June 18, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
After nearly three years of raising money, renovating and relocating, the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) will hold a grand opening of its African-American Museum and Multi-Cultural Center on Wednesday.
Curtis Millner Sr., chairman of the FAHI board, said festivities will begin at 11 a.m. and are free and open to the public.
The grand opening also includes a ribbon cutting to mark renovations of the museum’s new home, which is in the former Imperial Savings and Loan building at 211 Fayette St.
“Oh yeah,” Millner said of whether he ever thought of giving up on the project, as funds trickled in and more projects were found that needed to be done.
During those times, Millner said, he recalled the repeated times he was told by Linda Dillard’s family and friends that “this was Linda’s dream.”
Dillard, who served as the director of FAHI until after she was seriously injured in a 2008 car accident, championed FAHI for many years and worked tirelessly for many years promoting the museum.
“I think it’s a small thing to complete a task that someone else started and that meant so much” to someone else, Millner said.
Millner said Dillard remains under care for her injuries and is unable to attend the event, but, he noted, “there is always hope.”
Perhaps one day Dillard can visit the museum, which has a variety of exhibits and historic items spotlighting black individuals, schools and businesses, including an entire wall devoted to the Imperial Savings and Loan Association, which closed in 2010.
The event Wednesday will include a book signing of FAHI’s latest book, “African American First and Other Prominent People of Martinsville/Henry County and Surrounding Areas,” Vol. 2.
Copies of the book will be for sale, and all proceeds will go towards museum operations.
The building has undergone extensive renovations since FAHI acquired it in 2011, and now includes permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as a a meeting room for groups of 20, a library of books on black history and space for adults to tutor children.
None of the projects would have been possible were it not for Dillard and several other contributors, including 35 people who donated $1,000 or more, Millner said.
“We also are very grateful to the Harvest Foundation, Phoenix Community Development Corporation, Arovik Signs, the 37 Cents Machine Shop and other businesses and individuals” who helped with the renovations, Millner said.
He added that FAHI hopes the renovations will prompt other nearby businesses and organizations to follow suit and spruce up their properties.
“Because after all, you’ll be able to look right out of” the New College Institute’s (NCI’s) windows and see many of those properties, he said.
The museum will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and other times by appointment for groups of five or more.
Admission is free, but donations are accepted, according to Millner, who added that FAHI also is looking for volunteers, members and also is seeking a director.
FAHI is a tax-exempt, charitable 501 c (3) organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.
For more information, call 732-3496 and leave a message.
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