Community Leaders Describe Years of Private Support for Silvermont

Several community leaders spoke at the Monday June 9 County Commissioners’ meeting, asking county commissioners to include Silvermont Park funding in the new fiscal year budget.  Their messages:

Kathy Zimmerman, a member of the Silvermont Centennial Committee.
I am also owner of Wildwood Design, a landscape design company. I volunteered over 200 hours of professional services to produce a landscape design concept plan for Silvermont Park’s 8 acres.
We are here with good news:
At your March 10 meeting, you voted to allocate $25,000 to a new children’s playground at Silvermont Park – part of the strategic landscape plan — if we could raise a matching $25,000.
I am happy to report that all pledges are in the bank and we have raised $26,451.42.
This effort is significant. Donations came from people of all ages, from across the county and range from $10 to $1,000.
This is the latest citizen effort of many that began decades ago to care for Silvermont.
We now want you to put significant funding in the new budget for Silvermont.

Bob Hurring, treasurer of Friends of Silvermont and member of the Centennial committee.
“The Friends of Silvermont” was formed in January 1981 at a commission meeting to prevent demolition of the Mansion.
The Commissioners voted to save the building and approved a volunteer group to supervise repairs and prepare a usage plan. This group was called “The Friends of Silvermont”.
“The Friends” agreed to provide labor and secure financial assistance to supplement the funds left by the Silversteens.
We have survived on donations from the public and have morphed into identifying potential problems and recommending solutions on the property.
In addition, “Friends” have continued to provide labor and financial assistance such as helping to fund the second floor museum, trimming hedges, rebuilding outside benches and donating $10,000 to the Centennial Committee for mansion window repair.
We currently have a Board of 10 people who meet bi-monthly to discuss any actions needed. So for 30 years we have worked on behalf of Silvermont.

Jan Osborne, co-chair of the Silvermont 2nd Floor House Museum and co-chair of the Silvermont Centennial Committee.

Opening in January 2011, the museum has hosted over 1,000 visitors from 20 states and 3 foreign countries.
Dedicated docents have introduced 329 local school children to the history of the mansion and the remarkable Joseph Silversteen family. Volunteers have donated hundreds of hours.
Volunteers and the county Inmate Work Program made possible the 1 ½-year restoration of the 2nd floor. A number of original Silvermont items have been returned to the museum.
Initial funding came from (1) the Friends of Silvermont (2) the Silvermont Reserve Fund (3) a $5,000 Janirve grant (4) the Leonard Silverstein Family Foundation and (5) many generous local donors.
The 2nd floor has no heat or air to protect our collections, and we need to provide access for the handicapped. We’d appreciate your help to accomplish this.

Diane Kuehn. President of the Transylvania County Extension Master Gardeners.
We have nearly 100 active members and 160 alumni.
Master Gardeners started working at Silvermont over a decade ago when they built an herb garden. In 2010, we made a greater commitment to Silvermont by building numerous learning and demonstration gardens.
Over 3,200 volunteer hours have been dedicated to the gardens since 2010. We used $7,500 of our own funds for plants and received $20,000 from over 50 individuals and businesses.
Including the value of volunteer hours, we have contributed $95,000 since 2010 to the Gardens of Silvermont.
Today, the Gardens are an essential part of our charter to educate the public on gardening. We have programs for children, seniors and the entire community.
On behalf of the Master Gardeners, I’m asking you to support Silvermont by approving and funding the strategic plan.
Heather Layton. An enthusiastic parent to a very active young boy. And a downtown business owner.
Along with my friend, Jessica Ibarquen — mom to three boys — I organized play dates at Silvermont Park the first two Fridays in April.
The purpose was to raise awareness of the renovations and plans for Silvermont Park, including the new playground. We also hoped to raise funds for the playground through Kiwi Gelato sales, Bracken Mountain Bakery cookie sales, and a small silent auction of items donated by businesses and parents.
Over 100 adults and children came to the two play dates. We were able to raise just over $1,000, and a lot of awareness. We need safe places for our kids to play and learn. Many of the families who came to the Silvermont play dates experienced Silvermont for the first time. They were amazed at its potential as a gateway to downtown, a learning space, and a safe place to play. There is much enthusiasm among families with young children for Silvermont Park.
I hope you will support its continued improvement.

