Working for one of the country’s oldest historic preservation organizations, the San Antonio Conservation Society, I spend my days thinking about the future: future members, future community needs, even future developments. Like many San Antonians, I was overjoyed to read about the transformational Weston Urban/Frost Bank proposal earlier this year that would invest almost $100 million into several downtown blocks, including historic buildings such as the Continental Hotel. Little-known fact: my office, lovingly nicknamed the Hay Loft, is on the second floor of a limestone barn that was relocated from one of those blocks in 1982.
Last month, the Conservation Society hosted the state’s first comprehensive workshop on the new historic rehabilitation tax credit that goes into effect Jan. 1, an incentive with the potential to turn vacant buildings into vibrant rock stars for our local economy. We communicate through 10 different social media accounts on six different platforms, from Facebook to Yelp, sharing stories about place making, urban revitalization, and sustainability. What, you think preservationists don’t get excited about stuff like that? Who sounds old-fashioned now?
There are a lot of things you might not know about the Conservation Society, like the amount of money that we award annually through our Community Grants program for bricks-and-mortar preservation projects and educational initiatives. This year, those grants totaled just short of $100,000. No kidding – apply for one next year, we could help you.
Every November, we take local fourth-graders on tours of local historic sites. This is no sticky-seat-windows-down yellow school bus adventure – these charter bus tours are led by expert tour guides, and the students ask great questions, because their teachers have been preparing them for weeks with the social studies curriculum that they brought back from our professional training session. These tours, and the workshop for teachers, are offered every year at no cost to local schools (see top photo).
We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. Those tours? They’re organized by volunteers. That’s right, dozens of amazing, generous volunteers start working in July to make sure more than 2,000 fourth grade students get to visit places including the Alamo, Fort Sam Houston, the San Antonio Missions, and the Witte’s South Texas Heritage Center in November. The Community Grants Committee is made up of volunteers, too. The San Antonio Conservation Society is volunteer-led, volunteer-driven, and volunteer-funded. We’re a nonprofit, so we rely on fundraising, a few grants, and donations from our members and the community – people just like you.
So let’s get back to that conversation about the future. What does the future look like for the San Antonio Conservation Society? It looks like you. This #GivingTuesday, remember that your generosity can make a difference in our community. You can make it possible for thousands of 9 and 10-year-old kids to learn about the history of our city by visiting the places where that history actually happened. Your donation of time or money can carry the work of this 90-year-old historic preservation organization into its next century.
You may have heard our president, Sue Ann Pemberton, say that preservation is how you manage change. Be a part of that change management. By giving to the San Antonio Conservation Society, you’re investing in the future of our city – supporting economic development, community building, and education of our future leaders. On Dec. 2, celebrate #GivingTuesday with us: join, give, or volunteer. We want you to be a part of our future.
There are dozens of organization to choose from to support this Tuesday registered at the official #GivingTuesday website and even more nonprofits and charities you can find through the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, The Big Give SA, San Antonio Area Foundation, Haven for Hope and more.