Give, give, give. Money, time, enthusiasm. Every nonprofit in the county, and the country, wants it. Needs it. It’s hard sometimes, though, to understand where the money goes.
Take, for example, Winedale in northeastern Fayette County, owned by the University of Texas. This collection of mid-nineteenth century buildings and their contents is famed for its annual Shakespeare performances, Christmas Open House, craft demonstrations and tours. And the annual antique quilt exhibition, scheduled this year for February 22-25.
Winedale’s financial support resembles a web, whose strands are woven together by UT’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and its highly professional curatorial and managerial staff.
Funds come from the state legislature, several endowments established to benefit Winedale, the Briscoe Center’s own managerial budget, and fundraising from the Friends of Winedale (FOW). In 2015, FOW, a volunteer non-profit, raised $250,000 at a 45th anniversary celebration honoring Miss Hogg.
Those funds underwrote the recently completed Lewis-Wagner House renovation, as well as paying for all the architectural and engineering plans required for the upcoming rehabilitation of the McGregor House and two log cabins, one of which collapsed during the severe rain events of last spring and summer. Work on the McGregor House is scheduled to begin in mid-February.
Additional progress is evident, even to the casual passer-by.
The old one-room Winedale community schoolhouse has been restored with the assistance of a targeted grant. Arrivals to the Visitors’ Center are welcomed by the new pollinator garden and fence, a project accomplished with a hands-on effort from the Gideon Lincecum chapter of Master Naturalists. [see photo]
These knowledgeable volunteers have also restored a woodland and wildflower loop, part of the old Arboretum Trail that once wound through the property’s extensive wildlife preserve.
A new site manager has arrived. Toni Mason has extensive credentials in historic preservation and museum work, making her a perfect match to the challenges that await her, including expanded public programming.
FOW expected that the funds they raised in 2015 would go further. And that the work would go more rapidly. They didn’t fully understand how Winedale’s several designations of distinctive historical significance would impose complex requirements. Meeting those high standards requires time and effort much greater than you or I would experience, if by some lottery or other miracle we could pay for work on this scale ourselves.
But the standards are there for good reason. Winedale is like a family treasure, only bigger. Fayette County is rich in treasures relating to our history and culture. Think of the Painted Churches, the Wandke Organ at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Round Top.
Winedale, however, is the only place where we can feel the lives of those who came before us. Appreciate, admire and sympathize with the hardships they surmounted while we stand in front of the fireplace they used.
Why should that matter?
Because we are who we were. The dreams of our forefathers and mothers have become our reality, even as their realities endure today within our lives: The need for food, health, safety; our vulnerability to storms, disease; the love we feel for family.
And, even in our technological distraction, the longing for beauty they expressed in their enduring handwork—carved furniture, intricately stitched quilts, expressively painted ceiling decorations.
Imagine: everything you use made by hand—by you, your mother, your father, your siblings. No Walmart or HEB to run to. No plastic.
A visit to Winedale is time travel we actually experience. And all it requires from us is care.
On August 25 the FOW will hold a Sommerabend Fest, where, “With a Little Help From Our Friends,” they will endeavor to raise $300,000 to continue the renovations. To complete the McGregor House exterior. To restore the two log cabins, which were such a popular destination in years past. And to institute interior work on both McGregor and Wagner Houses.
How can we help? We can become Friends of Winedale (www.friendsofwinedale.org). We can volunteer. Become a docent. (Docent training begins soon.)
Volunteering at Winedale is fun.
And it’s different from most similar opportunities. Because it enrolls us in the ongoing story of a place where memory and time can be touched and felt. In our increasingly virtual, abstracted world, that is a rare opportunity, indeed.
Babette Fraser Hale is a board member and a former president of FOW.