HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION
The idea for the Sainte Marie Foundation came from a former resident, Patricia Reis, a Chicago resident who had grown up in the Ste. Marie area and whose mother lived there for over 96 years. Concerned about some of the challenges she knew the village was facing, she met with a group of Sainte Marie leaders in late August 2007 to discuss her idea for forming a charitable organization to help "prevent community deterioration" and preserve the history of the village. She felt that many people who had left Sainte Marie would be happy to provide support for the little town they still loved. Encouraged by the support she received, she formed a working committee and by late October, the Sainte Marie Foundation was officially recognized by the State of Illinois as a charitable organization. In late December, 2007 the Foundation received tax deductible 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
In May 2008, Don Albers owner of DCA Construction Company of Breese, IL donated the Harley and Lena Kirts home, 113 S. Washington Street, to the Foundation. Volunteers have spent hours cleaning, scraping, painting and renovating the 125-year-old house. It will be the "home" of the Foundation as well as a museum and a place for former residents and friends of Sainte Marie to stay while they are visiting the Village.
The Foundation publishes a quarterly newsletter that is available throughout the village and mailed or e-mailed to some 400 friends, family, and former residents. In addition, the Foundation published "A Resident's Guide to Sainte Marie," created to make new residents aware of what the village offers and what is expected of residents.
Four well-attended homecoming events have brought many former residents back to SM on Labor Day weekends: Come Back Home in 2008; A Hometown Celebration in 2009; a piano concert by Jim Litzelman in 2010, and the Dorothy Helregel Mathious Vocal Concert in 2011. The latter concerts have packed St. Mary of the Assumption Church and have re-established a onetime tradition of musical performances and concerts in the village at the turn of the century.
During the late-June 2012 celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Sainte Marie, the Foundation partnered with the hard-working Ste. Marie Community Club to provide a celebration that brought hundreds of people to the village. The Community Club provided a two hour parade, continuous entertainment, a fantastic quilt show, a dinner featuring Sainte Marie's exquisite barbeque chicken, and a fireworks show that will not soon be forgotten! The Foundation converted the Foundation House into a museum for the weekend and also provided the 216-page book commemorating the entire history of the village and surrounding area, featuring stories and commentaries written by many who grew up in Sainte Marie.
While the Foundation hopes to do more in the future to help preserve many historical documents and artifacts central to the town, the Historical Museum at the Foundation House already includes six DVDs with interviews of longtime residents, a collection of wedding pictures created by Annette Reis Lynch now in a special display unit purchased with a Mary E. Heath Foundation (Robinson, IL) grant, and a collection of 17 drawings entitled "Ladies in Hats 1923" by Helen Keller Graham, renowned Central Illinois artist who grew up in rural SM. The museum also houses an antique sewing machine and an 1800s chair, as well as other furniture, clothing, quilts, and ephemera.
One of the most vivid and talked-about efforts of the Foundation has been its central beautification project. For the past three summers, fourteen cascading-flower baskets have graced Main Street, an effort that requires local volunteers to water the flowers daily in warm weather. The work is definitely worth it because of how vibrant the town looks in the summer. With the Sainte Marie Community Club, the Foundation has sponsored other spirited efforts including Garden Walk 2009, a Light Up the Village and Tree Trimming Party each year, and a Welcome to Sainte Marie Bag.
The Foundation is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff. The Board of Directors manages various activities of the Foundation. Volunteers perform a myriad of tasks: six stalwart folks take turns mowing the lawn each summer; others do simple carpentry, house painting, cleaning, landscaping and gardening. Nearly 100 volunteers have participated in the last five years, many of them former residents who drive hours to spend a day or two working for the Foundation.
The Foundation has been fortunate to have received three grants from the Mary E. Heath Foundation, Robinson, Illinois, for a total of $8,015, to support educational efforts in creating the museum. Two grants were used to purchase display units, and one paid for copying old pictures and documents.
SAINTE MARIE FOUNDATION