Within its walls lie a wealth of information, including more than 40,000 artifacts and photographs about the people, places and events that make up the rich history of Crow Wing County.
But if the Crow Wing County Historical Society continues to operate within a budget deficit, there might not be any employees -- at least on a temporary basis -- to help carefully document and preserve the county's heritage or help people research their family histories.
The historical society has been operating under a budget deficit for the past few years, but the non-profit organization had been able to rely on its savings to get by until the end of the year, said executive director Mary Lou Moudry. But the problem has grown.
"It kind of catches up with you after awhile," said Moudry.
This year's budget deficit is about $15,000. Historical society members would like to raise this amount by the end of the year. At the very least, a couple thousand dollars needs to be raised by that time or else the historical society's staff, which includes one full-time and two part-time employees, will need to be laid off or asked to volunteer their time instead of getting paid until the end of the year, she said.
The historical society already operates on a bare bones budget, said Moudry. It receives its second disbursement of the county's annual contribution of about $32,000 at the end of December, which is roughly one-third of its $80,000-$90,000 annual budget. Another one-third of the budget is received through membership dues and the rest is made through donations. The number of bequests to the historical society has declined in recent years, which has contributed to the budget deficit, said Moudry. The historical society has 315 members.
The budget primarily covers salaries for its three-person staff. The utilities are paid for by the county, so closing down the building for a few weeks is not the answer, said Moudry. Historical society staff members spend much of their time carefully documenting and cataloging the historical significance behind the items donated to them. If they don't do it now, said Moudry, then that history could be lost. They recently have been collecting information for the large donation of photographs and artifacts received from the Potlatch mill for a future exhibit.
The historical society has hosted several fund-raisers this year, including a silent auction, brat and bake sales, garage sales and craft fairs. Organizers are hoping that Thursday's spaghetti dinner will help them raise enough funds for the historical society to remain operating through the end of the year, said Moudry.
The spaghetti dinner benefit will be 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday at the American Legion, 708 Front St. in Brainerd. Cost is $5 for adults and $3.50 for children 12 years and younger. Tickets will be sold at the door and are available at the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and the Brainerd Community Action office. Dinner will include spaghetti, bread, coleslaw, pumpkin bar, coffee or milk.
To learn more about becoming a member, contact the Crow Wing County Historical Society at 829-3268.
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