Historical association on fundraising mission

St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Silas Wright House, 3 E. Main St., Canton. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — More than a year before smoke rose over Pearl Harbor and the United States officially launched itself into World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Heuvelton to sign the Ogdensburg Agreement.

Signed Aug. 17, 1940, the agreement established a mutual defense plan between the United States and Canada, should either nation see domestic conflict.

Teaching such local history — sometimes undervalued or unknown to residents — is what keeps the St. Lawrence County Historical Association alive, SLCHA Board President Lance W. Rudiger said.

To drive the future of the association and support its capacity for local history enrichment, the SLCHA initiated a three-year endowment campaign in February 2019. To date, $287,000 has been raised, representing 57 percent of the SLCHA’s $500,000 goal.

Launched as the Campaign for the People of St. Lawrence County, the fundraiser is designed to increase the association’s endowment and will continue through February 2022.

Campaign Coordinator Paul D. Mitchell said the SLCHA’s growing endowment is meant to “ensure long-term financial survivability” and support spending through interest accrued by the fund.

The increased endowment, Mr. Mitchell said, will allow the association to expand programming and exhibits, promote tourism and “defray ever-increasing operational costs” at the SLCHA and Silas Wright House museum, 3 E. Main St.

“The stronger the endowment, the brighter the future of the historical association,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It’s a difficult time to fundraise, but I’m confident that our members and area residents will understand the importance of strengthening the endowment and preserving the services here.”

The COVID-19 global health crisis stalled fundraising efforts this spring, particularly when the SLCHA temporarily closed its doors mid-March through June. But donations from several of the association’s 850 members and others from area organizations and businesses — most recently a $16,000 gift from Niles Asset Management, Canton, earlier this month — continue to bolster the campaign.

“The generosity of businesses, foundations, civic organizations and individuals has been impressive,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Donations from individuals throughout the country continue to show up in our mailbox. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we all pull together.”

Describing north country history as “fascinating,” Mr. Rudiger said the Campaign for the People is truly about people in St. Lawrence County, and the campaign has become central to the association’s future evolution. Through the pandemic, he said, the SLCHA board has started to consider what museums will look like and how they will operate beyond 2020, beyond a global health crisis.

“The idea of the campaign is that museums are changing,” Mr. Rudiger said. “And we want to be on the forefront of the change.”

The SLCHA is headquartered in Canton, but Mr. Rudiger said increasing web-based resources and expanding existing history programs in municipalities across the county will be crucial to the organization’s growth.

With digital and outreach expansion, genealogical research opportunities and new children’s programs, he said, “I think we’ll all be more enriched.”

Donations of any amount can be sent to the SLCHA, PO Box 8, Canton, NY 13617. Checks should be payable to SLCHA with “endowment” specified in the memo. Online donations can be made on the SLCHA website through PayPal. Printable pledge forms are also available online, at slcha.org.

For more information, contact Mr. Mitchell at 315-386-8133 or campaign@slcha.org.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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