Council supports learning center for Jonesville

JONESVILLE — Jonesville Historical Society Chairperson Judy Wolfe’s passionate presentation on a proposed Foothills Heritage Learning Center received strong support from the Jonesville Town Council Monday night.

Individual council members voiced their support for the project before voting unanimously to prepare a three-year lease of the old Town Hall building on Main Street to consider at its August meeting, having already voted not to meet in July. In the interim, council members agreed to allow Jonesville artisan Bill Woell to store wood he plans to use in demonstrations and classes once the center is open at the site.

Wolfe’s excitement over the board’s support, however, was dashed Tuesday afternoon when the Jonesville Tourism Development Authority would not agree to fund the $500 seed money she requested to hire a consultant to inspect the building to determine what renovations, repairs and redecorating needs to be done before the center can open.

The Jonesville TDA is appointed by the town to collect the tourism tax from local hotels.

“I’m just disappointed,” Wolfe said afterward.

In her proposal to the Town Council, Wolfe talked about how the center would benefit local tourism. “The audiences drawn to craft venues also bring economic benefits for other businesses,” she said. “A thriving craft center helps attract visitors who not only spend their money in the center, but also contribute to local economies by dining in restaurants, lodging in hotels and purchasing gifts and services in the community.”

In lieu of the authority’s decision not to fund the assessment, Wolfe said the society members have no choice but to try to come up with the money themselves. Wolfe told Town Council members that the society has local supporters who are willing to help with the work that needs to be done on the building, part of which is now being used for storage by the town police department.

The basement, main floor and outside demonstration/storage area are expected to be functional in 12 months or less, she said. Wolfe said the center will partner with the Yadkin Valley Senior Center and Yadkin Valley Economic Development District, Inc. (YVEDDI); Yadkin County agriculture and historic groups; Surry Community College and other regional colleges and universities; Yadkin County Schools for in-school educational programs, center visits and after-school projects; the town of Jonesville and affiliated committees and groups; the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor and regional, state organizations; and the proposed Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, Cultural and Trails Center in Elkin.

Wolfe said the Foothills Heritage Learning Center will “demonstrate and teach those historic, traditional skills that were passed from one generation to the next,” including the arts representing the Yadkin Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and the western Piedmont region of North Carolina. Admission to the center will be free to all who share an interest in promoting the history and heritage of vintage crafts.

In addition to demonstrations and classes, Wolfe said the center will feature a gallery in which crafts will be sold or consigned. She said a selection of craft books and writing by local writers also will be available.

Several people showed up at Monday night’s Town Council meeting in support of the proposed center, including other members of the Jonesville Historical Society.

Wolfe outlined plans for the center in a paper distributed to council members, Town Manager Scott Buffkin, Town Clerk Lynn Trivette, Town Attorney Neil Finger and the 20 others attending the meeting, many of them there to support the project.

The Foothills Heritage Learning Center would be “a project to demonstrate and teach those historic, traditional skills that were passed from one generation to the next,” she said.

Wolfe said she already has started talking with Jonesville school staff about scheduling visits and classroom demonstrations from participating artisans.

Myra Cook, president of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, spoke in support of using the old Town Hall building. She shared the story of a city that narrowed its options for a center focusing on heritage, arts and the theater to purchasing an old school that was in good condition for $1 million or constructing a new facility for $16 million.

“My dream was for them to buy that building,” she said. “Instead, they built it from the ground up.”

As a result, she said the center has struggled to generate the revenue to pay for the building and has had to deal with recurring sinkholes.

Wolfe said the Jonesville Historical Society would seek nonprofit status for the center and then apply for grants to keep it operating.

Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.

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