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Momentum and exposure key for Civil War Monument

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bumper sticker being sold by the Greencastle VFW for $5 provides support for saving the Civil War Monument in Forest Hill Cemetery.
Pure preservationists, quite logically, focus their collective attention on bricks and mortar, sites and sod.

But other aspects of any project worth preserving can be equally as vital toward achieving the ultimate goal.

And for the Heritage Preservation Society (HPS) of Putnam County, those more immediate goals involve first maintaining both the momentum and the exposure generated by the effort to restore the Civil War Monument at Forest Hill Cemetery.

Buoyed by a successful initial fundraiser for helping rehabilitate the 142-year-old memorial to the 321 Putnam County soldiers who perished during the War Between the States, local historians are focusing on preserving the momentum generated by the project in recent weeks.

"We have a gem that's sort of been allowed to be overlooked over time," HPS board member and former president Phil Gick understated in assessing where the restoration project stands currently.

To date, HPS has received donations and/or pledges totaling nearly $13,000 toward assessing and stabilizing the 29-foot-tall monument near the southwest corner of the Greencastle cemetery.

"While I do not have the final figures yet, it would appear that the total, once two matching source of funds are actually provided and deposited, should be just a little shy of $13,000 raised thus far for the monument," Gick added.

That is especially encouraging since HPS had only $245 in its monument account at the beginning of August.

Zaring House home tour ticket sales and related donations and sales (along with matching funds) have pushed that total in excess of $12,500.

"It should be emphasized that while this is very encouraging and should enable us to seriously pursue assessment and hopefully stabilization, it does not mean that we can rest on our laurels," Gick reminded the HPS group and the community.

"Given the amount of funds we're talking about," he added, "it's not something we're going to solve this fall or next spring. But it can be solved."

The reality, is, however, "tens of thousands of dollars will remain to be raised to fully restore the monument," Gick stressed.

Toward that end HPS is hoping to bring multiple groups together to help save the monument, partnering with local organizations and businesses along the way.

Already Greencastle VFW Post 1550 is selling bumper stickers for $5. The message there is "I helped save the Forest Hill Cemetery Civil War Solders' Monument."

The VFW is also pursing the possibility of selling T-shirts with the monument pictured on them.

"We want to continue to encourage other organizations to become actively involved, provide us with contact info, and attend our meetings," Gick noted, adding that he and HPS board member Bonnie Yahraus are developing a member organization list with contact info.

"It can't just be an HPS effort alone," Gick said, "that's just not feasible."

As a cautionary tale, Gick noted his recent conversation with southern Indiana Judge Tim Crawley about the frustration Vincennes encountered in the restoration of its Civil War monument.

"It took 10 years and $200,000," Gick said to a silent assemblage of supporters in the community room at First National Bank in Greencastle.

"If we don't want to spend 10 years on this, we're probably going to need to generate some funds outside the community," he said. "It is going to take everybody pitching in locally to make it happen."

The HPS group discussed at length ways to raise funds -- both inside and outside the community -- for the monument restoration estimated as at least a $65,000 undertaking but possibly rising to six figures to do it right.

Fundraising ideas under discussion range from contacting "big firms" in the area to checking on what involvement DePauw might be willing to undertake both from a university standpoint as well from the Greek houses and living units.

Meanwhile, urging other organizations like the VFW, American Legion, Moose, Elks, etc. to take an active part and possibly even develop a fundraising competition is considered vital to the momentum of the project and the growth of the funds raised.

Gick also pointed to the need for each local group to educate itself on what funding opportunities might be available at the state and national levels of their organizations.

Meanwhile, maintaining and increasing the visibility of the monument is considered possible through signage, bumper stickers, T-shirts, donation boxes and even possibly a Facebook presence.

"Multiple small events and efforts are going to 'eat the elephant,' as Phil says," Yahraus interjected.

Gick agreed, emphasizing the need to recognize the overall effort as "more of a marathon, than a sprint."

"We've had some success," he added, "and I feel good about where we're at, but we're not at the finish line yet."

At the HPS Board meeting that followed, the establishment of a Civil War Monument Restoration Pass Through Fund at the Putnam County Community Foundation was approved. It is the account to which individuals will be able to direct donations directly for the assessment, stabilization and restoration of the monument. HPS will be depositing the funds raised thus far into that account.

The board also authorized Gick to formally seek Requests For Proposals (RFPs) from engineering firms for the assessment and stabilization of the monument.

That portion of the project is estimated as a $12,500 expense ($2,500 for a formal engineering assessment, followed by $10,000 to stabilize the monument to prevent further deterioration).

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