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Fundraising drive for Havre de Grace Colored School enters finals days

A month-long fundraising drive to raise more than $150,000 to purchase the former home of the Havre de Grace Colored School is entering its final days as Monday’s closing date approaches.
A month-long fundraising drive to raise more than $150,000 to purchase the former home of the Havre de Grace Colored School is entering its final days as Monday’s closing date approaches. (MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A month-long fundraising drive to raise more than $150,000 to purchase the former home of the Havre de Grace Colored School is entering its final days as Monday’s closing date approaches.

“We hope to change the signs from ‘for sale’ to say ‘future site of the Colored School Museum and Cultural Center,” Patricia Cole, committee chair of the Colored School Foundation, said Wednesday.

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The foundation has raised $126,000 of the $153,000 purchase price, Cole said.

Donors can also support by attending community fundraisers. One such event, “A Night of History,” is Friday night at Havre de Grace Middle School, Erika Quesenbery, director of economic development, announced during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

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Eighth-graders will give presentations on “history, culture and heritage,” and there will be a silent auction, T-shirt sales and concessions, Quesenbery said.

The event, which is also meant to celebrate Black History Month, will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the school gymnasium. There is no admission fee, but donations to the foundation are “strongly encouraged,” according to the website. The students have a fundraising goal of $2,000.

The foundation is working with the nonprofit Community Projects of Havre de Grace Inc. through the Each One Reach One campaign to raise the money. The campaign was announced in late January, following an 18-month community effort to obtain the building that resulted in an agreement with the owners to sell it to the foundation at a cost of $153,000.

The goal is to create a cultural center and museum in the building at 555 Alliance St. to “remember, promote and preserve the rich history and legacy of the Havre de Grace Colored School,” according to the foundation’s website.

The structure is a medical office building, according to state property records. The family of the late Dr. Gunther Hirsch, a former Havre de Grace City Council member, mayor and president of the Harford County Council, owns the property.

The foundation is receiving the property at a deep discount, according to foundation leaders who said previously it was appraised at $625,000 and was being marketed for $800,000.

The property was a segregated school for local black children, from elementary through high school, from 1910 until 1953. Black students in the Havre de Grace region then attended Havre de Grace Consolidated School in the Oakington area — now Roye-Williams Elementary School — from 1953 to 1965, when Harford County Public Schools were desegregated.

The Hirsch family will donate the former Colored School property to the foundation, which is raising funds to pay off the remaining mortgage of $153,000, Cole said. The closing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in Bel Air.

“If everything goes well, we’ll have a small celebration at the school,” Cole said.

Cole said foundation leaders have had discussions with people in the community who might loan them money, if they fall short of their fundraising goal.

“We are talking with certain individuals to see if that would be a possibility,” she said.

Cole said donations are coming in “every day.” The administration of Harford County Executive Barry Glassman pledged $50,000, the county executive confirmed earlier this month. Burt Hash Jr., a former president and CEO of Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore and a graduate of Havre de Grace Consolidated, the segregated school that succeeded the school on Alliance Street, has pledged $5,000.

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Havre de Grace City Councilman Jason Robertson reminded residents during Tuesday’s council meeting that “the clock is ticking” and urged people to contribute to the foundation.

“If you have not done so, please, please, please go online, look them up, look at the website, go ahead and donate,” he said.

Robertson said organizers are “so close to their goal.”

“I think we can do this as a community,” he said. “It’s really not much, if a lot of people pitch in.”

People can donate online at http://www.hdgcoloredschool.net/donate, or send checks by mail. Checks should be made out to Community Projects of Havre de Grace, and donors should write “Colored School Foundation” in the memo line, according to the website.

Checks can be mailed to: P.O. Box 799, Havre de Grace, MD 21078.

Councilwoman Casi Tomarchio encouraged people to attend Friday’s Havre de Grace Middle School event to support local youth.

“They’re doing this, not just to celebrate African-American history but also to make a difference in the history of Havre de Grace today — their own history, moving forward,” she said.

Tomarchio issued a challenge: “If you care about our kids, show up.”

If people cannot attend, then they should send someone to donate, she said.

“Help these kids raise money and show them that we care about their success and we want them to be part of our future,” she said.

The foundation is giving back to the community, too. The 2018 Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical Contest is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Helping Hands Ministries at 3237 Level Road in Churchville. Admission is free, according to the website.

Cole said the famed poet visited the Colored School often. Harford County middle and high school students will compete for scholarships, funded by Cole’s husband, Roosevelt Barfield.

Six students, out of the 10 who applied, will compete, although all 10 will receive scholarships. One middle school student and one high school student can each earn $500 for first prize; second prize is $300 each, third prize is $200, and four runners up earn $100 each, Cole said.

Cole said events such as the Oratorical Contest are designed to give back to the community and educate people about the Colored School.

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