MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Allerton Park and Retreat Center on Old Timber Road recently received a second one-million-dollar donation from Dave and Debra Rathje of Decatur.
Officials said this money will be directed to the Fu Dog Garden and the Solarium, which is the window-lined ‘back porch’ of the Mansion. A portion of the gift will go toward immediate updates to restore the House of the Golden Buddhas, the prominent gazebo in the Fu Dog Garden and the statues that it contains. The fund will also help with long-term maintenance and staffing needs.
According to officials, Dave first visited Allerton with his father in 1949 — three years after it opened to the public. He remembers his dad sharing the unique history of Robert Allerton and his father, Samuel.
“My father told me the old story of Bob Allerton; a remarkable history,” Dave recalled. “Bob was the son of Sam Allerton, who started the Chicago Stockyards. That perked my interest.”
Dave continued to visit Allerton as an electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois. In 2014, he and Debra joined Allerton staff for a tour of the Mansion. That visit inspired the couple to make their first million-dollar donation that funded a new Mansion entrance drive, creating a more welcoming and accessible vehicular entry to the Mansion, accessible walkways and improved lighting.
“Dave and Debra’s support and faith in us have been nothing short of incredible,” said Allerton Director Derek Peterson. “Their investment has and will continue to allow us to offer more consistent and comfortable amenities, increased accessibility, and endowments for long-term care that will help set a new standard. We are committed to moving forward as a facility and program. The Rathjes understand this and continue to show an inspiring commitment to seeing it through.”
Dave and Debra explained that it’s an easy place to invest in, pointing to the staff’s commitment and recent improvements.
“It’s been very enjoyable for me, to be honest,” Dave said. “You guys are making it happen; anything we can do, we are glad to help out. I hope this encourages more donations from others. I love the place, and I want it to last for future generations.”