Despite the pandemic, there’s a lot of shakin’ going on in Canterbury – Concord Monitor

Posted By on June 12, 2020

Less than a month after Leslie Nolan was named executive director of Canterbury Shaker Village, the world changed.

That meant Nolan had fallen into that unique, scary category, the one that forced new bosses brand new bosses to change strategy on the fly as the pandemic began moving.

I had to make some excruciatingly difficult decisions, Nolan said by phone.

She can breathe easier knowing that $103,000 has been raised to restore the historical, worn-and-torn structures on the property, led by a passionate push to revamp the old schoolhouse.

These are private donations raised over 24 hours in a coordinated effort by NH Gives, an affiliate of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits and its certainly good news for the rookie director.

In fact, plenty of New Hampshire nonprofits got good news Wednesday when the annual giving drive wrapped up. What they saw was a record $3.2 million raised across the state in a two-day blitz.

That infusion served as a bit of a reprieve for the village, which, like really all businesses and nonprofits, has suffered mightily over the past few months.

This has been an eye opener, but what can you do? Nolan said. But its okay because we are busier than ever. There have been a number of grant initiatives to help spruce up our buildings and restore them from stem to stern. Its to honor the Shaker tradition, how they care about one another and their community and their buildings.

The Shakers have a 200-year history in Canterbury and boast 700 acres and 30 buildings. They were one of a number of Shaker communities founded in the 19th century across the country.

The museum opened in 1969 to make sure the Shaker heritage would not be forgotten, and the site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

But as a nonprofit, funding can be tricky. Then again, the rich history of the village and its importance nationwide is a strong fundraising tool. Donations, a minimum of $10, are suggested at Shaker events, but, as of now, thats a thing of the past because the whole complex has been closed since March.

That immediately put Nolan on the spot, forcing her to lay off two staff members. Events were canceled, impeding the flow of private donations and stripping the area of poetry, music, and history, and guided tours were gone.

The Community Clean-Up and Potluck was postponed in April. Then, last month, the Opening Day and Heifer Parade was postponed, followed by the cancellation of the13th annual Canterbury Shaker Village 5K race.

The buildings were deemed too small to create social distancing, but that hasnt stopped Nolan.

Shes tough, a world traveler, having restored a Jewish cemetery and founded a teen library while serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. She also worked for the Wilton Historical Society and attended seven schools because her parents moved a lot.

The coronavirus is a challenge, but Nolan is already charging forward with a summer schedule that she hopes can begin on time, or at least close.

She gushed about the free guided tour each Saturday and Sunday in July, and shes thrilled to have Juilliard School-trained cellist Jan Fuller, a Concord native, play each Sunday through July.

Elsewhere, New Hampshires poet laureate, Alexandra Peary, will read on July 19, and Amanda Whitworth, the N.H. artist laureate, will dance at the Shaker Village on July 26.

Meanwhile, the facelift on all those buildings begins this summer, and the schoolhouse through recent years seems to have attracted the most attention.

Built in 1823, the one-room schoolhouse was moved to its present location, at the village, in 1863, when the Shakers raised the first floor 12 feet and added a first floor below it.

The Shakers loved moving buildings, Nolan said. And they were very innovative.

Times like this require someone with innovation and vision and patience, not to mention a high-octane personality to keep on top of the elements as they try to wear down this part of history.

We have a lot of things that need sprucing up here, Nolan said. Our buildings need a lot of work, roofs, painting, infrastructure, and the money will help us do it.

And while her job description changed drastically soon after taking the job, Nolan knows shell be leading by example, with enthusiasm playing a big part of what she needs to do.

I dont mean to toot my own horn, but Im optimistic, Nolan said. I have a pretty sunny personality.

Nice. Its been dark around here lately.

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Despite the pandemic, there's a lot of shakin' going on in Canterbury - Concord Monitor

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