Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Historic Preservation

I’ve been losing sleep lately.  I haven’t been sick.  I haven’t been stressed.  There hasn’t been any big changes in my life.  I have just been thinking about a house.  How can a building make me lose sleep?  Well, this isn’t an ordinary house.  This is the home of my dreams! 

Almost two decades ago, very good friends of ours purchased a house and barn that was in need of updating and repairs.  It sits on 10 acres of land with woods, fields, three ponds, and a spring house.  It is in Washington County, Pennsylvania, only 25 minutes from our current home.   The updates and repairs that they performed are incredible.  Everything is redone.  We have watched them pour their retired lives into this home, making it have every modern convenience while still keeping its original charm.  Last week they put this piece of paradise up for sale.  Sounds good so far, right?   Here is the part that stops most people.  It was built in 1790. 
This is the completely restored home built in 1790 by William Wolfe, a revolutionary war patriot.

This is thee completely restored barn next to the drive way.

The house I live in today was built in the 1960s, and on the days when the floors creak or the bathroom faucet leaks, I think “This house is old!”  Imagine the problems that could arise from a house over 200 years old.  But, I would have been willing to brave the difficult times of house repair and maintenance to have a small glimpse into the past and experience life like it was (with air conditioning and a dishwasher, of course).

Would my living in a house like this be considered historical preservation, one of the objectives of the DAR?  According to the Historic Preservation Committee web page,
“The Historic Preservation Committee encourages chapters and state societies to actively participate in historic preservation to preserve the past, recognize individuals or groups who voluntarily participate in historic preservation to enhance the present…”
If I lived there, I would certainly continue to maintain the quality of the home and repair things when needed.  I could see my family taking one week during the summer to “live like colonials” without any technology or modern conveniences.  We could drink from the spring and fish in the ponds.  All we would need would be a cow, and we would be set.  What fun it would be…we are adventurous! 

This may not be the kind of historic preservation that would win an award at Continental Congress, but it certainly is worthwhile.  Of course, I would have it easy.  I didn’t have to do the renovation, but I would have to maintain the house.  In time, I wonder how many dwellings like this will remain in our country?  I am glad we have people who care about preserving the past.

My husband and I discussed it for days.  To move to a new school district, and add 20 more minutes to his commute which is already over one hour, was too much for our family.  We would have to pass over this opportunity.  I felt like a stalker, though, constantly checking its listing, reviewing the photos over and over again.

I guess I have good news, though.  The house sold for their asking price today to someone who has loved the house longer than I have.  At least I will be sleeping better at night.

This is the view from the back that includes the spring house.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chapter Revitalization

In Pennsylvania, we currently have 99 DAR chapters.  A large number, compared to most states in the nation, I suppose.   Although it puts us just under the number 100, the required number of chapters to be classified as a ‘large’ state.  Since my membership ten years ago, I have been aware of a few chapters that disbanded or merged with other chapters due to decrease in membership or loss of interest.  I have only seen the creation of one chapter in my state during that time.  Looking back on our state history, we have had over 50 chapters disband, with the first one in 1908.  That doesn’t even count the ones that have merged.  When I discovered this statistic, I was shocked!

What happens to those daughters from a chapter that disbands or merges?  They may become Members At Large, they may transfer to another chapter, or they may resign.  Unfortunately, many of them end up resigning or being dropped from our roll due to lack of interest or a lack of feeling connected to a new chapter.    

This weekend was our annual district workshop, led by our District Director.  One of the sessions, given by our State Organizing Secretary, provided the participants a time to discuss how to revitalize our chapters to avoid these problems.  Here are some of the very good ideas that were shared.

·         Hold your meetings on Saturdays in order to allow the working woman, and often Junior, to attend.
·         Vary your chapter meeting location to hold the interest of your members.  Take field trips.
·         Promote your programs.  Get everyone excited to attend.
·         Use your chapter members’ talents when considering programs.  A member that presents is one that is involved.
·         Keep your chapter meeting dates the same for consistency.  For example, meet the second Saturday of each month.
·         Provide opportunity for members to participate in all three of our objectives: Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism.  Make your chapter have ‘Something for Everyone’.
·         Don’t neglect your older membership.  Create a hospitality committee to visit the shut-ins or the ones in a care facility. 
·         Gather a team of chapter members to help the Registrar.  Often times, prospective members are overwhelmed when asked to find documents to prove their lineage.  Not every applicant enjoys research.  If your team of genealogists can find the documents for the prospective member, it is more likely she will join before she loses interest.  Also take advantage of your Lineage Research Chairman in your state.  She may be able to help find proof as well.
·         Get your new members involved right away:  put them on a committee or make them a chairman.
·         Create a “Daughter to Daughter” program among your members, having an active member adopt an inactive member and keep in touch with her.  She should invite her to meetings and send correspondence to her via mail, email, or telephone.  Birthday wishes are also nice.
Your chapter does not have to do all of these suggestions to be successful.  However, you may want to adopt one or two of these strategies to begin your revitalization in membership.  Does my chapter do all of these things?  No.  However, we have made some positive changes recently.  We are growing with over 55 new members in the past two and a half years.  I have a feeling that my chapter, the Jacob Ferree Chapter, will be around in the far future.  Good thing, because I plan to pass my pins onto someone special someday, and I truly hope she will be able to wear my Chapter Bar.    
An example of a Chapter Bar...not my chapter, but someone's. <grin>

