Historical society hunts for funds for long-term goals

By Catherine Gabe - cgabe@civitasmedia.com

With the 200th anniversary of Wellington’s founding right around the corner in 2018, history buffs are working hard to make sure their museum will be around for years to come.

To that end, members of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society are considering ways to strengthen their financial base.

At a recent meeting, Danielle Locke, gift planning officer with the Community Foundation of Lorain County, told members about setting up endowments.

“It’s like a long-term savings account,” she said. “People, individuals, nonprofits, corporations donate money to us and we hold onto it and invest those monies. It’s the interest that goes out as grants and scholarships forever.”

She called it “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Historical society members oversee the management and operations of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum. Creating an endowment could allow them to hire a curator to oversee the voluminous amount of artifacts and information in the three-story museum.

The Oberlin Heritage Center, for instance, uses the interest on its endowments to pay for an executive director and educational coordinator, Locke said.

But there are more unconventional ways people can make donations, Locke said: “For you guys, people can leave farmland and grain. Grain is becoming huge. Farmers don’t have much in the way of cash dollars, but what they do have is land and grain. We have accounts at all the granaries, so people can donate 1,000 bushels, they sell it and give us the money to put into your fund.”

The program, called Gifts of Grain, allows farmers to make the donations and avoid taxes on the sale, since it is seen as a donation.

“This goes back to medieval donations like giving a newborn calf every whitsuntide, or something,” said Guy Wells, a member of the historical society.

“Yeah, we try not to take farm animals,” Locke said. “We can sell grain and do stuff with grain, not that I haven’t had some people offer me llamas.”

Money is also coming into the museum from an operating levy that was renewed last fall by nearly 67 percent of voters. The 0.3-mill levy is projected to generate $33,336 a year.

That money will be spent to maintain exhibits.

Board members expressed some concern about not being able to touch the principle used to set up an endowment fund. This could be a problem in the event cash was needed to purchase art works or other historic artifacts, Wells said.

Scott Markel, vice president of the museum, said it is in need of storage space.

Recent changes at the museum include new displays for the McCormick Middle School and black history. Other changes and improvements included renovating the Archibald Willard art gallery and installing energy efficient lighting. The outside was painted and the second floor was remodeled.

The museum is also planning to hire a part-time administrative assistant to answer phones and handle tours.

The Spirit of ‘76 Museum opens its doors from April through October and has about 200 visitors annually, Markel said.

Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.

By Catherine Gabe