2018-01-12 / On Second Thought

Volunteers make a difference at Historic Columbia

Betsy Kleinfelder, Visitor & Interpretive Services Coordinator


Garden volunteers at Historic Columbia Garden volunteers at Historic Columbia As Historic Columbia prepares for its next New Volunteer Orientation Monday, January 22, it’s a perfect time to look back on the history of volunteerism within the organization.

Historic Columbia was founded in 1961 by a group of concerned Columbia citizens, who volunteered their time and energy to save the Robert Mills House from demolition. Being founded by volunteers set the ground work for a decades long tradition of strong volunteer engagement.

This tradition continues to this day, with Historic Columbia having more than 150 volunteers who help lead tours of the historic house museums and off- site programs, assist with gardening and landscaping of the properties, serving on boards and advisory committees, and much more.

Ann Awtrey, a longtime volunteer, has held nearly every volunteer role and has been an integral part of the organization for more than 25 years. Ann joined Historic Columbia in the early 1990s after retiring from more than 20 years with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. She started giving tours of the houses, with a focus on the Hampton- Preston Mansion and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

Ann quickly grew her involvement and became the president of the then-Volunteer Guild. During that time, she initiated a relationship with the University of South Carolina’s Department of History, bringing students in to work with Historic Columbia on research projects and programing ideas. This partnership is still in place today and has led to thousands of hours of student participation with the organization.

Ann’s passion for local history and working with the public has kept her motivated through the years. Ann stated she feels good about volunteering when “I look into the faces of the many school children who tour the homes. They are enthusiastic and ask such great questions.”

This passion and dedication has not wavered as she has been actively learning new information about the Hampton-Preston Mansion in preparation for interpretive changes coming later this year. Additionally, she continues to build connections with new volunteers and is always motivated to learn new material when it is provided.

Historic Columbia thanks Ann for more than 25 wonderful years of service and looks forward to many more years to come!.

If you would like to become a volunteer, please attend the New Volunteer Orientation Monday, January 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Seibels House located at 1601 Richland Street.

To register, visit His toricColumbia.org, email bkleinfelder@gmail.com, or call 803-252-1770 x 24.

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