happy place’. The shop has provided Saenz with a place to grow as a daughter, wife, mother, and business owner for the past seven years. “This is now a different season of my life. I was a vendor, a partner and now it’s all me. But it has all been in this same space.” 

Saenz started her business creating custom gift baskets. “Martin’s Supermarket here in Plymouth was gracious enough to let me have a pop-up gift shop selling my gift baskets. That’s how I got my start in gifting.” 

Saenz was discovered there by a local shop owner who offered her a spot as a vendor at the shop she now owns. Saenz was working another full time as an office manager for a construction company until June 2018. “I would come in on Saturdays or cover for her when she took a vacation.” With kids in school and college, Saenz wasn’t ready to embrace her gifting passion and pursue it as a full time business venture at that time. 

Eventually Saenz and a friend of hers took over the shop together. Saenz included custom picture framing to expand her product features. Saenz started working at the shop full time in June 2018. “The last job I had was for Balfour Beatty Construction. I went in August of 2000. I started the job on-site at Memorial hospital. I was only supposed to be there for two years. Eighteen years later I got laid off. It was fine. It was always kind of the plan.” Saenz shared that timing was perfect. She was already established at her shop, her daughter was married and a mother, her son had graduated from college. 

It was in the Spring of 2019 that her partner made the decision to branch off on her own. Saenz re-opened the shop June 1, 2019 as the sole owner of Simplee Stated Gifts. 

Saenz offers personalized leather, wood, glass and slate goods. Saenz expanded her product line with the purchase of a new Laser Solution LS100 gravograph in the Spring. She debuted the machine on June 1. She still specializes in custom picture framing. She can customize books, dog tags, pens, signage and a number of other home decor and a variety of other personal items. 

The shop also holds a special place in Saenz’s heart where memories were made with her mother and father. “My mom loved to be in here and help me. She loved to help with sidewalk sales or simply spend time in the shop.” Displayed in the window of her shop is a chair embellished with a butterfly motif. Saenz, who herself is a local business owner, also supports local small businesses and organizations. She purchased the chair at the annual ‘Chair-ity’ event hosted by Heartland Artist Gallery. Her mother loved butterflies and her father was always telling her that she needed a chair in her shop for him to sit at. The chair is displayed lovingly as a tribute and memorial to the charity of heart that they instilled in her as a child. 

Saenz lost both of her parents at the end of 2016. “When I was losing my parents this is where I could come to be ‘okay’. I could come and I knew there would be happy people here to interact with.”

Saenz expressed heartfelt gratitude for the success she has experienced in life, love and her profession. “This is something that is on my heart that is truly a way to give back. Just to tell the community thank you for supporting me. This is my way of saying ‘you are welcome’, how can I help you?”

“I’m excited to start a ‘give back’ program where I feel I can truly give back. Many supporters of the Rees shop in here and they are dedicated customers. They support small business here. We need to support them back.” 

She is eager to support the Rees with her first ‘Give Back Days’ event. Saenz said that if everyone gave a little, they could provide a lot of help. “It may seem like my little bit is just a little bit. But if you get a little bit from me and a little bit from them and a little bit from them…then we have a ripple. Then we have a lot.” 

“I heard that unfortunately they did not get the grant that they were hoping for. So this is now coming maybe at a good time to help in some aspect. To help them continue. The Rees needs to continue. We need to finish it. We need to get it across the finish line. What it will do for our downtown and for our community will bring it back to life. It needs to continue.” 

“Movies have always just been a big part of our family. The four of us kids to this day still love to go to the movies.”

Simplee Stated Gifts is located at 100 W. Garro St., Plymouth. 

REES Theatre Gets New Name

PLYMOUTH – The Rees Theater has a new name and organizers behind the push to repurpose the former movie house are asking for the public’s help in picking out a new logo for the landmark.

“We are excited about the movement forward in restoring this beloved theater which will become known simply as The REES,” Randy Danielson, co-chair of The REES Project Committee said via email Tuesday. “At this time, a logo is being selected for this multi-purpose venue.”

Organizers are asking for members of the public to vote for one of the two logo designs. Voting can be done via social media, email or phone. Voting closes Nov. 1.

“We are gathering votes for one of the two logos and considering comments that will produce the brand we all can be proud of – just in time to create some REES keepsakes for Christmas stocking stuffers,” Danielson said.

