From supplying water to villages in Africa to creating a fish farm in Bolivia, Vaughn and Lauren Goettler have been quick to help others around the world.
Through the Goettler Family Foundation, the Niagara-on-the-Lake couple have pursued a life of philanthropy since their retirement, but the foundation hasn’t only supported international projects.
Last November, the Goettlers donated $1 million to help purchase the property at 407 King St., better known as The Wilderness.
More recently, the foundation has turned its sights to youth, giving a $16,000 grant to Yellow Door Theatre Project to help establish a film academy at the theatre’s home on Line 2 Road.
Last Friday, a small gathering was held at Yellow Door to thank the Goettlers for their help.
The idea for a film school blossomed after the couple had sponsored a film created during the COVID pandemic by Yellow Door students back in 2020.
The couple decided to sponsor the film after they learned that Yellow Door’s artistic director, Andorlie Hillstrom, was struggling to keep the youth program going during the pandemic.
“The film idea came up and we thought let’s sponsor it. Let’s give those kids something to do because they weren’t in school,” Lauren said.
That project turned into the short film “Red Letter Day,” which received a showing at the Film House in the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines in April of last year.
Hillstrom, however, is quick to give credit for the idea to NOTL actor and director Lezlie Wade.
“She said, ‘Why don’t we do a film? Because we can do that out of doors,’ ” Hillstrom said.
That got Hillstrom thinking that more could be done.
“I wanted to continue to be able to offer some kind of training in film and so this is what’s happened,” she said.
The film academy coincides with the school year, running over two terms from September to May.
Through the program, students conceive, storyboard, film and produce films. The idea is to have an event showcasing the students’ work at the end of the year, Hillstrom said.
One of the program’s instructors is Carter Vahrmeyer, a graduate of Niagara College’s film program. Lori Ravensbourg, a professor with Niagara College’s acting for film and digital media program, recommended Hillstrom bring on Vahrmeyer for the program.
Vahrmeyer said the students – who are in grades 7 to 12 – have embraced the program.
“The kids love it. You can definitely see which areas some of the kids prefer over the others. It’s fun, especially when they do group activities,” he said.
Student Aoibhin Davidson, 14, heard about the program through friends and decided she wanted to get involved.
“I like how you can make stuff with just simple cameras. It’s really nice,” she said.
Working in a group has been rewarding, with many ideas being tossed around.
“There’s been so many. It’s kind of hard to pick one,” she said.
More information is available at yellowdoortheatre.com.