By Barry Dalton
The Lincoln School in Vandalia has been awarded $4,500 in CARES funding through the Audrain County Commision. The funds were used to pay off the loan that the founding members of Concerned Citizens to Save Lincoln School took out to purchase and restore the historical building.
When the group bought the building from a junk dealer in the late 1990s, a hand-painted sign hung on the front door that said, “Carpet, Used Trucks.” The lawn was littered with spare tires and junk; the wooden doors and windows were damaged; the heating and cooling systems were nonfunctioning; the bathrooms and kitchens were unusable; many of the walls and floors were crumbling and the roof needed repairs.
The concerned citizens, led by Joyce Holman, worked to get the Lincoln School placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. They’ve been doing fundraisers and paying dues ever since to slowly raise the money to pay off the loan, make repairs, do renovations and pay the utility bills. But the restoration is still less than 50 percent complete.
“Nonprofits are not the economic drivers of the community but they are what build the fabric of the community,” Eastern District Commissioner Alan Winders said. “We can’t make them whole but maybe we can keep them alive for another year.”
In March 2020, Audrain County received $2.95 million in CARES funding to help businesses, government bodies and nonprofits mitigate their pandemic-related losses. The Audrain County Commission met with county leaders and stakeholders to devise a phased funding application and distribution plan that continued through the end of 2020.
The Lincoln School, which is currently one of only four places in Audrain County on the National Park Service’s historic places list, received funds in phase four of the plan. In addition to paying off its note, the group will also use some of the funds, together with their dues payments, to do some immediate repairs, such as the back windows, and to get an estimate for repairing the school’s roof.
“We feel wonderful about the CARES funding,” Holman said. “We feel a whole lot let stress, and now all of our fundraising can go to restoration.”
Current dues-paying members are Holman, Jesse Salmon, Donna Holman, Catherine Salmon, Matthew Salmon, Mr. & Mrs. Miller, Inez McPike and Charles Overton. Monthly volunteers include Roger Chatman, Sam and Georgie Chatman, Barbara Clark, Tina Parker, Art Wiser, Leo Salmon, Barbara Holman and Larry Wheeler.
“We couldn’t have [kept going] without our [contributors and volunteers] every month,” Holman said.
Holman said the group hopes to be able to hold a fundraiser, perhaps one of their locally known chicken suppers or maybe a pie sale, later this year once the pandemic eases up.
“Everybody’s a little scared,” she said. “Because we’re all senior citizens.”