McDuffie County became the home of a new non-profit organization this week. Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development was born out of several groups hoping to acquire private funding to foster the area's potential for growth.
The organization will have the aim of preserving history through a variety of programs. It will also look at linking those to commercial projects throughout the county.
"This type of company is something we've considered in the past and decided that it's time was finally right," said Thomson Mayor Bob Knox in a press release. "A community in the middle of upgrading its downtown asset base needs every option available to stimulate that redevelopment, including private sector contribution and assistance."
The idea of a private non-profit organization was discussed at the last Downtown Development Authority meeting. Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers, who is also a board member, said the organization grew out of those and other similar discussions.
Mayor Knox, who is also one of the organization's board members, announced in the press release that former Watson-Brown Foundation Executive Director Mary Anne Coussons would be the group's first boss.
"Mary Anne has great people and communication skills, is well known out in the community, and her heart is here in Thomson," he said in the release.
Mrs. Coussons was glad to take the helm of the new organization that she said has a strong board that will provide her with guidance. She said her background at the Watson-Brown foundation will be beneficial in the new task at hand.
"I think that in working at the foundation I have worked with a variety of groups, so I can bring some leadership and some interpersonal skills here," Mrs. Coussons said. "...It's still all so new that we're just forging our way."
Mr. Powers said the board was glad to get the services of Mrs. Coussons who is a member of the Thomson community.
"We thought about ways that we could involve local people, and she was one of them," Mr. Powers said.
He added that the organization's first task is to develop strategic plan to financially keep the organization afloat and accomplish its purposes. After that, work on the museum and the old Thomson Company buildings could be on the agenda for the group. Mrs. Coussons added that store-front renovation will be near the top of the list.
The Depot will house the organization until it can acquire office space of its own. Its startup was funded by private donations.