Danielson stopped short of calling the new name and future logo a rebranding for the former movie palace.

“Oddly enough, the theater never really had a brand,” he said. “The R that we used was recovered from the opening night photo as it appeared on the valance above the show curtain. As you can see we are retaining that R and creating a true logo that will represent this renewed venue going forward. During its course of history, ads would use Rees Cinema, but in all my years attending movies it was simply referred to as The REES. So we are applying that because it is no longer simply a theater.”

There’s also one last Saturday callout – Oct. 26 – for volunteers to help with demolition work inside the building. Danielson said work will be done on the building’s apartment level. Some of the demolition work will require heavy gloves and protective eyewear.

The last callout day, Oct. 12, went smoothly, Danielson said.

“It went extremely well,” he said. “With nine hard-working volunteers we completed the removal of the brick walls in the basement and recovered about 600 bricks to be used for repairs on the south exterior wall for a perfect match.”

Organizers ask that volunteers bring five-gallon buckets, gloves and protective eyewear. Masks will be provided, Danielson previously said.

Organizers also ask volunteers to pre-register by messaging the Rees Theater’s Facebook page, emailing or calling 574-286-2391.

All volunteers must sign a liability-release form. The Saturday events are open to volunteers 16 and older, but minors must have a parent’s or guardian’s signature on the release document.

Work on the eastern wall is expected to wrap up by Thanksgiving. After that is completed, a new roof will be installed, Danielson said.

Rees Action Take One.jpg


                                      By Randy Danielson,  Co-chair The REES Project Committee


I applaud this Community’s audible desire for a successful re-creation of The REES that dates back to its announcement in December of 2016.  Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many fine people committing to capital campaigns that resulted in positive change for Plymouth and impacting many lives.  A notable example, being the Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County.  The REES Project Committee is comprised of those who have committed their time, talent and treasurer for beyond two years now.   You have my greatest admiration and a community’s solemn thanks and appreciation.


It was well documented that The REES Project would not be a short-term fundraising effort and the existing footprint of the building would impose its own challenges in creating a community centered space that is innovative in design and function.  To IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES is truly boundless for the enjoyment of all generations.


Our thanks to The Wythougan Valley Preservation Council for recognizing that The REES is steeped in history and as an edifice known to every living generation, was deserving of restoration.  The REES marquee is the only recognizable signage from a 1940 Plymouth streetscape that we enjoy yet today.  Now, it is up to all of us to preserve what has long anchored our community and is very well the key to a vibrant sense of place.


To date nearly one thousand individuals, families, organizations, businesses, schools and corporations have contributed in multiple ways in reviving The REES.  (CONTRIBUTORS page at REESPROJECT.COM)  Donor funds are in the good hands of The Marshall County Community Foundation.  The biggest supporter financially is the City of Plymouth, but more importantly it has the backing of the entire City Administration that continues to move this project forward.   Most recently the City of Plymouth agreed to be the applicant for a Federal OCRA – Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant.  This is no easy application nor is there any guarantee of its award but every attention to detail was given to this process by Mayor Mark Senter, City Clerk-Treasure, Jeanine Xaver, City Attorney, Sean Surrisi and The REES Project Committee.


As required the second of two public hearings was held Monday evening the 24th of June led by grant writer, Shannon McLeod.  With complete support of the Common Council and with no members of the public speaking against the project, the hearing was closed and the application will be submitted this Friday the 28th of June.   If awarded, this will assist in closing a gap yet in funding. 


The REES Project Committee wishes to thank those who sponsored and or attended the most recent fundraising event, The REES Benefit Concerts in River Park Square.  I would ask that you continue to support The REES in whatever manner you are able as we continue to secure donor pledges throughout the course of the project.  For a full report on all activities that have taken place since the announcement, please visit the NEWS page at:  REES PROJECT.COM. 


Lastly, we are so greatly appreciative of the immense amount of news coverage and in-kind promotional advertising made available by our local media sources; The Pilot News, WTCA – AM 1050 and MAX 98.3




Dec. 29, 2016 - Announcement of Danielson Gift to Wythougan Valley Preservation Council to purchase the historic REES THEATRE



Jan. 26, - Property is conveyed to Wythougan Valley Preservation Council.

Feb. 2, - First Town Hall Meeting held at The Wild Rose Moon 60+ in attendance.

