2020 has challenged Historic Oakland Foundation, along with so many nonprofits, in new and untold ways. Happily, we end the year in good standing, though if you had told me in early April that this would be the case, I may not have believed you. I am so proud of all associated with Historic Oakland Foundation including our staff, board, volunteers, and members. I am particularly proud of these accomplishments from this unforgettable year:
Keeping our gates open and opening new gates
Oakland has remained open this year as we’ve worked with the City of Atlanta to keep the cemetery accessible, beautiful, and safe. To be able to provide our friends and neighbors to the east and southeast with easier physical access by opening a new East Gate in July was deeply gratifying and a testament to many people’s hard work over the last few years. If you haven’t seen the East Gate yet, make sure you check it out. Keep your eyes open for more way-finding signage on the East Hill coming soon.
Our plant sales
Whether it’s flowers, bulbs, rhizomes, or wreaths, we love when people can take a little bit of Oakland home with them. I am proud of our gardens staff for making this year’s plant sales safe for visitors, and I am grateful to all of you for helping make our sales so successful. All proceeds from these sales go back into making Oakland’s gardens look beautiful for our visitors. We’re looking forward to bringing you more sales starting in spring, 2021.
Being recognized for excellence in preservation
The remarkable hard work and dedication of many, under the leadership of Director of Preservation Ashley Shares, made the restoration of Oakland’s 1908 Women’s Comfort Station possible. All of this hard work was recognized by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation this year when they awarded this important project their “Excellence in Rehabilitation” award. If you haven’t checked out this amazing little building while wandering in Oakland, make sure you do so the next time you’re visiting.
Creating new ways to share Oakland Cemetery with the public
Whether through clever scavenger hunts, virtual 5Ks, or hybrid in-person/virtual special events like Juneteenth and Sunday in the Park, we’ve tried to come up with creative ways for you to stay connected to Oakland Cemetery this year. We have a lot more planned for 2021, so stay tuned!
In addition to new programming, we’ve also expanded our digital capacities. We are proud of the added functionality of our updated online Museum Store and of the new Digital Membership Portal, which brings added benefits to our members’ desktops and phones. If you’re an Oakland member, check your recent member newsletter to get access.
The Capturing the Spirit of Oakland film
Of course, our greatest digital innovation was a vital pivot: while we missed seeing thousands of you in late October for one of my personal favorite events of the year, I’m so proud of the staff, volunteers, and partners who worked their socks off under a tight time crunch to be able to deliver an outstanding Capturing the Spirit of Oakland virtual experience. This year’s film allowed viewers all over the country to Oakland to hear the compelling stories of some of our residents and gave us a new medium for sharing our history in a safe and creative way. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you can check it out here.
Elevating community partnerships
Historic Oakland Foundation is a community-focused organization, and we couldn’t do the work we do without a myriad of community partners whom we are proud to work with, support, and elevate. We’re excited about what we’ve achieved this year with Flux, Big Bethel AME, the Apex Museum, GSU’s Public History Program, Emory and GA Tech’s MBA Programs, our friends at the Atlanta History Center, and the Girl Scouts of America. We’re always looking to find ways to connect with other institutions that define the Atlanta experience, and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been cooking up with Morris Brown College and the public history students at Kennesaw State in 2021.
Making HOF a more diverse and inclusive organization
We’ve been doing a lot of work internally to make Historic Oakland Foundation a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, accessible, and anti-racist organization, and we know that these are just the first steps on a much longer journey. We’ll be posting early in 2021 about what we’ve been up to and what we’ve got planned.
Looking for silver linings
Though our usual flurry of events, tours, and activities was curtailed this year, we’ve tried to seize a silver lining. We’ve used the extra time on our hands to strengthen our organization internally in a way that will benefit us long after this pandemic is over. We’ve converted to a new accounting system, introduced new internal controls and practices, and secured healthcare and benefits for all of our staff. While this isn’t the kind of work that stands out when you visit Oakland, it’s the necessary work that allows us to care for and share this special place and be the best organization we can be.
I’m proud of our incredible staff who have adjusted to the challenges of this year with great determination, nimbleness, and a lot of good humor. I’m proud that we’ve been able to keep our entire staff working (with the generous help of our many supporters and donors) and delivering on our mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery in partnership with the City of Atlanta.
I hope you and your families are having a happy and safe holiday season. If you’ve enjoyed Oakland this year and appreciate our work to preserve and share Atlanta’s oldest greenspace, please consider including us in your year-end (tax-deductible) giving. And if you’re looking for a way to get out of the house, come and visit Oakland – don’t forget that our downloadable, family-friendly Holiday Hunt runs through January 3rd.