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Historical Society 500 surpasses $25,000 goal

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The Historical Society 500 has turned into the Historical Society 539 and counting.

After exceeding its original goal of getting 500 people to donate $50, for a total $25,000, the Jefferson County Historical Society has officially ended its fundraiser. The agency’s supporters, however, are still sending in checks for the campaign, which was made possible through help of the Watertown Daily Times.

As of Tuesday, a total of $30,398 had been collected and a few local businesses had donated materials and labor. The funds, which were collected since April 24, will support structural repair and operational costs. Projects include resurfacing the library and third-floor balcony of the Paddock mansion and replacing the front porch deck of the Massey House.

“From our standpoint, it’s a great feeling to have reinforcement from community members that what we’re doing is important,” said William G. Wood, executive director. “They’re relaying to us in many cases why they’re supporting us and most is that we’re so unique in what our mission is. Without someone or an organization looking out for trying to preserve history, you wouldn’t think that could happen by itself.”

Campaign supporters sent checks to the Historical Society or the Watertown Daily Times. Participants’ names were, or will be, published in the Times, and donors have been invited to a reception Aug. 11 at the Paddock mansion, 228 Washington St.

John B. Johnson, general manager of Northern New York Newspapers Corp., said he’s been energized at the success of the partnership with the Historical Society and by how responsive Times readers and the public were to the campaign.

“It is amazing how swiftly and generously the public responded to our call to action on behalf of the Historical Society,” he said. “We’ve had great response in the past to our fundraisers for the zoo’s aviary and the most recent one, the Otter 400. However, none of those campaigns reached their participation goal and financial goal as quickly as the Jefferson County Historical Society 500.”

The campaign’s success, he said, tells him there was a strong, tangible need at the agency and that the newspaper and its website reach is substantial and appeals to a group of people who value local institutions.

Mr. Wood said the Historical Society has yet to begin structural repair projects because the agency held its annual Heritage Days event earlier this month. The first project to be completed, he said, will be the back steps, which are rotted.

Marking one item off the agency’s checklist at a time, Mr. Wood said, the Historical Society will now look toward a sustainability plan. The success of the agency, and being able to keep its doors open, will depend on funds raised each year, he said.

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