  • Those present were challenged to ‘Imagine The Possibilities’

  • Ideas gathered were in support of having musicals, recitals, travelogues, community meeting space, an event center, Saturday movie matinees, children’s theater, ecumenical church services, dinner theaters, comedy club, and corporate training center.

April 22, 23  - Community Tour of the REES, open to the Public

  •  Press release sent to media and community supporters.

  •  Plymouth Chamber sent release to 800 Chamber members

  • Radio stations donated commercials

  • Members of The REES Theatre Committee talk on MAX and WTCA radio                         stations in Plymouth

  • Facebook and Instagram posts

Oct. - Participated in downtown community scarecrow contest – REES - 2nd place –

Aug. - REES Presentation at Town Hall Meeting (Wild Rose Moon stage)

Dec. - Marshall County Historical Society Quarterly – Plymouth Theatres, highlighting   

            the history of The REES Theatre



Winter - Crossroads Newsletter by Marshall County Museum – article on REES Theatre           

            with proposed plan and fundraising information

Jan. – NIPSCO TV commercial with The REES Theatre in 3 of the 5 commercials they            

            aired on South Bend/Elkhart stations and Prime Time Olympics

Feb. -  REES Theatre presents ‘Show Your Theatre Some Love’ campaign

  • Brochure and posters distributed to banks, tourism, chamber, museum & available at REES

  • Playbills placed on the exterior of the theatre

    • Press release sent to media and community supporters

    • Plymouth Chamber sent release to 800 Chamber members

    • Radio stations donated commercials

    • Members of The REES Theatre Committee talk on MAX and WTCA radio        stations in Plymouth

  •   Plymouth Chamber gave The REES the front window display at their location

  •   Facebook and Instagram posts

  •   Newspaper ads promoting campaign, placement donated by the newspaper.

May -  PHS students record video to promote sale of theater seats as fundraiser.

June - “An evening of  R & R” the Rail and the Rees. Area restaurant/bar, Brass Rail hosted a           fundraising event. Newspaper ads, radio commercials and posters distributed.

Aug. - “Supportin’ & Pullin’ for the REES, Pulled pork Fund Raiser. (Coffee Lodge & Bakery) Dine in or carry out - Radio commercials (donated)

  • Newspaper ads (donated)

Sept. - SAVE THE REES - Displayed moving banner in Blueberry Festival Parade

  • After parade, banner went to Parks Dept. on main street in Plymouth for 6 mo.

  • REES Theatre - newspaper ad, sharing the plan and thanking community for continued support.

  • Downtown Plymouth Historic Walking Tour - “A Night to Remember”

  • Presented by the Marshall County Historical Society and Tri Kappa Sorority REES Theatre was part of the tour and reached people we had not seen before.

  • Radio Commercials - three commercials on ways to donate to the REES.

  • Newspaper ads - four ads on ways to donate to the REES.

  • Business Connections ad by NIPSCO’s Business Energy Efficiency Programs

Oct. - “Puttin’ on the REES” Fundraiser, an evening of festivity, sharing the plan and raising money with silent and live auction items (300 attended)

  • Newspaper ads, posters, radio, online advertising.

  • ‘Participated in downtown community scarecrow contest - REES - 3rd place news ad acknowledging the winners.

Nov. - Shop Small Business Day in downtown Plymouth, REES open for tours.

  • Downtown Christmas Sidewalk Days - REES open with carolers.

Dec. - Newspaper Special Charity Tabloid - placed ad that shared money raised to date.

  • Window Display in Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.



Feb. - “Act II’ Campaign launched - Playbills at theatre, brochures, poster distributed radio   commercials, online.

Mar. - Marshall County Historical Museum -Window Display

Apr. - REES SCREEN TEST – Trivia Night Fundraiser

  • Advertised with posters, newspaper ads, radio commercials and online.

May - Andy Davis & Little Orphan Andy Concert Fundraiser - Posters, tent cards, online advertising.

