Port Royal's Old Village Association gets to work under new leadership

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Lowcountry Estuarium curator Bob Bender, right, gives Beaufort resident David Walker a lesson in throwing a cast net during the Festival of the Sea in downtown Port Royal in October 2010.

STAFF PHOTO

Port Royal's Old Village Association has new leadership that intends to ramp up its work to promote businesses and the town.

"We want to promote living, working shopping and just being in Port Royal and using all the services Port Royal has to offer, and to just enjoy the quaint little town that is like nowhere I've ever been," secretary Rose Ewing said.

Old Village Association, a nonprofit organization established in 2003, has become less active in recent years as membership dwindled. It had to cancel one of its two major annual fundraising events in 2013, and the town had to step in to assist with the other, this spring's Soft Shell Crab Festival, new chairwoman Nancy Plank said.

Former chairwoman Nancy Harris Vista, who was essentially left to run the group while still operating her own business and dealing with health problems, was glad to see people interested in getting involved.

"I've done this for a long time, and it's time for some new blood," Harris Vista said.

Along with Plank and Ewing, the new leaders are vice chairwoman Mikki Rolain, treasurer Lynn McCartney and Town Council representative Joe Lee.

"I hope to see the businesses come together and do stuff to benefit the town and all of the businesses," Lee said, suggesting ideas such as beautification projects, small festivals and cleanup events.

The group's board met Monday at Mikki's All-American Cuisine on Paris Avenue to discuss the festivals; additional, smaller community events; advertising; and recruiting members, especially those outside of downtown.

Androula Weiland, formerly of Main Street Beaufort, USA, is obtaining sponsorships for the Soft Shell Crab Festival on April 19 and is more than two-thirds of the way to the $9,000 goal. Weiland was hired as the event planner, so OVA could focus on business needs and she could focus on the festival, Lee said.

OVA leaders say the group also will tend to its finances and increase its membership. Membership is open to anyone who supports the association's mission, regardless of whether they own a business or live in Port Royal, according to its website.

Plank said the association did not have any members when it was restarted but has a handful of people who have signed up since. Annual dues are $120.

When she closed the group's former account with Community Bank and Trust, it had about $2,200 in it, McCartney said. That money has been transferred to an account at Marine Federal Credit Union.

The association is also sorting out paperwork and finances from the past year. Bills were being sent to a post office box that was not being checked, said McCartney, who is also business development officer at Marine Federal Credit Union.

The organization has about $13,000 in debt, about half of which is owed in taxes. However, McCartney said she expects the tax debt to be lowered significantly when it files financial statements, and the group is beginning to pay down its other debts, she said.

Lowcountry Estuarium curator Bob Bender was part of the group that started the association.

"When I moved here, I had spent 16 years on the board of Main Street (in Beaufort), and the idea was to get something like that started here," he said.

He sat on the association board for two years and said it had steadily grown until about three years ago, when it began to decline. Bender said he's glad to see the organization being "rejuvenated."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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