Thursday, Apr 18, 2019

Mary Ayer still having an impact

Six years before her death in 1895, Mary D. Ayer, widow of Harvard founder, Elbridge G. Ayer, made provisions for an endowment to benefit all the citizens of Harvard. The legacy is still alive, well and active after 125 years.

Mrs. Ayer owned a house (known as Temperance Hall) on Hart Street, now across from Central School, that was to be used, occupied and controlled by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union as long as the organization existed. The CTU was to use the property for temperance and charitable purposes to benefit the town of Harvard, not individual citizens.

In 1911, the original board of trustees consisted of a daughter and wives of businessmen of Harvard: Mrs. Harriet Eastman (daughter of Harvard State Bank president), Mrs. Fanny Wellington (wife of a prominent dairy farmer), Mrs. H.L. Ferris (wife of the inventor and part owner of Starline Factory,) Mrs. A.C. Manley (wife of owner of Manley Hardware Co.) and Mrs. H.B. Minier (wife of a contractor of railroad supplies, groceries and crockery).

The trustees decided to rebuild the house into two flats and rename it Temperance Flats. The five trustee members signed a personal note to pay for the remodeling.

Today, the five-woman trustee board meets every five months, and trustees are appointed by the city of Harvard. Those carrying the responsibility of the endowment fund in 2014 are Amy Beetstra, Sue Melson, Brenda Gratz, Rita Hagenbruch and Barbara Weidner.

Temperance Flats has been sold, but the money and interest thereof continues to be available for projects of not-for-profit groups the trustees feel will enhance the citizens of the town.

“We don’t get many requests for the available money,” said Beetstra, president of the Mary D. Ayer Endowment Fund.

According to Beetstra, there has been a misconception that this money is available for individual scholarships. It is not. Mrs. Ayer stipulated the money be used to help all the citizens of Harvard in various ways. Individual scholarships do not meet her criteria. Beetstra is pleased that among other places, monetary assistance has been given to Harvard Radio Station, improvements have been made to Mary D. Ayer Park located on the south side of Harvard, and Harvard High School has received money for uniforms.

“The largest amount ever approved was $13,000 to the Harvard Care Center in 2002. We were pleased to give $3,000 to help supply the nurses lounge when Harvard Hospital was built,” Beetstra said.

Melson, who has been on the board since April 2013, is the board secretary. Of the only donation she has been involved with so far, Melson said, “We donated money to the baseball/softball fields located at Milky Way Park. We donated money for the fill and maintenance of the fields hoping that they would be safer and the quality a little bit better. My understanding since being on the committee is that we want to donate something that would help the community, not just individuals.

“I really feel it (the board) has a great heart and wish there was more money to donate to the community,” Melson said. The Mary D. Ayer Board is eager to receive applications for funds from not-for-profit groups.

“We generally give $500 to $1,000 when a project is approved,” said Beetstra.

Applications for monetary assistance from the Mary D. Ayer Board not-for-profit organizations can be picked up at the city of Harvard building, 201 W. Diggins St., Harvard.