It could be because her mom was born in Beaverdams more than a century ago. Or that she herself is a lifelong resident of the tight-knit, historic village.
But the main reason Helene Miller has spent the last 40 years helping to protect her hometown's heritage stems from her passion for history.
“My mom was born here in 1920,” she told Thorold Today. “It's a part of history. It's important for us to know our roots and what our ancestors had to do to get freedom and education. People came to Canada from other countries. We don't do much (to preserve) history in Canada. In Europe, they do so much.”
Beaverdams Church and its adjacent cemetery contain a treasure trove of “history of all the families,” she said, adding that there are Thorold children, victims of an early 1900s flu epidemic, who are buried in the lakeside cemetery, among many other early settlers.
“Beaverdams used to be the hub of this area and once the canals came in,” Thorold and its population moved closer to them, leaving Beaverdams a preserved rural community.
“We had a general store and a hall and a schoolhouse, and the street car used to come and stop at the end of the road. My eldest brother took it.”
As for the church, constructed in 1832 by a group of Methodist Episcopal pioneers who arrived in Niagara near Thorold in the 1790s from New Jersey after the American Revolution, “It makes Beaverdams unique,” Miller stated.
Miller has supported the church's step-by-step resurrection since the 1980s.
“This is the third or fourth committee I've been on,” she explained; from the ratepayers' association to the restoration committee to the current-day Friends of Beaverdams, which now boasts 149 members and one corporation, Bocchinfuso Funeral Home. Miller, who's in charge of membership for the Friends, said the major renovations occurred when the Friends purchased the church from the City of Thorold in 2014.
“We're always looking for support from new members and corporations.”
Now that the exterior has been completely revamped, the elegant interior is taking shape.
One Thorold couple has already planned to get married in the intimate lakeside church, when it's completed.
In addition to weddings, the venue—with its outstanding natural acoustics—will welcome concerts, cultural events and community functions in the near future. It will be wheelchair accessible.
Kickstarting the “Let There Be Light” fundraising campaign, to help rewire and illuminate the church, the 2nd annual online Yard Sale will start Friday, June 18, at 9 a.m., and will feature 60+ new or gently used items, many of which would make excellent Father's Day gifts. The sale runs online until June 30.
A like-new leather recliner, power tools, appliances, seasonal, recreational, vintage, and many other useful and decorative items are available, all at reasonable prices and featuring curbside pickup.
Miller has offered her vintage Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls for the cause.
“You'd ave to spend a lot more” than $200 for the mint condition collectibles, still in the box, if purchased elsewhere.
To view the available items, visit the online store here.