Friday, August 26, 2011

Key to the Future

Having my computer totally crash this summer stirred a need inside me to backup all family photos in more than one place.  I had backed up my computer files in May of this year, so all was not lost.  However, the trip to the shore and the family reunion are now memories without proof.  So, I began to look through old digital photos on my external hard drive from up to 10 years.  What a wonderful trip through memory lane!  It was then that I found this one:
This is my daughter during our trip to Washington, DC for Continental Congress, 2008.  I could not resist snapping a photo of her at this spot…the same spot in which I have my photo taken in my “gown of white” each year.  She looks so small (as she should because she is 7 years old here).  She has so many years ahead of her to make a difference in the world.  If I ask her if she wants to join the DAR someday, she often responds with “Is it even an option, Mom?”  She knows how important this organization is to me and will honor her mother with membership just as I had done.  My thoughts turn to 50 years from now when I will no longer be an active member.  What will our organization be like?  Will Daughters still be driving to honor God, Home, and Country?  Will making a positive influence in our communities be just as important to our members?    Will my daughter or granddaughter be involved in historic preservation, patriotism, and education?  It makes me realize that our younger members are really the key to the future of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Too many chapters rely on the same people to do the same jobs, thinking the younger members are ‘too busy’ with their lives to help.  …but if we don’t involve our Junior members, our chapters or even our organization may not survive.  For those who truly believe in this organization, this is a sobering thought.  What can be done?  Start by inviting the younger members to become active by paging at a state event.  This is where they gain the friendships that keep them committed to the organization.  Ask any page that is a ‘return customer’.  Some of your best friends come from this experience – lifelong friends.  Every member who has done this is glad that someone invited her to page and be active.  These are the women who are the future of the DAR.  As long as we continue to train our younger members, our great work can continue to be done.  What will you do to ensure that your granddaughter has a thriving chapter to which she may belong?

And don’t worry, my daughter is right.  It is NOT an option.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not Your Grandmother's DAR! (or is it?)

Nellie Blanche Everitt Gillette was my grandmother.  She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution for over 50 years, joining in 1943.  A decade ago I decided to honor her by joining the DAR.  Being almost 95 years old when this occured, she had very little capability to tell me about the organization or her participation in it.  I did not know much about it either, but that did not matter.  It was only going to be a gesture.  One story that was shared was by the pins that she bestowed upon me right before her death.  They told of her years as a state officer and her dedication to serving at Continental Congress.  They showed her ancestors and her chapter, which is now non-existent.  Much must have happened that I can only imagine.  Over the years, friends in my state who knew her have shared stories, photos, and newspaper clippings.  They have begun to piece together the image of the DAR woman that I never knew.  Here is a photo that a friend shared with me of my grandmother and other members of the state board of Pennsylvania during the 1960s. 

My grandmother is the tallest one in the picture in the back center.
When I became eighteen, she urged me to register to vote.  She would tell me of a time when her mother earned the right to vote.  This is a picture of her mother, Nannie.
My great-grandmother who earned the right to vote in 1920.
Seeing women's suffrage first hand stirred my grandmother to become an active citizen.  Being a United States citizen during both World War I and World War II, I imagine she loved the DAR because of its patriotism and power for women.  

So, how is today's DAR different from my grandmother's DAR?  In some ways it is the same.  We are still women, trying to express our voice in America.  We try to make a difference in our communities around us.  We continue to support historical preservation, patriotism, and education.  What really makes the difference between her DAR and my DAR is the power that women have gained as equals to men in our society and the way we express it.  I am proud to be female.  Proud to be a working mother of two.  Proud to be equipped with the knowledge to be independent.  Proud to feel free to pursue whatever career I want...or don't want.  Really, it is all about the freedom I have.  This allows me to do so much more for my world around me.  The DAR gives me a platform to serve, and serve I do.  I have volunteered at my local Veteran's hospital handing out bags of treats and toiletries.  After the recent tsunami in Japan, I collected and mailed toys and supplies for children there.  Organizing donations for our current military overseas, I have thanked our soldiers.  Several Saturdays have been spent cleaning up a local cemetery.  Leading memorial services for our veterans during Memorial Day has been an honor.  Sending care packages to the children at the DAR Schools has been a joy.  I am powerful!  Powerful to change the world around me into a better place.  I know I am changing the world for my children because they observe everything that I do and model their behavior after me.  I have an obligation to be a good citizen in front of them.  
“Good citizens cannot be made suddenly. They must grow...” Harriett Lothrop             
So, Today's DAR is so much more than when my grandmother was a member.  It is because of our members' dedication and the freedoms that we have to serve so extensively.  We DO things and are active.  We love our world and plan to make it a better place everyday.

I am glad I jumped blindly into this organization just to honor my grandmother.  What a wonderful surprise I have found.