Is there hope?
April 6, 2004
Judging from comments made in an editorial board interview that appeared in The Meridian Star on Monday, the stately old mansions that stand as two of Meridian's most historic homes are in a real jam. Merrehope and the F.W. Williams Home are woefully short of the funding necessary to keep them going and the community is being asked to step forward to help save them.
To be sure, the Meridian Restorations Foundation that runs the two historic houses couldn't have found more capable advocates than Fonda Rush and Betty Lou Jones. Both have wonderful records at turning old challenges into new opportunities and now are trying to reinvent the 36-year-old organization into something meaningful for the 21st century and beyond.
As they restructure the foundation, they are right to reach out beyond the traditional ranks of the group's founding members. The literary clubs whose hundreds of members volunteered their time and money in the early days are pretty much gone. Jones and Rush describe the current dilemma as a crisis and say they want to avoid closing the homes; at the same time, no single annual fund-raiser is going to produce the money to make repairs and keep the homes open.
As they make their appeal, the foundation needs to embrace a strategy of inclusion and tell potential contributors and volunteers why they think Merrehope and the F.W. Williams Home are worth saving. Such sites of living history are rare these days and a willingness to reach out to people who, historically, have not been involved is even rarer.
WANT TO HELP?
If you would like to volunteer or if you have an idea about a fund-raiser that could help Merrehope, call 483-8439. You may also write to Merrehope, 905 Martin Luther King Drive, Meridian, MS 39301.