Nancy Dumville. President of the French Broad Gardeners Garden Club.
Our members have been involved with plantings and maintenance of planters and flowerbeds in front of the Silvermont mansion for about 6 years.
During that time, roughly 150 hours have been donated to purchasing, planting, and maintaining the plantings, with15 members watering 2 to 3 times a week for 6 months each year.
Over time, the donated cost has been several hundred dollars towards the purchase of the plantings.
In addition, this year the club pledged $1,000 for park landscaping, as part of our commitment to the Silvermont Centennial Project.
We urge you to support the centennial project.

Margaret Mossbarger, a member of the Advisory Council for the Silvermont Opportunity Center, a “North Carolina Certified Senior Center of Excellence”
which currently occupies the mansion’s first floor.

The center’s congregate meal program provided over 2,500 meals last year.
Activity logs for the same period recorded more than 8,200 senior visits to Silvermont to attend daily activities, educational seminars, counseling sessions, and wellness or support programs.
The Land of Sky Regional Council credited Silvermont’s Retired Seniors Volunteer Program with saving local government and non-profits $204,846 during 2013, alone.
The center needs additional senior parking, rear house accessibility, level doorway thresholds, more accessible restrooms, and interior plaster repair.
Kindly budget money to update the center for the safety of our seniors.

Gene Baker with the Transylvania County Historical Society.
Our primary mission is preservation, the preservation of the 1815 Allison-Deaver House and the 1872 McGaha Chapel.
Silvermont has been our home for years now, down in the dark and sometimes very damp basement. So we are very much aware of the needs of the building.
There is no question that the Silversteens contributed greatly to the history of the county and their home is worthy of preservation.
With our mission in mind and because of our interest in the history of the county, we entered into an agreement to assist the Silvermont Centennial Committee in its effort to preserve Silvermont by offering our support and 501(c)3 status for contributions.
We also recently applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution to repair and refinish the windows in Silvermont.
As we prepare for the 2017 centennial year, we encourage you to help as much as possible in this preservation effort.

Jeannie Falknor, co-chair of the Silvermont Centennial Committee.
What you have heard tonight shows how for decades hundreds of citizens have donated thousands of hours and dollars to this park.
Tonight we ask you to make a significant commitment to Silvermont Park in the new fiscal year budget.
The Silvermont Centennial Committee has given you a strategic plan for the park. We ask that you adopt this $2 million plan of repairs and improvements. And that it be implemented by 2017, when the mansion turns 100 years old.
Silvermont Park has waited for 40 years for the attention it deserves.
We need you to demonstrate your recognition of this property as an asset that could serve economic development and tourism. An asset, that if properly cared for, could even produce increased annual revenue.
Further delays will mean higher costs in the long run. So in the new budget, please fund significant improvements to Silvermont Park.

Jane Shiley, Walk of History leader.
Early on in the establishment of the Walk of History, a big workday was planned on the 600 feet along Main St. Piles of stone and mulch awaited. The evening before, I ran by to check on some things, and there was a pick-up game of basketball going on. The boys were taking a break so I called to them: “Do you know what’s going on here?” They came over and I explained the concept of telling the history of the county with trees and shrubs representing periods of history. “We want to make this a place where people can learn. You can bring your kids here one day and teach them.”
“We want to help,” they said.
“Great! Come tomorrow!” I said.
“Aww, we’ll be in school.”
Next morning when I arrived, there — next to the mulch — was a huge pile of trash: limbs, old papers, bottles, soda cans, and lots of cigarette butts. Those boys had interrupted their pick-up game to pick up trash. They had taken ownership and done what they could, when they could.
They love Silvermont as we all do.



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