The Waco Foundation will provide a $370,000 cash advance to Cultural Arts of Waco to complete funding of the steel ship hull at the Doris Miller Memorial while organizers continue to raise money to finish the project.

The zero-interest loan is in addition to $300,000 that Waco Foundation has already given to the $2.69 million landscape monument on the Brazos River, and the foundation is encouraging Cultural Arts of Waco to apply for an additional $300,000 grant in July to help close the gap.

Doreen Ravenscroft, executive director of Cultural Arts of Waco, said the cash advance from the Waco Foundation will allow contractors who worked on the memorial that was dedicated on Dec. 7, 2018, to be paid and essentially completes funding for the large steel hull in the display.

Two other Waco-based foundations, the Cooper Foundation and Rapoport Foundation also recently made additional donations of $300,000 each, beyond their earlier commitments, to offset the higher-than-expected cost of the project. Ravenscroft estimated that the Doris Miller project still needs about $100,000 to $200,000 beyond the foundations’ support.

“We are extremely excited that through the combination of money from the three foundations and the other donations we have received, we have almost achieved our goal,” Ravenscroft said. “We are so grateful to the board of the foundation for supporting the mission and the goal of the Doris Miller Memorial.”

The memorial honors Miller, the Waco-born World War II hero who dodged enemy fire during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while dragging his Navy captain and others to safety before returning fire with a machine gun.

The memorial features a reflecting pool and a 9-foot bronze statue by Lubbock sculptor Eddie Dixon depicting Miller standing at parade rest in his Navy uniform. Behind the statue is a shiny silver structure that resembles a ship’s hull.

Ravenscroft said she is hoping to wrap up fundraising to complete the final stages of the memorial, including Dixon’s bronze replica of the Navy Cross and bronze panels with raised designs.

Miller, who survived Pearl Harbor but who died in combat two years later, inspired many through his heroic actions and became the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Endorsements for Miller to be awarded the Medal of Honor continue.

Waco Foundation spokeswoman Natalie Kelinske said that while the foundation gave Cultural Arts Waco the $370,000 cash advance, the foundation has encouraged project officials to approach the foundation for a $300,000 grant in July, when they would be eligible for a grant request based on the foundation’s guidelines and procedures.

“Waco Foundation is committed to improving quality of life in McLennan County, and the foundation board feels very strongly that the Doris Miller Memorial honoring a local African-American war hero is a priority project for our community,” Ashley Allison, Waco Foundation executive director, said in a statement.

“In keeping with our stated values around race equity, we believe our commitment to this project elevates the conversation and bolsters educational opportunities about the importance of contributions from Doris Miller and other people of color in our community,” she said.

The earlier Waco Foundation grant of $300,000 included $200,000 underwritten by the estate of William Travis Clark Jr.

Ravenscroft, the driving force behind the memorial for a decade, has guided the fundraising vessel through some stormy times, including a squall that more than doubled the project cost to $2.5 million.

Organizers were told that the land near the Bledsoe-Miller Community Center on the Brazos River is in a floodplain, which forced additional engineering and design studies to ensure the memorial site was properly elevated and stabilized.

On Monday, an upbeat Ravenscroft and staff were opening envelopes with donations to the memorial, many of which were generated by John Deaver, recent Cotton Palace pageant king, who requested that donations in honor of the Cotton Palace be made to the Miller Memorial.

She said a total from those donations will be available later this week.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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