Historical, arts, library genealogical groups reap benefits
| The Daily Record
Heritage Partnership aids local nonprofits
Mark Boley, director of the Holmes County Historical Society, discusses the impacts of COVID on area nonprofits and the benefits of Heritage Partnership.
The Killbuck Valley Historical Society and Museum claims it’s one of “the best kept secret of Holmes County.”
Located in the small village of Killbuck in the southern part of Holmes County, the museum documents the history of Killbuck and the county, featuring Native American relics, suspected dinosaur bones and taxidermy animals native to the county.
“When people come they’re really amazed that there’s something like this in Holmes County,” said Becky Porter, museum secretary.
Like many other museums and nonprofit organizations, the Killbuck Valley Museum shut its doors during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Though many museums have since reopened, Killbuck Valley — which hosts tours between May and October — remained closed for the year.
According to a national museum survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums, one-third of respondents were not confident the museums would be able to survive 16 months without additional financial relief, and 16% felt their organization was at-risk of permanent closure. Harvest Partnership, a local organization composed of six Holmes County nonprofits, aims to assist the local museums through fundraising efforts.
The group socially distanced at the Holmes County District Public Library earlier this month to prepare envelopes and fliers to mail. The annual Harvest Partnership membership and donation mailing campaign will kick off Nov. 1.
“All of our organizations in Heritage Partnership are eternally grateful to the people in the community that support each one in their own way,” said Carol Norman, a member of Holmes County Friends of the Library.
Heritage Partnership, which was founded in October 2015, was formed to help nonprofits in Holmes County raise funds collectively as a group.
Six nonprofit organizations that oversee seven local museums comprise the partnership — County Line Historical Society, the Holmes Center for the Arts, Holmes County Friends of the Library, Holmes County Genealogical Society, Holmes County Historical Society and the Killbuck Valley Historical Society and Museum.
More: Holmes museums reopening
Heritage Partnership makes giving easy by allowing the donor to select from the list which organizations to donate to and how much they wish to contribute. If someone is contributing to multiple organizations, the donor still can write just one check to Holmes County Heritage Partnership. They also can donate to Heritage Partnership. Any donations made to the group will be split among the members.
Mark Boley, director of the Holmes County Historical Society, said the HCHS is the parent organization of the Heritage Partnership. The intention of the group was to help the smaller museums that don’t have the manpower or resources, he said.
The main goal of the drive this year is to help the nonprofits recoup some of the losses suffered due to closure and the cancellation of fundraisers, Boley said.
Ron Junkin, of the County Line Historical Society, said many people appreciate the convenience of the annual Heritage Partnership membership and donation drive. The museum sells a number of memberships, which cost $15 for an individual, $25 for a couple or $30 for a business or organization, through the partnership.
Donations assist with covering the cost of operation and benefit bimonthly programs the museum hosts at the Shreve Presbyterian Church, he said.
“This gives the people in Holmes and Wayne counties the opportunity to join any of these organizations,” Junkin said. “It puts it all in one place for them.”
When Porter’s husband, Bob Porter, took over the Killbuck Valley Museum, it had just a dollar in its savings account, Becky Porter said.
Over time and with the help of Harvest Partnership, the museum has been able to grow a savings account, she said.
Like the County Line, Killbuck relies on fundraising and said the mailing campaign is the largest one for the museum. A membership costs $5 for an individual or $10 for a family, Porter said, adding donations support operational costs.
“We didn’t know if we were going to be able to stay or close down,” she said. “This Heritage Partnership has really helped us. We’re doing well.”
Visitors to the County Line Historical Society in Shreve have been down due to the coronavirus, Junkin said.
The museum holds a community program every other month, and attendance to the August event was down compared to what it usually attracts, he said. Programs, which cover a range of topics, typically bring in 50-60 people, Junkin said, adding August had roughly 20 people in attendance.
The museum held an event Aug. 15 at the Shreve Presbyterian Church where Deb Kitko, genealogy librarian at the Wayne County Public Library, spoke about basic DNA and genealogy.
The museum was lucky during COVID-19 to still be able to have its largest fundraisers, Junkin said. The County Line Historical Society hosted a drive-thru style chicken barbecue in June and October, he said.
The Killbuck Valley Historical Society has a number of elderly volunteers, Porter said. The museum attempted to reopen in July, but closed down again shortly after, she said.
Early American Days, which was supposed to be in early September, was canceled, Porter said, adding the event usually attracts a good crowd and brings in more donations.
Without Heritage Partnership, the Killbuck museum likely wouldn’t continue operation, said Bob Porter, museum curator. It was with the assistance of the partnership that the museum was able to install new carpet, light fixtures and a camera system, he said.
“If we didn’t have that, I don’t know how long we’d last,” said Porter, who is a former West Holmes High School educator. “… Heritage Partnership has just been a savior to almost everyone involved. It’s kept us alive.”
The Holmes Center for the Arts closed in March and was able to reopen with limited classes in July, said Holley Johnson, executive director. The center hasn’t been able to resume choir or vocal-related classes and has a limited theater program, she said.
With restrictions taking performing arts venues down to 50% capacity, the Holmes Center for the Arts will not be doing a performance of “The Nutcracker” this year, Johnson said. It’s an expensive show to put on, and it’s too risky to plan for a show that may not be able to happen due to future shutdowns or sickness, Johnson said.
Donors can opt to donate toward scholarships for families in financial need, arts programs and sponsorship of performances or they can select to donate toward the completion of the new arts center.
The Victorian House Museum and Millersburg Glass Museum, which are both operated by the Holmes County Historical Society, reopened with limited hours in June, Boley said.
The museums rely on volunteers — many of which are elderly and considered part of the at-risk population for the coronavirus, he said. Some of the volunteers did not want to return to working with the public at first, he said.
Both museums have since reopened with traditional fall hours. The Victorian House Museum will close for two weeks at the end of the month and reopen Nov. 17 for Holidays at the Mansion.
The usual Christmas open house, which attracts more than 300 people, has been canceled this year, Boley said. Holidays at the Mansion will have a new look, he said. Each room has its own sponsor and is decorated by that sponsor, making it a community event, he said.
“The way COVID has upset everyone’s life, we need something that is positive and uplifted, especially going into the holidays when a lot of people won’t be having as many gatherings,” Boley said. “We’re looking forward yo being able to help boost the morale.”
Back in March, Boley and other HCHS members were fearful tourism would dip dramatically for the remainder of the year. Tourism came back with a vengeance as the stay-at-home order was lifted, Boley said.
Many people are wanting to avoid large cities and have sought day trips and getaways in more rural areas such as Holmes County, he said.
“We’re really fortunate compared to a lot of places,” Boley said. “The tourism hasn’t quit in Holmes County.”
Reach Samantha at 330-287-1626
On Twitter: @SamanthaKIckes
Heritage Partnership fundraiser
To donate or purchase a membership, one check can be made out to Holmes County Heritage Partnership and mailed to PO Box 212, Millersburg, OH 44654. The donor can select which organizations and how much to designate to those selected. If Heritage Partnership is selected, the donation will be split among the participating organizations.
County Line Historical Society — a membership costs $15 for an individual, $5 for a couple or $30 for a business or organizations
Holmes County Center for the Arts
Holmes County Friends of the Library — $15 for an individual, $20 for a family, $50 for a business
Holmes County Genealogical Society — $15 for an individual, $20 for a family
Holmes County Historical Society — individual $20, family $30, business $50
Killbuck Valley Historical Society, Friends of the Museum — individual $5, family $10, business $30