T-L Photo/JANELL HUNTER - Underground Railroad Museum Founder/Curator John S. Mattox receives a $1,500 donation from St. Clairsville Sam’s Club General Manager Cat Litchko through the Sam’s Club Community Grant Program.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Sam’s Club General Manager Cat Litchko said she and her associates care about the local community and want to enrich residents’ knowledge of history.
On Tuesday, Litchko donated $1,500 of a $10,000 Wal-Mart company charity fund to a cause that is near and dear to her heart, the Underground Railroad Museum of Flushing and its acquisition of the Benjamin Lundy House in St. Clairsville.
John Mattox, URRM curator and founder, received the donation and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the grant.
“The reason I am so excited about what the Wal-Mart Foundation does is that they give back to the community. By giving back to the community they are showing that where they buy or sell, they participate. I think that when you have an organization like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, and they have been doing what they have been doing for years, I think the public needs to know,” said Mattox.
Litchko said she and Sam’s Club have donated to the URRM and partnered many times with Mattox in the past.
“This is something that I do on a yearly basis. I work very closely with Dr. Mattox in understanding what hidden treasures we have in this area, the rich history of this area.
The more we know about the history here, the more we can understand one another, and the better place and community we can be,” said Litchko.
Litchko said she is passionate about funding the URRM because many lessons the museum holds are not taught in local schools.
“Just about every university, college, high school and grade school has been to the museum,” said Mattox.
The money for the grant comes from the Sam’s Club Community Grant Program, part of the Wal-Mart Foundation, and can be applied for online.
“At the local level, Sam’s Club facilities are encouraged to support nonprofits or other causes important to their community, provided they fall within one of the Wal-Mart Foundation’s focus areas: Opportunity, Sustainability and Community,” the Wal-Mart Foundation website states.
The URRM is a nonprofit organization that operates solely on donations. Mattox said he works hard to provide such a professional presentation that people would be embarrassed to leave the museum without leaving a donation.
“We do the same thing in the Upper Ohio Valley that they do at the museums in D.C. and Cincinnati, and we want to make sure that people don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find out what’s in their own backyard. We do the same thing, just on a smaller scale. If I was to take federal funding, I would have to charge a fee, and we don’t sell our culture,”Mattox added.
Many other community organizations have been helped through Wal-Mart Foundation grant and charity programs as well. Litchko said she and her Sam’s Club associates volunteer together and donate to causes including food pantries and the local Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. They also partner in education with Wheeling Middle School and stuff hundreds of stockings at Christmas time to send to soldiers serving overseas, as well as many other causes.
“I try to help out as much as possible from a community standpoint. I really think it’s something that Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are not recognized for, nor is it talked about so people know. I’ve made a lot of progress in the community because I help out quite a bit,”said Litchko.
Eastern Ohio has a valuable resource available in Flushing that serves as a window to our past, shedding light on a troubled time in American history.
Situated along High Street in a former bank building is the Underground Railroad Museum. Curator John Mattox founded the institution with his late wife, Rosalind, several years ago. Since then, he has worked hard not only to collect items and artifacts of the slave era, but he has sought creative ways to fund the facility so that it will be available to teach future generations important lessons about who we are, where we came from and where we are going.
This week, a local business again pledged its support to the museum and donated money to help fund its operations. Sam’s Club General Manager Cat Litchko said she and her store associates care about the local community and want to help enrich residents’ knowledge of our history.
Sam’s Club donated $1,500 from a $10,000 Wal-Mart company charity fund to the museum on Tuesday. Not only will that money help with museum operations, but it may help Mattox to fund the purchase of another site in Belmont County.
Mattox and the museum are working to buy the former home of early Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lundy. Located on Main Street in St. Clairsville, the building dates back to the early 19th century and is the site where Lundy started an organization dedicated to eliminating slavery in the United States.
The museum is a nonprofit organization that operates solely on donations, so every gift like the one from Sam’s Club this week is key to its continued operations.
Mattox said the museum does the same thing that larger facilities in Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati do with the help of federal funding.
“We want to make sure that people don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find out what’s in their own backyard,” he said.
Mattox chooses not to accept federal funds because he would then be required to charge a fee.
“We don’t sell our culture,” he added.
We applaud Sam’s Club for supporting the museum and urge anyone who values local history to follow suit. Donate to the museum if you can afford to, or contact Mattox to learn about other ways you could help.