I don’t recall my first visit to the Southwest Florida Historical Society.
Was it 15 years ago? Or 20 years? I have no idea.
I also don’t know what topic sent me to the society’s Little Yellow House research center on the campus of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts, mere steps away from the Midpoint Bridge in Fort Myers.
But I suspect I immediately fell in love with the place, with all that history, with the newspaper clippings, books, maps, photos, paintings and the cozy feel of a place where history is revered and saved. I became ensconced in history. George Costanza wanted to be ensconced, positively draped in velvet on “Seinfeld.” I like being ensconced in history.
The volunteers were helpful and friendly, positively eager to assist in any way they could. Yes, I liked the place from the start.
What started as research for a Fort Myers News-Press story led to more and more trips to the Little Yellow House, more time digging through files and flipping through books and seeking that just right historical photo for yet another story. The trips initially were for News-Press history stories and in the past five years for other stories for publications such as Florida Weekly, Gulfshore Life and Times of the Islands.
Then last night, after three years on the board as a vice president, I became the venerable organization’s president.
It’s a sacred responsibility. I like making goofy comments on my Facebook page but I’ll refrain from doing so in this blog post. Not here. Not now. I’m taking this role seriously.
The Southwest Florida Historical Society has been around more than 50 years and I’m following in the footsteps and standing on the shoulders of dozens, even hundreds of volunteers who have kept the society humming along all those years.
We’re all volunteers. We do the work and spend the hours at the Little Yellow House because we love history and Southwest Florida. The society is a small non-profit. The volunteers don’t do it for the money. We pay membership dues to belong.
We spend our time at the society preserving and sharing history. The work never ends. More history is created every day.
We work to raise money to keep our doors open, to keep the air conditioning going and the lights on and to pay for inkjet cartridges.
Every time I walk into the Little Yellow House I discover something new, something I didn’t know before.
It’s a special place and being its president is a high honor.
The society has been around since the early 1960s and nearly all that time has gotten along swimmingly without my help. If I walked away tomorrow it would continue to function and serve its role in the community.
I just want to help in whatever small ways I can. Lining up speakers for our monthly speaker series. Helping publicize the society. Aiding researchers who come into the Little Yellow House.
I’m still not sure how all this happened, how I evolved from occasional visitor and researcher into president. Well, OK, I sort of know. About three years ago somebody asked me if I wanted to serve on the board.
Ah, sure, I guess.
Before I knew it I was second vice president. Then the first vice president resigned because of health issues. I was bumped up to first vice president, just below president Joanne Semmer.
Joanne’s term ended last night and now I’m president. I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing – finding speakers, posting tidbits on the society’s Facebook page, helping with research, writing press releases, answering the phone, taking out the trash, picking up mail, attending board meetings and sharing the society’s story.
My title may be different now but the society’s goal remains the same for every board member and volunteer – preserving Southwest Florida history.