Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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577 Foundation’s 25th birthday party draws 500 to Perrysburg


Beekeeper Dan Bollett tells Juli Chalfin, 5, of Perrysburg about a hive during the 25th anniversary celebration for 577 Foundation in Perrysburg, where offerings range from gardening to yoga.

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On the 577 Foundation grounds, one could watch pottery demonstrations, learn about beekeeping, and do some organic gardening in a geodesic-domed greenhouse the size of a small planetarium, all in one day.

For six hours Saturday, about 500 people enjoyed those activities and more as part of the 577 Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The foundation was the brainchild of the late Virginia Secor Stranahan, a life-long Toledo-area philanthropist.

She raised her family of six children and ran a small farm on the 12-acre grounds at 577 E. Front St. in Perrysburg for more than 50 years.

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To keep the property from being subdivided after she died, she dedicated it to public use in 1988. Since then, the 577 Foundation has drawn more than 275,000 people to the historic grounds for educational events, classes, and tours.

Executive Director Mary Mennel said Mrs. Stranahan’s goals for the site were purposefully broad.

“It’s about flexibility and letting us evolve as the community needs,” she said.

The 577 Foundation offers pottery classes monthly from September to May, and community members with specific interests, such as yoga or knitting, teach other classes.

Nonprofit organizations also book buildings on the site for day-long conferences.

On Saturday, volunteers gave arriving visitors clues for a scavenger hunt that would allow them to hit the property’s highlights, including the historic 577 Foundation House, the community gardens, and the walking path along the Maumee River.

To escape scattered showers, Neal and Sharon Pike of Bowling Green enjoyed cake outside the Foundation House library. A musician played folk tunes on a guitar in the next room.

“I admire the fact that she [Mrs. Stranahan] had the foresight to preserve this property,” Mrs. Pike said. “It’s prime real estate.”

At the greenhouse dome, visitors planted cardinal flower sprouts in biodegradable containers. Horticulturalist Vicki Gallagher walked around answering questions about organic gardening.

“I like the idea that if we are interested in [organic gardening], we can come here and seek free advice,” said Molly Mack of Perrysburg Township, who has been going to the 577 Foundation grounds for years.

The Foundation is funded by the Toledo Community Foundation, endowed by Mrs. Stranahan, and protected by the Black Swamp Conservancy.

In addition to educating visitors and showing off the grounds, the celebration was about remembering Mrs. Stranahan, who died in 1997.

Trustees Clint Mauk knew her since he was young. He said she loved meeting new people.

“The day after she died, we called a locksmith to install a lock on her front door because she never had a lock on her door before that,” he said. “Mrs. Stranahan broke the mold.”

Contact Arielle Stambler at: astambler@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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