We’ve had a busy summer and fall. In July, of course, we put on our annual 4th of July in Heritage Park. It was very successful; we had a great turnout both in terms of exhibitors and guests.
Our next event was the first weekend in October with Boonville Days. Unfortunately, because we were somewhat short-handed for that booth, we didn’t get any photos.
Finally, we did a day trip to Liendo Plantation’s Civil War Re-enactment Weekend on Sunday, November 21. As always, members enjoyed viewing the pre-Civil War plantation house, the many display booths, and the
afternoon re-enactment of what a Civil War battle might have looked like.
Brazos Heritage Society is currently involved with two preservation projects: the Turner-Peters Dog-Trot Cabin project that will form the center of the new Boonville Historic site and the restoration of Temple
Freda, the area’s first Jewish synagogue.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 21, 2015 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for our BHS annual meeting. Our guest speaker will be from the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. A reception will follow.
FOR THE FUTURE
What I particularly wanted to cover in this issue is our future focus. The organization has a rich history spanning several decades. We’ve seen both ups and downs in terms of membership, community involvement, etc.
One thing that any organization must deal with as they reach maturity is maintaining relevance for the audience that they serve. Brazos Heritage Society is no different. Over the past few months, the Executive Committee has been discussing ways to increase our visibility and relevance within the community, as both have diminished over the years. Because of this diminishment, our resources are also less, forcing us to reassess what activities we can realistically support.
Our July 4th event is a foundational, and growing, opportunity for community outreach and one we fully plan to continue. Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances, we are not currently able to continue putting on our annual Tea or the Christmas Stroll. The Tea in particular is very cost- and labor-intensive to hold. While at times it has functioned as an effective fundraiser, in recent years it has not brought in enough money to justify the expense and time.
One thing that the Executive Committee did vote to continue was our Day Trips. For those who don’t know, we organize group trips to area historical events such as the Camp Hearne Open House, Liendo Plantation’s Civil War Re-Enactment, and the Museum of the American GI Open House. We are always on the lookout for additional trips/venues. Typically, members receive a discount on admission (if there is a charge to attend), or on food if the event itself is free. Typically, attendees meet at the event, gather long enough for either a meal or to hand out tickets, and then are free to explore the event on their own. These trips provide a benefit to members at a modest cost to the organization.
Obviously, our involvement in the two preservation projects mentioned earlier in my message fulfills our mandate for historic preservation and provides yet another opportunity to increase our visibility on top of our social events. Additionally, all of our events and projects let us network with not only the general public but with other organizations in the area that contribute to preserving local history. We will continue leveraging both of these to our fullest advantage. Specifically, networking with other organizations will allow us to effectively liaison with the public and direct them to the appropriate resource for their needs.
One area receiving far too little attention in the past few years has been our educational focus. While we once had a presence in the local school districts, that is no longer the case. Although we cannot do as much in terms of events as we once did, the advent of modern technology WILL allow us to bolster our educational presence at a minimal cost. To that end, one thing that came out of our Board discussions was a consensus that we increase our educational efforts via technology through our web page plus interactions on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
If you look at our website, you’ll see that we’ve already begun this process by posting information about the Tuner-Peters Dog-Trot Cabin project, including providing an opportunity to donate to the project through our website. If the Temple Freda page is not up by the time you receive this newsletter, it will be shortly after.
Furthermore, we plan to provide a variety of other resources on the website, such as genealogical links, historical links, etc. This project is underway and will be ongoing as we are able to pull together information. Sheila Fields (Secretary and Research Chair) will be assisting with this, as will our new member, Stephanie Snyder, who recently joined the Research committee.
Long story short, our current circumstances in terms of membership numbers and involvement, as well as our finances, are requiring us to rethink where we focus our time and energy. Ultimately, this may not be a bad thing because it will let us re-balance our efforts. Additionally, a greater educational profile may very well increase our public visibility to the point that we gain members. AND, we hope that this focus will also position us to successfully compete for grant funding which will, in turn, increase our financial resources and allow us to return to providing social events at a later date.
So, that was the bad news – which is really a mixed bag of both limitations and opportunities.
The good news is that the Brazos Heritage Society recently received a donation from Hochheim Prairie Insurance Branch #219, a farm mutual insurance company that has been serving Texans since 1892.* They recently sent us a check in the amount of $800! It was a very pleasant surprise and will provide some much-needed cash to help us keep moving forward. I am deeply grateful for their support and want to express my gratitude to President Dwight Miller, in particular, for this windfall.
Ultimately, continuing as a successful organization in the 21st century will require us to shift our paradigm in certain areas of operation. However, as I promised in my initial President’s Letter, any changes made in function or focus will always seek to honor both the original purpose of the Brazos Heritage Society, its rich history, and the hard work of all the members – and leaders – who came before our current team.
BHS does not consist of just its Executive Committee. We depend on our members for their support, their enthusiasm, and their ideas. I am always open to questions, ideas, and even criticism. Hopefully, we will manage your organization in such a way that criticism will be few and far between! Either way, please take the opportunity to dialogue with us and let us know your thoughts and ideas. Sometime early next year, I hope to develop a survey that will give us a more formal avenue for member input. I’ll keep you posted on this project.
In the meantime, you can reach me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 979-777-4924. You can call or text me at that number. I’m also always happy to make time to meet in person if needed or if you would just like to chat.
(*Disclosure: I am a board member for Branch #219. However, I was not directly involved in the final
decision to donate to the Brazos Heritage Society, nor did I determine the amount of that donation.)
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