President Phyllis Ouellette emphasizes the importance of volunteers in building community and preserving history in Canton, Maine. Hannaford has donated almost $100 through the Bloomin’ 4 Good program to Canton Historical Society.
Tell us about Canton Historical Society.
The Canton Historical Society is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation and celebration of heritage, history, and community of Canton, Maine. The Society was formed in 1975 by a group of citizens who recognized the need to preserve the town’s history.
Our organization fulfills its mission by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting collections and objects to Canton’s history and making this material accessible to citizens, genealogists, and other researchers; creating a vibrant cultural center for community gatherings, educational programs, and other festivities; and fostering community involvement and a sense of belonging for members and visitors alike. In addition, we enrich lives through access to history and the common threads connecting people to the past and each other, including showcasing and maintaining our 1875 Grange building, one of the last remaining historically significant buildings in Canton.
We enrich lives through access to history and the common threads connecting people to the past and each other.
What is your greatest achievement or contribution to the community?
I suspect at this point in time an achievement we are greatly proud of is saving the Grange building from demolition and becoming its caretaker.
The Historical Society was housed in the Universalist Church building which had unfortunately fallen into disrepair with no path to save it from deterioration. The Grange building was on the property adjacent to the Church. CN Brown had purchased the Grange to expand the Big Apple Convenience Store and planned on demolishing the historic Grange. They gave us the building as long as we moved it within three months.
Through generosity of many donations, including the Town of Canton, and the incredibly hard work of volunteers, the task was done. The 1875 building moved onto a new foundation after traveling 70 feet on September 29, 2017. Unfortunately, that meant the Church had to be demolished, but we salvaged many items from the Church which are now proudly on display in our Museum. Many improvements have been done in the building while maintaining the historical charm. It is a point of pride.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work you are doing.
The Historical Society participated in last year’s Bicentennial Celebration. There was a special exhibit in our museum, and we hosted a photography show and a quilt show. Also, we coordinated a Trolley Tour, but I particularly want to discuss the Founder’s Dinner, a program organized by our members. Part of the program was a presentation of 30 historical items that represented Canton’s history. The program was very well received by the audience of 200 and many learned something new about our town.
During the setup, two of the presenters stood looking at one of the items from our collection. One of the two women looking at the portrait said, “Hey, that’s my great-great grandfather” to which the other woman looked at her and said, “That’s MY great-great grandfather!” Turns out the two had never met until that moment. After much discussion, they discovered they were cousins and now good friends too.
The Bicentennial event exemplifies nearly every bullet in our Mission Statement. Of course, the Bicentennial was done on a large scale, but every month the Society is fulfilling the Mission with thanks to our dedicated volunteers.
What do you want people to know about Canton Historical Society?
We want people to know how truly honored we are being entrusted with their treasures. Photographs, documents, ledgers, personal items all have touched someone in a special way. Holding on to these treasurers for safekeeping keeps the memory alive. Sharing these treasures allows us a glimpse into what our ancestors’ lives were like. And some day when we are all gone, the future generation will know about us and what life was like when we were here, too.
How will you use the funds raised from the Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good programs?
Programs like Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good programs are vital to small organizations like ours. The funds raised are going right into our operational budget. Fundraising to keep the lights on and heat running is practically a full-time job, and it is a blessing when help comes from an unexpected source like this fantastic program. We were chosen to be part of the Bloomin’ 4 Good program. How great is it to help a nonprofit organization by simply purchasing a beautiful bouquet from Hannaford? That sounds like a win-win to me!
Canton Historical Society President Phyllis Ouellette is one of the many volunteers preserving the heritage of Canton, Maine, for future generations.