$2 Million In Preservation Grants Aim To Highlight Diversity


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A preservation group is inviting the public to vote on 20 sites across the country that showcase the nation's diversity and the fight for equality as part of a $2 million historic preservation campaign.

The project is a collaboration between The National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express and Main Street America.

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Voters have from Monday through Oct. 26 to vote for their favorite location and then the money will be apportioned to the top vote getters.

Sites include the Alabama church where four black girls were killed during a 1963 bombing, a church in Los Angeles that was a hub for Mexican immigrants and a Miami building often referred to as the Ellis Island of the South because of its support for Cuban refugees.

Germonique Ulmer from The National Trust for Historic Preservation says the "Partners in Preservation" campaign started in 2006. So far it's committed over $22 million-plus to support more than 200 historic sites across the country. Last year's campaign focused on various projects to preserve theaters, parks, landmarks and other venues in downtowns, historic neighborhoods and cultural districts.

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This year the 20 sites chosen in some way reflect the country's diversity, multiculturalism and fight for equality.

"It's just a wonderful collection of sites that really help bring together the story of our diverse nation," Ulmer said. She said the campaign also aims to get people to see the "beauty and opportunity" in old buildings.

One of the 20 locations is The Women's Building in San Francisco, a community center started in 1979 to help women. Teresa Mejia, the executive director, said it was started by a group of women who had difficulty finding a place to hold a conference on violence against women, so they decided they needed their own building. The organization provides various services to women, such as helping them find jobs or learn computer skills, and houses a food pantry. The building also houses nine other organizations helping women.

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They will use the grant money to replace windows on the 1910 building. Noemi Zulberti, the facilities director, says many of the windows don't close properly, which means more noise inside and wasted energy. Mejia, noting the number of women running for office this year, said people don't have to wait until Election Day to vote for women. They can cast their vote Monday for their project.

"We need to take care of the building because it's our main asset," she said.

Each of the 20 locations will receive $20,000 to help bring attention to their project and get people to vote for them. Each site also hosts an open house weekend from Oct. 19-21 during which they open their doors to the local community and encourage people to come by and vote, Ulmer said. The winners will be announced Oct. 29.

To vote people can go to http://VoteYourMainStreet.org.


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