  • Pilot News –Window Display


MARQUEE Changes  2017 - 39 messages       2018 - 132 messages      2019 - 96 messages




A)   REES Theatre Seats

B)    REES T-shirts

C)    REES Jewelry

D)   REES Greeting Cards, Christmas and all-occasion

E)    REES Marquee Messages

F)    REES Marquee Sponsorship of the Month



REES item sales

Marshall County Historical Museum

Heartland Artists Gallery

Fernbaugh’s Jewelers

PHS Alumni All Class Challenge

Indian Motorcycle Raffle – Evan & Darla Gast

‘R & R’ at the Brass Rail

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich Sale – Coffee Lodge & Bakery

Opie’s Office

Puttin’ on the REES Gala – Christo’s Banquet Center

King’s Jewelry

REES Screen Test Trivia Night – Knights of Columbus

Plymouth High School Play/Bob Pickell

Plymouth High School Variety Show/Bob Pickell

Andy Davis/Little Orphan Andy Concerts – River Park Square




April - ‘Council approves rebate for Rees work’ - Pilot News

April - ‘An event is coming to a theater near you’ - Pilot News

April - ‘NIPSCO Becomes REES First Corporate Sponsor’ - Area newspapers, Radio, TV

May - ‘NIPSCO retrofitting Rees’ marquee with LEDs’ - Pilot News

May - ‘REES Endowment Fund established’ – Pilot News

June - ‘Regional Cities money sought for REES Theatre’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Community meeting next week for REES Theatre - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Rees Theatre group seeks public help for urgent work’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Business Plan unveiled for Rees Theatre project’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘How to Help’ – Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Rees Theatre restoration organizers issue fundraising challenge to PHS alumni’ -                     Pilot News

Sep. - ‘Purchase your favorite Seat’ - Pilot News

Sep. - ‘Rees qualifies fir $300K Regional Cities funding’ - Pilot News

Oct. - ‘Work progressing at Rees Theater’ - Pilot News

Oct. - ‘Rees, Wild Rose Moon among groups to get MCCF grant money’ - Pilot News

Nov. - ‘Organizers: Phase I of Rees Theatre Update complete’ - Pilot News

Nov. - ‘Rees seating on sale Saturday at theater’ - Pilot News

Dec. - ‘2017 year in Review’ - Pilot News

Dec. - ‘Commercial featuring REES to hit TV in February’ - Pilot News



Jan. - ‘Crew expected to film Rees for NIPSCO commercial’ - Pilot News

Jan. -  ‘It’s time to tell some stories’ - Pilot News

Feb. - ‘The Rees launches “Show Your Theatre Some Love’ - Pilot News

Feb. - ‘River Rises in Plymouth’ – Pilot News

Feb. - ‘Rees Theater organizers energized for 2018’- Life in Marshall County Tabloid -

            Pilot News

Mar. - ‘Plymouth council approves TIF funds for REES’ –Not for Profit Directory - Pilot    News

Apr. - ‘Rees Theater gets Regional Cities extension’ - Pilot News

May - ‘ Plymouth students share their talent with REES’ - Pilot News

May - ‘R & R’ Thursday to raise funds for REES Project - Pilot News

May - ‘Can public help solve mystery connected to downtown landmark’ - Pilot News

           (find location of art deco decoration that once adorned the Rees Theatre)

June - ‘Rees Theatre Project reaches halfway point in initial fundraising push’- Pilot News

June - ‘Restaurateurs donate $1K to Rees’ - Pilot News

June - ‘Bremen, Triton grads give $100K to Rees’ - Pilot News

July - ‘PIDCO pledges $50K for Rees restoration’ - Pilot News

July - ‘Rees Theater gets more time to apply for matching grant money’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Rees stage will honor former music teacher Bob Pickell’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘The Rees future depends on you today, Donate by Oct 31’ - Pilot News

Aug. - ‘Volunteers needed for Rees demo work next Saturday’ - Pilot News

Sept. - ‘Organizers: Saturday work at Rees a success’ - Pilot News

Sept. - ‘Journey towards Success, Hoosier Tire donates $50K’ - Pilot News

Sept. 28 - WSBT TV - Lauren Becker, video for News cast

Oct. - ‘Organizers: Friday event for Rees raised about $150K’ - Pilot News

Oct. 4 - ABC 57 TV - video on REESPROJECT.COM

Oct. - ‘Oct. 31 deadline for Rees quickly approaching’ - Pilot News

Oct. - ‘Still not an impossibility’ - Pilot News

Oct. - ‘Message from Mayor Mark Senter’- Puttin’ on the REES event - Pilot News

Oct. - ‘Witching hour on Halloween is deadline to help Rees reach goal’ - Pilot News

