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South Bend mothers want to create children's museum

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Some mothers from Michiana want to open a science, technology, engineering, and math, or “STEM”, children’s museum in South Bend.

The three mothers will hold a community meeting Tuesday night at the St. Joseph County Public Library to discuss what that museum would look. The moms want to bring a children’s museum because they think there’s a need for it.

Most days, you’ll find South Bend mothers Emilie Utigard, Natalie Shafer, and Julie Lovisa reading and telling stories to their children.

But the story of these mothers wanting to open a children’s museum in South Bend isn’t found in books.

If it were though, this is how it would go.

“I have this crazy idea,” said Shafer.

Chapter one begins in May with an idea and a desire to honor Utigard’s son, Finn, who passed away in March.

“Something we feel like is missing is a hands-on, STEM-based museum,” said Shafer.

“I’ve been a stay at home mom for two years, and I feel like we have done everything that is offered to us,” said Lovisa.

“I feel like he would have done something great for the world if he had the time and I want to find a way to kind of live for him,” said Utigard.

And so, chapter two started.  

“We discovered the first step is set up a community meeting, see what the community wants,” said Shafer.

At the meeting, they want the community to share their ideas about the museum. They plan on distributing a survey that collects people’s responses.

“Kind of ask what’s your favorite museum, what do you like about it,” said Utigard. “We just really want it to reflect what they want to see.”

The last few chapters aren’t written yet, but the moms have an idea on how they want the story to end.

“We are projecting about a three year process,” said Shafer.

That includes hiring a board of directors, filing for non-profit status, creating a business plan and budget, and finding a place to build.

“A little overwhelming,” said Utigard.

The trio said there’s bound to be plot twists, but there will be a happy ending for every child in Michiana.

“Failure is not an option,” said Shafer. “If we try one approach, and it doesn’t work, we’re going to reevaluate.”

“We just really want to do this for all of the curious, creative, awesome kids in this community,” said Utigard. “My little boy was a curious, creative, awesome little kid, and he loved children’s museums, and I just want to see that for the kids here.”

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in  Colfax Auditorium in the basement of the St. Joseph County Public Library.

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can reach the group here.

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