Meet Howard Harrell, our prize-winning volunteer

It takes a lot of special people to keep the wheels turning at historic Yates Mill. Let us introduce you to one of them!

You probably know that Yates Mill Associates has no paid staff. And while the park itself is run by Wake County, recent tight budgets and the departure of some staff members has stretched thin the remaining crew.

That’s why our volunteers are so important and so deeply appreciated. And each year, we honor a top volunteer with the Henry Marshall Award. The prize has been presented by Yates Mill Associates annually since 1995 to honor an individual who has provided outstanding contributions to the restoration, promotion, and demonstration of historic Yates Mill.

This spring at our annual members’ meeting, we honored Howard Harrell, who occupies the critically important role of treasurer on the Yates Mill Associates board of directors. Howard makes sure we make the best use of your gifts, which go toward maintenance and repair of our beloved mill. [Pictured: Howard, on the left, receives the award from board President John Vandenbergh.]

He was particularly busy in the past year or so as we hosted the national conference of the Society of the Preservation of Old Mills. The annual event, held here in September 2010, was attended by more than 100 mill owners and enthusiasts from across the United States and Canada. Howard played an essential role, developing the event’s budget, organizing volunteers and vendors, and balancing the books at the end of the conference.

During the rest of the year, Howard is a regular presence at corn-grinding weekends and other YMA events, selling cornmeal and logo merchandise and helping visitors to fully appreciate and enjoy Yates Mill. [At left, he’s giving the treasurer’s report at our annual meeting last May.]

The volunteer award is named in memory of Henry Marshall, who as the NC State University Farm Superintendent protected the then-decaying Yates Mill from complete collapse until it could be returned to its former beauty. After his retirement, Henry spent countless volunteer hours helping in the restoration of Yates Mill.

The award presentation is one of the highlights of our annual meeting, held each spring at Yates Mill. This year’s celebration, held in May, was organized by board member Carolyn Solomon, with the gracious help of park staff including manager Tim Lisk and program director Rebeccah Cope (who also took these photos – thanks!).

Our head miller, William Robbins, treated members to complimentary mill tours while Side Street Catering provided delicious drinks and food. We also held a raffle of gifts provided by businesses (Marriott Crabtree Valley Hotel, Five Points Restaurant and Mitchells Catering) and individuals (Craig Mitchell, Debbie Hamrick, Ed Gaines, Jeanne Robbins and Fairley Bell Cook). Thanks so much to these supporters for their generosity!

Visit the Yates Mill County Park page on Facebook to view photos from the annual meeting and many other events. (You don’t have to be a Facebook member to view the photos.)

If you’re a member of Yates Mill Associates, keep an eye on the mail for an invitation to our next annual meeting, scheduled for May 2, 2012. If your membership is due to expire, renew now by visiting our website to donate online or get information about mailing your gift. In return for your donation, we’ll send you a complimentary pass for one mill tour, which you can use yourself or share with a friend.

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