Supporters of the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center slated for downtown Chattanooga have raised $1.25 million of its $6 million campaign goal so far, officials said Friday.
The fundraising for opening the center in early 2020 was led by more than $600,000 contributed by area veterans, their families and friends.
Also, Chattanooga businessman Greg Vital had said he would match a second donor's gift and Vital has contributed $250,000, according to the center.
Bill Raines, a Chattanooga real estate broker and the center's chairman, said at the planned riverfront location of the facility that the hope is the area's veteran community will surpass $1 million in giving by the end of 2018.
The retired U.S. Army major general said plans are to raise $2 million more in total for the center in 2018.
Vital said the center will play "a pivotal role in preserving an important part of our city's military history and protecting the heritage of the Medal of Honor."
The planned site of the center is a two-story building owned by downtown development agency River City Co. near the Tennessee Aquarium. It offers 19,000 square feet and was long intended to serve as the home for the failed Chattanooga History Center.
Last August, the Medal of Honor heritage center entered into an agreement with River City to secure the location. But, Raines said, the center needed to have raised $1 million by the end of last month.
Plans are to start construction of the center in early 2019 inside the site that for many years served as home of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The center is designed to serve as a lasting tribute to the 32 Medal of Honor recipients from Tennessee. It is to feature innovative and life-size exhibits incorporating new technologies to express Medal of Honor narratives, according to officials.
Also, the center will offer a character development program throughout its exhibits. It will use the dramatic stories of Medal of Honor recipients to help children explore six character traits such as courage, commitment, citizenship, sacrifice, integrity and patriotism, officials said.
Vital, chief executive of Independent Healthcare Properties, said the center isn't about bricks and mortar or being a monument.
"It's about 3,500 individuals who sacrificed beyond the call of duty," he said. "This today is about valor."
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.
Updated at 10:53 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.