BIG STONE GAP — The Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center is asking town council for a standing donation of $2,000 per year.
Joyce Palmer, president of the Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center, informed council that the organization is not longer a part of Lonesome Pine Arts and Craft and is its own non-profit.
“The town gives about $4,000 to $4,500 to Lonesome Pine Arts and Crafts and that is split between the drama, the Fox House and June Tolliver House,” said Joyce during a phone conversation. “We won’t get any of that.”
Volunteers are trying to raise money to expand the building. The addition, a 30-foot by 30-foot room, will cost an estimated $85,000. They have raised $36,000 in the past two years. The $2,000 yearly donation from town council would help cover the increased insurance cost from the addition and a small cushion for maintenance.
“We pretty much operate off of donations,” said Palmer.
She explained that the organization doesn’t sell products or anything to generate revenue. All of its funds to operate come from donations and volunteers.
The Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center started out as two rooms in the June Tolliver House. It has been at the present location across the street from the June Tolliver Playhouse on Clinton Avenue since 2006. The center has outgrown the space.
“We have between 70,000 and 75,000 photos and hundreds of local books and photos from the film ‘Big Stone Gap,’” said curator Garnett Gilliam.
The rooms are filled with artifacts, from diaries more than a century old to East Stone Gap High School band uniforms. There are photos of coal camps throughout Wise County and yearbooks from local schools that no longer exist, including one yearbook from Central High School in Appalachia.
“You see people come in that are 70, 80, 90 years old, they will start looking around and see a tear roll down their cheek,” said Gilliam.
Palmer and the rest of the volunteers want to see more people come the school for genealogy research and to just see what all is in there.
“We have our own wi-fi now, we have books that people have brought in about their families and documents to show where graves are located,” said Palmer. “We’d like for people to come in and do their research.”
If you would like to donate to the Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center, you can send checks or money orders to P.O. Box 581, Big Stone Gap, Va. 24219. Please specify if your donation is the to building fund for the new addition or general funds.