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Community urged to rise up to save MacCallum More

SoVaNow.com / February 27, 2013
Participants at a community forum Tuesday night heard a stark warning from Chase City Mayor Eddie Bratton on the future of the beleaguered MacCallum More Museum and Gardens: “We are about to lose it.”

However, Tuesday’s meeting, hosted the MMMG Board of Directors, offered some good news mixed in with the bad.

MacCallum More is still reeling from the alleged embezzlement of nearly $15,000 by its former office manager, Amber Bradford, who was arrested in Tennessee in January. Yesterday in Boydton, Bradford was charged with 27 additional counts of forgery stemming from the disappearance of funds from Sept. 12, through Dec. 20. She now faces 31 felony counts of forgery, embezzlement, uttering and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Diana Ramsey, president of the MMMG Board, said Tuesday that “as gloomy as [the future and the $15,000 loss] seems, there is a silver lining.” People have come forward with offers of help and donations, she said, enough so that the museum and gardens’ operations are funded through June, with more fundraising events planned. Still, the future is not assured.

Dr. Earle Moore, an MMMG director, told the story of an early setback that the museum overcame as proof MacCallum More and the community can get through this latest travesty.

The gardens, which were started by Mary Hudgins, ultimately became the life’s work and legacy of her son, Commander William Hudgins. Moore said from the 1960s until he died in 1986, Hudgins traveled the world collecting artifacts that he installed throughout the gardens and stone walls surrounding the property.

Before he died, Hudgins established a $1 million endowment to maintain the gardens. Unfortunately, Moore said, Hudgins’ boyfriend James “went through that money” and by 1992 when “he dropped dead of a heart attack,” he’d spent all but $5,000.

Nevertheless, MMMG continued to operate and grow with that $5,000 because the community supported the museum and gardens. Now that it faces a loss of nearly $15,000, Moore said it is again time for the community — not just Chase City, but all of Mecklenburg County — to come to the aid of the historic property.

Bratton, in his call for help, described the importance of MMMG to Chase City and Mecklenburg County: “Obviously, we are not on a travel path to anywhere. There are no major highways passing anywhere near our corporate limits. Even so, MacCallum More is drawing tourists from as far west as California and recently hosted visitors from Great Britain. These visitors are coming to Chase City specifically to visit a historical garden and we must keep this attraction open.

“MacCallum More provides our access to the arts and the history of our town with displays from local artists, displays of priceless artifacts from black history, legendary citizens of Chase City, and from Native Americans. The possibilities for the garden have only been scratched with the Grand Illumination at Christmas, the Easter Egg hunt, Chili Cook-off, opportunities to hear live jazz performances, and the Native American education day where children from county schools are shown what life was like before the colonies were established. The facility is available for private parties and celebrations,” he said.

The question put to the audience by the mayor and board was how to save MacCallum More right now and ensure its future.

“MacCallum More has not yet been blessed with a sustaining endowment from some yet undiscovered source, and that means when the money runs out, our garden will have to close. When it closes, it will no longer be maintained and it will soon become overgrown with weeds and uncontrolled vines,” Bratton said.

More than the immediate need for operating funds — it costs approximately $5,000 each month to maintain the gardens — the MMMG Board is looking to establish a foundation that would serve as the financial support arm of the gardens. Their ultimate goal is to prevent future boards from having to overcome funding issues.

“It is time for those of us who want a future in Chase City and who want a future for Chase City to step up and lend a hand. Get involved. Help this be the shining example of what can be accomplished by a little town that would not quit. Let’s keep our MacCallum More alive and, more than that, let’s make it even better,” Bratton said.

Anyone interested in helping MacCallum More should contact Ramsey at (434) 372-0502 or go to their webpage at http://www.mmmg.org or their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/MacCallum-More-Museum-Gardens.





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