Nov. -‘Rees reaches matching grant goal’ - Pilot News

Nov. - ‘King’s Jewelry supports local Rees Theatre project with special purchase’ - Pilot    News

Dec. - ‘Mayor presented with commemorative Rees seats’ - Pilot News

Dec. - ‘Old and new memories of Santa at the REES’ - Pilot News

Dec. - ‘No lump of coal for Rees’ - Pilot News

Dec. - ‘A marquee proposal’ - Pilot News



Jan. 23 - WNDU TV - video covering 1st Source Grant to REES

Jan. - ‘Year-end donations announced for Rees’ - Pilot News

Jan. - ‘1st Source Bank donates $50K to Rees’ - Pilot News

Feb. - ‘The Rees Theatre, Inc.’ - Pilot News

Feb. – ‘Rescue dog helps rescue REES’ - Pilot News

Mar. - ‘LaPaz Lions makes contribution’ - Pilot News

Mar. - Lane Laffoon designs Rees ‘Stewie’ - Pilot News

Mar. - ‘June Benefit Concert planned for Rees’ - Pilot News

Apr. - ‘Seven Years of college down the drain named ‘Stewie’ Champs’ - Pilot News

Apr. - ‘Early summer concert set to raise funds for Rees’ - Pilot News

Apr. - ‘ Public Hearing Monday on proposed $500K state grant for Rees Theater’ - Pilot    News

Apr. - ‘Stewie’ award to be handed out tonight’ - Pilot News

Apr. - Tickets remain for Rees Screen Tesr trivia fundraiser’ - Pilot News

May - ‘2 concerts in 1 day to benefit the Rees’ - Pilot New

May - ‘International Musician Andy Davis to perform June 22’ - Pilot News

May - ‘CDBG sought for Rees Theatre’ - Pilot News

June - ‘Plymouth B.O.W. approves street closures’ - Pilot News

Benefit concert at River Park Square, tours planned for Rees in June


Shawn McGrath

Staff Writer

Thursday, March 7, 2019


The Plymouth Park Board on Monday approved a request from the Rees Committee to use River Park Square for a fundraising concert early this summer.

Jack Davis, a member of the committee spearheading efforts to repurpose Plymouth’s Rees Theater, said that while the concert’s exact date has not been set, organizers hope to have the show on Saturday, June 22.

The board gave its conditional approval with the expectation that Davis return once the performance date is known.

“There are a lot of moving parts there that have to be worked out,” Dave Morrow, parks board president said.

Initially, Rees Committee members hoped to have the event inside the Rees, but city officials denied that request because the venue doesn’t have a working sprinkler system, Davis said.

He said organizers are working with the entertainer, musician Andy Davis, to set the performance date. Davis said Andy Davis will soon embark on an European tour. However, he said organizers should have a firm date by the end of this week.

Despite not being able to have the event inside the theater, there will be tours offered of the Rees, Davis said.

“Just so people can come see where we are now that it’s all torn up inside,” he said.

Organizers hope to re-open the Rees in 2020, the venue’s 80th anniversary.

You can help

Donations for the Rees Theater can still be made online through the Marshall County Community Foundation at or, for project details and specific donor levels, visit, according to organizers.

Pledge forms are available at the Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Historical Museum, Bowen Printing or by calling 574-286-2391.

The overall goal is to raise a total of $3.46 million to rehabilitate the theater. Of that amount, $600,000 will go into an endowment to support the theater’s continued operation.

Organizers hope to have all work completed by spring or early summer 2020 to coincide with the theater’s 80th anniversary.

The next community fundraising event, The Rees Screen Test, in quiz bowl format, will be a night of trivia and fun, to be held Thursday, April 25, at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Organizers said more details will be released soon.

Donations still needed to complete restoration of historic Rees, but organizers remain optimistic.

Donations still needed to complete restoration of historic Rees, but organizers remain optimistic.


Shawn McGrath

Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Organizers behind the effort to save, refurbish and repurpose the Rees Theater in downtown Plymouth said they are grateful for the community’s support for the project, but fundraising efforts continue.

“Ground support for the Rees Theater Project has swollen to date with over 350 individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations who have provided a combination of cash donations, pledges of support both financially and of services or materials,” said Randy Danielson, who is Rees Project co-chair with Donna Pontius.

