St. Helena Island, SC, May 6, 2019—Historic Penn Center has received support from the 1772 Foundation for a 12-month capacity building project. The project will improve Penn’s ability to sustain itself and be effective well beyond its current 157 year old history, which spans the Civil War, Reconstruction Era, and Civil Rights Movement—through today.
Penn Center has endured because of a strong commitment to serve the South Carolina sea island communities. The Penn Center trustees believe they are now at a critical turning point in the organization’s history. In 2017, an extraordinary moment in public history occurred with the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Monument. Penn Center’s Darrah Hall became one of four monument sites in Beaufort County. With the founding of Penn School in 1862, Beaufort County, SC became the birthplace of Reconstruction. In 2019, the Reconstruction monument expanded to become the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park in portions of Beaufort County to include St. Helena Island. Interim Executive Director Marion Burns said “these external events, as well as, internal changes lead us to the conclusion that we need to increase the effectiveness of Penn Center with a focus on the restoration, preservation and protection of the Penn Center physical assets. We also need to better support our ability to accomplish our mission by obtaining greater financial performance from our land and building assets, and also strengthen our programs, management systems and governance.” Burns further states, “We believe the two key capacity building strategies vital to Penn Center at this time, are the development of robust financial plans to diversify and expand our organizational revenue sources, and improve our organization’s operations, administration, and management. Penn would also like to establish stronger partnerships with local community groups and organizations like universities, the National Park Service, preservation organizations, and regional and national historical and cultural organizations.”
Specific activities and topics supported by the 1772 Foundation include a feasibility study, strategic planning, data collection, examination of best models, community visioning, organizational assessment and the examination of an internal revolving fund. The Foundation funding includes staffing, consultant and facilitation costs; and funds for group convening and meetings. This will be a short-term (one year) project, which will enable Penn Center to catalyze organizational development activities, strengthen the organization and help it better fulfill its mission.
Future staff requirements will be determined by the results of the planning process and feasibility study. The planning process will also reveal the qualities we will require as we search for a permanent executive director, as well as other staff and associated qualities.
Burns said “we anticipate being able to implement a new staffing plan through increased revenue from programs, grants and a new funding strategy.”