Historic Preservation Supports Student Learning

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Cooperative service among Czech/Slovak families was the purpose of ZCBJ Lodge 236 of Phillips, Wisconsin, founded in 1914, a mile deep in the woods at a community dance hall. From that small beginning the dozen or so families expanded to include non-Czech/Slovaks and evolved into Western Fraternal Life Association. They also volunteer time, financial and material aid to local, state and national charities without ethnic consideration.

During the past year over 20 monetary donations have been made to charitable causes. In addition members participate in over a dozen community projects. When stories arose the county board might sell antique farming and logging artifacts from three buildings at the county fairgrounds to remedy a budget shortfall, a lodge member invited citizens to discuss the situation. Thus began the Price County Antique Association (PCAA), a volunteer group dedicated to not only preserving the hundreds of antiques, but making the displays open to the public not just during the fair, but also and other times and as an educational learning center. Seven lodge members are in leadership positions as officers and directors.

When start-up funds were needed for the fledgling organization, Lodge 236 was the first with a $200 donation. In addition, a lodge member arranged a donation from another group of which she is a member. Not only did these two donations provide operating funds, it also generated newspaper publicity which attracted more volunteers for the organization.

During the first two years lodge members contributed over 700 volunteer hours to improve the displays and promote public viewings. Four days were spent hand-cleaning items in one building, making and installing dozens of identification signs. They served as volunteer supervisors and guides during more than a dozen days when exhibits were open to the public. This volunteer service saved over $1,000 of tax money since paid supervisors were not needed. Promotion was also done by displaying antiques and banners on floats in several parades.

Several lodge members involved with PCAA are retired teachers. They established an "Education Committee" to use the antique displays as an education resource for students of three school systems. In May 2009 members of a high school Business Education class toured the antique displays as part of a special learning opportunity. After the tour, students used their computer skills to develop promotional literature and advertising banners. Plans are underway to incorporate units in elementary and high school history classes using the antique machinery as a learning resource. Another retired teacher/lodge member is experienced in writing grant proposals. She has prepared and sent grant requests to five major local grant givers. Expectations are high for receiving funding for restoration of several antique steel-wheeled tractors

Thanks in part to Lodge 236 members providing ideas, finances and physical efforts the Price County Antique Association is achieving its goals of preserving historical antiques and making them more available for young and old to view. Within only a few years the number of visitors to view the antiques during the fair has more than doubled, increasing from 551 to over 1200. Further plans are underway for more improvements of displays which should continue increasing viewership and use as an educational resource. As a result tours by history students will occur in September and October 2009.

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