A list of contributors and the project details can be found on the organizers’ website,

Funds from the individual contributors join grants from the Marshall County Community Foundation, Regional Cities Initiative and the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission, Danielson said.

The theater was included in the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation’s application for the Indiana Stellar Communities Program, he said.

In late January, the Plymouth Common Council unanimously voted to continue support of the theater renovations by sponsoring an application with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

“There has been an enormous commitment of volunteer hours by The Rees Project Committee which began this journey in December 2016,” Danielson said in a statement.

In early 2017, organizers enrolled the Rees in The League of Historic American Theatres.

“While attending the first conference in Fort Wayne it was ingrained in those attending not to lose hope in initiating a restoration effort and moving it to completion,” Danielson. “This was said to be a five-to-10-year effort in igniting the interest, seeking the supporters and building the relationships necessary to see this through to completion.”

Danielson attended the conference with his wife, Eleanor, and architect/committee member Brent Martin.

“We were recognized for the instant momentum of community support for this project,” Martin said in a statement. “Interest in reviving The Rees has continued from the day of its closing on Dec. 22, 2009, and therefore placed us ahead of the game.

“All attendees were cautioned to complete the exterior and marquee repairs last so interest in the project would remain peeked,” Martin continued. “Our committee decided that Plymouth and our downtown retail neighbors needed this boost and began to imagine the possibilities this venue can provide the area in terms of entertainment and economic development.”

If anything, the exterior restoration and marquee work has helped keep the project in the spotlight, Danielson said.

“Without a doubt, the skillful restoration of the masonry facade and illumination of the marquee has added greatly to the downtown evening streetscape and has provided countless messages of support and celebration, which is what this venue is all about – progressing a community,” he said.

Danielson said the theater’s 2019 capital campaign is underway, which organizers are calling ACT II ‘Let’s finish the Show!’

He said The Rees Project is growing nearer to its goal of raising $3.46 million, which includes a figure of $2.86 million to complete phases two and three and continue to fund an endowment to ensure the venue’s viability.

The money is being held with the Marshall County Community Foundation in a non-permanent fund for construction and a permanent fund for sustainability.

“We are closing the gap on the $850,000 still needed to complete the interior build out in an aggressive effort to re-open the facility in 2020, the 80th anniversary year of The Rees,” Pontius said.

De-construction continued through the fall and winter, stripping the interior of its modern and historic surfaces in order to reveal the basic structure, Danielson said.

“Every effort was made to recycle materials – even the ‘silver screen’. Phase two will correct known foundation and masonry problems in the 1939 addition to the original 1865 structure along with additional support for the floor system and balcony,” he said via email. ”This phase will also include insulating the roof deck and new protective membrane. When this phase is complete in the spring, the theater will be structurally sound and ready for interior finishes that will reflect its original art deco design. Just like in 1940, attention will be given to every detail.”

Danielson said organizers are trying to make the environmental friendly, including researching whether the structure can be in line with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

“A great deal of thought and research is happening at this time in order to create a LEED-driven space in a green and sustainable manner,” he said. ”This concern for efficiency, which is deeply important to the Rees Project Committee, leads to sustainability and provides for a healthier space. At this time, geothermal is being considered for the HVAC systems for the front-of-house spaces that will be tempered for daily use as well as a rooftop solar array to generate power.”

When finished, Danielson said, the theater will be a gathering place for the presentation of film and the promotion of artistic, educational and cultural events as well as offer a venue to celebrate life and community milestones.

“The Rees Theater is positioned as an anchor for continued downtown revitalization and a compliment to an arts district that includes The Marshall County Crossroads Museum, Heartland Artist Gallery, performance spaces in Opie’s, The Wild Rose Moon and the amphitheater at nearby River Park Square,” Danielson said. “These are bordered by the Marshall County Tourism Bureau, the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce and Plymouth City Hall. Pride in Plymouth and its historic past can be seen in the careful attention to restored facades like the grandeur of the former Montgomery Ward retail store now home to The Pilot News. (Plymouth is home to the first Montgomery Ward retail outlet).

“Together we can return the Rees for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Donations still needed to complete restoration of historic movie palace
Donations for the Rees Theater can still be made online through the Marshall County Community Foundation at or, for project details and specific donor levels, visit, according to organizers.

Pledge forms are available at the Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Historical Museum, Bowen Printing or by calling 574-2862391.

