The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Laurel Foundation - December, 1987

By Bob Heafner © 1987

Issue: December, 1987

The Laurel Foundation was formed over a year ago as a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving on video film a part of our mountain heritage. The first video featuring the August 16th Chestnut Ridge Reunion at Old Jacksonville is now complete. It features mountain people making homemade music. We will be having reproductions made of it in the near future and will let you know when it will be available for purchase. All proceeds from the sale of the video will apply toward the Foundation's goals. We will also be sending copies of it to the many musical groups featured on the film as our appreciation for the joy of their music that day and to each contributor who has contributed $100.00 or more toward making it all possible.

As the result of several articles which have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, people from fifteen different states have contributed amounts ranging from $1.00 to $7,500.00 to aid in the Foundation's efforts. Every time an article has appeared in The Mountain Laurel our readers from across America have responded with their donations. In this way the Foundation has raised over $11,000.00 in cash contributions and over $2000.00 in additional pledges, not including the recent pledge by Mr. & Mrs. Don Nelson of Virginia Well Drilling in Galax to donate, free of charge, a "Class 2B" commercial well for Old Jacksonville. This was a most expensive item on our "need" list and very appreciated.

The last few months we have refrained from asking for your help in The Mountain Laurel because quite frankly we were nearing exasperation by the IRS's slow process of approval. In August we called the IRS Baltimore office where the application was being processed and were told it had been forwarded to the Washington office for final review and approval. After 30 days we called the Washington office only to be told that it sometimes takes 90 days for paperwork to reach Washington from Baltimore. Evidently the IRS uses the same postal service we do.

Needless to say, the process took much longer than we, or our accountant, anticipated. Sam Gentry formerly of the accounting firm of Strand, Skees, Jones and Company in Mount Airy, North Carolina is the Foundation's accountant. He was finally able to expedite the application by explaining to the IRS that the Foundation's cash reserves were dwindling and further delay would create undue hardship since we were unable to actively solicit major funding and grants without approval. Finally, on October 26, 1987, the Foundation's application for tax exempt status was approved.

In August, The Foundation acquired the Old Jacksonville property through a 15 year lease with option to purchase, with all payments applying to the purchase price upon exercise of the option. Our payments are $1,420.75 per month. The lease payments since August and the work that has been required at Old Jacksonville have nearly depleted the Foundation's funds. Due to the time consuming paper work shuffle within the IRS we have been and still are concerned about the December payment on Old Jacksonville.

Solicitations have been mailed to almost 100 people who have either donated or pledged to donate once the IRS approval was received and $1075.00 has been received thus far. That made most of the November payment. You may have been one of those people. If you were, we appreciate your help more than you will ever know. So much has been accomplished toward the Foundation's goals which we feel will stretch into the next century because of your support.

We feel our chances of getting grant money is good, but it will be time consuming. There will probably be another long period of waiting for approval. Unfortunately money for the monthly bank payments is needed now. That and electricity which is approximately $60.00 per month are the only absolutely necessary expenses through the winter.

As we said earlier, the amount we have received so far is approximately $11,000.00. We'd like to take this opportunity to tell you how it has been spent. We have stretched those dollars as far as possible and are pleased with the accomplishments thus far. The money has been used to make payments on the 4.22 acres and buildings at Old Jacksonville, to remodel and open nearly 2,000 square feet of the barn as a museum and general store, to sponsor a major event, The Chestnut Ridge Reunion, to purchase insurance, to produce the first 35 minute video plus the various small things like supplies for mowing and clearing the property.

We have gratefully received countless hours of free labor which has helped us to stretch the money even further. Recently a local contractor, Mr. A. D. Wilson, pledged to donate a few days labor. When people volunteer to give their time and skills, it fills us with the pride that the mountain spirit of community, of neighbor helping neighbor, is still alive and thriving. That is what The Laurel Foundation is all about.

If you can help by donating money, materials or time, it sure would be appreciated. The property housing the Foundation will be a part of each of us - a part of the spirit of the Blue Ridge. Some suggestions of how you could help are: Perhaps you would like to remember a departed mountain loved one this Christmas season by contributing a small amount in their memory, to preserve not only their memory, but the memory of a way of life that they were part of; If there is someone on your Christmas list that "has everything", you might donate in their name; If you are a member of an organization, ask if the organization would contribute to the efforts of the Foundation; If you need a deduction for your taxes this year, a donation is tax deductible and your contribution will be used to preserve a part of the heritage of the Blue Ridge.

There are so many dreams, so much that can be done. The old Victorian house on the property is still jacked up after being moved from the adjoining lot and needs to be put on a solid foundation. The loft of the barn could easily be turned into a huge auditorium. There is the old McNeil log cabin which was taken apart and moved to the property to be rebuilt here. There are Sunday afternoons to be spent visiting on the porches with you when you visit. And musicians to come by, sharing their love of music. And mountain old people sitting in the porch swings, telling a new generation of visitors, from this region or most anywhere in the country or world, the fascinating old time stories of their youth. Someday we hope people will come here to view the videos created by the Foundation, perhaps searching for a link to their own heritage. Perhaps they will come to meet the older residents who will always be part of the Center's activities, to hear of their way of life first hand in order to see what the Blue Ridge is and was all about. Only dreams? Perhaps, but if you share them they will come true.

Thank you.