River Cities

Miami Springs Historical Society holds fall kick-off party

Any visitor to the Miami Springs Historical Society 2014 fall kick-off party last Saturday probably would have expected to hear a lot of discussion of the past while milling about the crowd.

It was, after all, a gathering of history lovers.

But on this night, the buzz was about the future. And for the Historical Society, that future appears to be bright.

The nearly 200 guests who made their way through “The Alamo,” the historic Miami Springs home of Frank and Yvonne Shonberger got to hear the news first-hand: The Historical Society is on its way to new ground, with a museum in a dedicated building in its sights.

The Miami Springs Historical Museum, which is operated by the Society, moved out of its previous storefront location on Westward Drive about a year ago to make way for its next setting. The new site, at 501 E. Dr., is currently closed with its museum artifacts in storage, but improvements and upgrades are in the works so that it may be developed to welcome the public in the near future.

“We are moving forward with the support of the city,” Jim Watson, communications coordinator for the Historical Society, told the crowd. “The city has given us a building, but we have to rebuild it for public access. Thank you to the city of Miami Springs.”

Indeed, local government representatives were there: Miami Springs council members Mike Windrem and Jaime Petralanda attended, and from the Village of Virginia Gardens were council members Richard Block and Steven Petterson. State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez was also present to show his support for the organization and its efforts.

Watson explained that the Society is working with the architectural firm Perkins + Will, funded by a grant from the American Institute of Architects 1% Program. Another partnership with the American Alliance of Museums has allowed the Society to move the Museum toward accreditation, such as with a self-study, which will help the organization align itself with national standards. This will put it on par with institutions such as the Smithsonian and other highly rated museums.

“We will be working in the next few weeks with drawings — permitting, code matching, and leveraging support with engineering companies to defer costs,” said Watson. “Everything’s moving ahead, but good things take a while.”

That’s not all that’s new on the horizon for the Historical Society. Those who wish to support the Society now have another way to do so.

“You all probably know Amazon.com,” said Lili Martinez, Historical Society treasurer. “Now you can take part in their AmazonSmile program, and help out the Society every time you shop there. Half a percent of every purchase will go toward the Miami Springs Historical Society.” Anyone interesting in participating should register at www.smile.amazon.com and select the Miami Springs Historical Society as their preferred charity.

Jennifer Graham, society vice president of development, reported yet another opportunity to support the Society and Museum, in a way that gives back to the donor.

“Through the ‘Johnny’s Angel’ program, every $10 donated to the Historical Society will be matched with a $10 gift certificate to Johnny’s Soda Fountain & Luncheonette (at 45 Curtiss Parkway on the Miami Springs circle). For example, if someone donates $50, they will get five $10 gift certificates to Johnny’s.”

The annual kickoff event, which is always open to the public, offered attendees a chance to mingle, enjoy a generous offering of refreshments, share their common interests, and support the Society. Even though the Museum is not open yet, supporters can still gear up to help.

“You can get a head start and be thinking how you can help,” said Society President Beverly Roetz. “We are looking to extend the days of operation of the Museum, and have it open through the early evening for working folks. We have been working with the city manager and council members to get this going. This is an opportunity for volunteers to sign on to help.”

In other Historical Society news, future events were mentioned. The Society will have their annual Tour of Homes, but this year it will be offered in November rather than December, when it is usually held.

“There have been people who could never show their homes in December, so we are trying something new,” said Yvonne Shonberger, vice president of operations.

Something else to look out for is a Historical Society Day at the Hialeah Racetrack; other events are on the horizon as well and will be announced in the near future.

A few ceremonial formalities took place. Watson received an award for Museum Volunteer of the Year 2014, and Yvonne and Frank Shonberger were made lifetime members of the society, but not without a big change.

“As of Oct. 1, Yvonne will no longer be the museum director,” declared Roetz. “We are taking care of all the details, but we want the Shonbergers to feel that they deserve to be lifetime members.” Yvonne was presented with a crystal trophy honoring her service to the Society and Museum.

For anyone interested in getting involved with the Miami Springs Historical Society and the Miami Springs Historical Museum, the Society will hold its first general meeting of the year on Oct. 2 at the Curtiss Mansion at 7:30 p.m. This event is open to everyone. There are plenty of opportunities to help, as volunteers and committee chairs are needed.

Membership dues to the Miami Springs Historical Society are $20 for individuals and $30 for families.

“Even though we don’t have a museum open yet, we’re moving, a day at a time,” said Roetz.

For more information about the Miami Springs Historical Society and the Miami Springs Historical Museum, visit online atmiamispringshistoricalsociety.org.