The overall goal is to raise a total of $3.46 million to rehabilitate the theater.

Of that amount, $600,000 will go into an endowment to support the theater’s continued operation.

The next community fundraising event, The Rees Screen Test, which will be a night of trivia and fun, will be April 25. Organizers said more details will be released soon.

Organizers hope to have all work completed by spring or early summer 2020 to coincide with the theater’s 80th anniversary.

Rescue Dog Helps Rescue Rees Theatre


Jamie Fleury

Staff Writer

Monday, March 4, 2019


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‘Arriah’ has raised over $1,000 for the REES Theater Project.

Arriah’s owner, Denny Bottorff serves on the REES Project Committee and volunteers time to embellish the recently re-lit marquee.

Arriah, who Bottorff affectionately refers to as his ‘marquee mutt’ because she often accompanies him while he volunteers, has drawn attention from people passing by.

As a result of their interactions with Arriah, as she has faithfully stood watch in front of the REES, many donated to the cause or purchased renovated REES seats.

Bottorff adopted Arriah over 10 years ago.

She is a mixed breed and her exact age is unknown to him at this time.

Bottorff estimates 13 as she was a few years old when he got her.

If you multiply her age by 7 for ‘dog years’, Arriah is over 90 years ‘young’.

Bottorff found Arriah as a stray. She was seriously undernourished and in ill health.

He patiently gained her trust, brought her home, and nourished her back to health.

She has been his best friend ever since.

Now, this rescued canine companion is helping rescue the REES Theater.

Bottorff explained, “She wasn’t meant to be used as a marketing gimmick of any kind. She just goes with me everywhere and people were drawn to her. Bill Langdon and I would be working on restoring REES seats with the theater doors propped open, or I would be putting up the marquee. People would stop and pet her and that’s how the conversation started.”

Bottorff is a ‘vintage movie geek’.

He shared that was part of what appealed to him about volunteering for the REES project.

“I want to see families have the opportunity to enjoy watching movies here like I got to when I was a kid.”

Bottorff can’t help but contain his excitement when he shares about the limitless possibilities that the REES offers.

“People have so many memories of the REES. For me, it’s really about giving people an opportunity to continue to experience the REES with their families and share many more.”

Anyone interested in helping Arriah raise money for her ‘good paws’ can contact members of the REES Project Committee through Facebook.

More information about the REES renovation can be found online at

The re-illumination of the vintage marquee restored some relevant fabric to historic downtown Plymouth.

The REES has launched ACT II to finish the capital campaign in hopes to reach their goal of opening the REES in 2020 which would be the 80th anniversary year of the REES had it remained open.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — 1st Source Bank recently donated $50,000 to support the rehabilitation of the Rees Theatre in downtown Plymouth. The project, which is projected to be completed in 2020, will bring the Theatre up to current code requirements so that the space can be utilized by the community.

            “1st Source recognizes the positive impact having a space like the Rees Theatre can have on our local community,” states Connie Lemler, Community Region President for 1st Source Bank. “It is important to re-invest in our downtown areas, and to preserve landmarks that have meant so much to the people here. It will also be a great luxury to have a space like this for families and businesses to enjoy right here in Plymouth.”

            Once completed, the Rees Theater will serve as community space for events such as: concerts, theatrical performances, film screenings, seminars, workshops, exhibits, wedding and other receptions.

            The gift was received by project co-chairs Donna Pontius and Randy Danielson.  Danielson stated, “A gift in this amount is truly appreciated and has instilled confidence in the project committee that our goals will be met to ensure that construction will be complete for an 80th Anniversary celebration of The REES.”



Community involvement is a key component to the success of The REES Project and that has been evident throughout this capital campaign as a Regional Cities match was reached this fall and with sights set on attaining the overall goal of $3.46MM in 2019.  Two separate star level gifts are being announced today from two well recognized names in the financial market.


The combined offices of Edward Jones came together in support of The REES Project and the entire community with a Star Level gift of $10,000.  These local financial advisors are five of now 17,000 who serve the U.S. and Canadian market since Edward D. Jones opened its doors in downtown St. Louis in 1922.  Dan Schmelter became the 200th Financial Advisor with the firm and opened his office in Plymouth in 1977, setting the foundation for Marshall County and Plymouth.  Dan recruited John Chamberlin in July of 1999, who then opened the office downtown.  Edward Jones’ presence continued to grow as Mark Bishopp, who started in Greenfield in 1997, came to Plymouth occupying the 3rd office off Pioneer Drive and U.S. 30.  Further expansion occurred in 2010 when Craig Wilson moved into the downtown office.  Dan then recruited his son-in-law, Russ Kietzman in 2011 who then assumed responsibility of Dan’s office when he retire in 2014. (Dan and his wife Nancy were also lead supporters of The REES.)  The roots of Edward Jones had grown quite deeply but help was still needed to serve all clients, so Todd Clady opened the 5th office on the south side of Plymouth in 2015.  Senior advisor John Chamberlin said of the group; “We are all very grateful for the community’s support as our presence has grown over the years.  The REES Theatre project is something we can help with to show our support for downtown Plymouth and those who will get to enjoy it over the years to come.”



Key Bank has had a presence in Plymouth since …. when it acquired the former… The local branch has been managed by Plymouth native Greg Compton since....  On hand for the Star Level gift of $25,000. was Michael Lugli, Market President in the South Bend office and Compton.  The supportive gift is the result of a KeyBank Foundation grant application submitted by the REES Project Committee earlier this year.  Key makes philanthropic investments in organizations and programs that prepare individuals for thriving futures.  The Foundation’s mission is advance through its three funding priorities – Neighbors, Education, Workforce – and Community Service. “In keeping with KeyCorp’s fundamental support of education and community service, this gift is given to honor the memory and commitment of longtime Plymouth music educator Bob Pickell.” said Compton.  Co-chair Randy Danielson responded; “This gift is yet another example of the community’s overall support in this effort to save a beloved landmark that has become a catalyst for even greater downtown investment.”


Support from many have propelled The REES Project forward in a short period of time but many more will be needed to take it to completion in 2020.

    Project co-chairs; Randy Danielson and Donna Pontius and the entire REES Project Committee express great appreciation for the many gifts pledged and given to date in not only saving a landmark structure but assuring its further success as a venue that brings vibrancy to the community and Marshall County area.  “But we are not there yet.” clarified Danielson. “Our match was met to capture a $300,000. Regional Cities Initiative grant but the reality is we remain about one million dollars away from reaching our established goal of $3.46MM. This is not only needed to further interior renovations but as well, fund a permanent endowment to ensure the continued success of The REES.”


    Work continued in November to delaminate the interior surfaces of a conjoined structure some of which was built in 1865 and the remainder in 1939.  “Peeling away these layers of history will allow us to see the structure for what it is so that when we reach the bidding process all will be exposed eliminating a great deal of assumptions.” commented Pontius.  


    A known structural problem within a portion of the 1939 foundation will need to be stabilized this spring using a helical pier system and then re-building a portion of masonry on the northeast corner prior to the installation of a new roof system.  “This will ensure the building envelope is sound and protected.” said Brent Martin who serves as the project architect. “Overall we are finding this building to be very sound, with tons of concrete and a timber truss roof system that will support any modern day equipment load for heating and cooling.” Preserved are the original blueprints created by well-respected Plymouth architect Alvis O’Keefe who was hired by Stewart and Opal Rees in July of 1939 to create what was billed as one of the finest rural community movie palaces in all of Indiana and possibly the Midwest boasting the first of its kind mother’s room for fussy babies.  O’Keefe brought this project together in a period of nine months and a budget of $75,000 for an opening in February of 1940. The projected re-construction of this art deco space is $2.86MM.


    “When you think of downtown Plymouth, it is hard to imagine the view without including The REES Theatre.  The bright, shining marquee has been a fundamental anchor of our hometown for decades when many others have completely disappeared.” said Pontius.


    The REES Project Committee is spending a great deal of time researching energy efficient systems that are environmentally friendly and LEED driven (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) throughout this restoration to assure its long term viability.


    The REES Theatre Inc. is an established 501(c)3, not-for-profit where 100% of your gift will become an investment in further economic development through the arts, education and celebratory events.  Capture the season of giving in partnership with the Marshall County Community Foundation and place a gift amount into a non-permanent fund that has been established for the restoration effort or a permanent endowment fund that will remain to assist with ongoing operational costs.   Payable to: REES Theater Fund, c/o MCCF, P.O. Box 716, Plymouth, IN 46563 or online at: WWW.REESPROJECT.COM