photo by: Leah Overstreet

June 29, 2015

With a Little Help from Our Friends

Local Friends Group Brings HOPE Crew to San Antonio Missions

As the time of writing this, there are six young people in Texas right now learning preservation skills and helping to restore beloved local iconic buildings. These six have joined more than a hundred youth and veterans who have participated in the HOPE Crew program since its inception last March, and like the participants before them, they are learning valuable skills while helping to give back to their community. Another major beneficiary of this initiative has been the property owners. With the ability to gain exposure for their site, supplement current maintenance staff, and access additional sources of funding, participation in the program continues to benefit all partners involved.

As we enter our second year of HOPE Crew, we have discovered new and innovative ways of funding projects. Currently at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, members from the Texas Conservation Corps are working on various structures within the park: restoring the post-Colonial Tufa House, and serving as masonry apprentices on some of the iconic mission structures throughout the park. This work has been made possible by funding from the National Park Service and the nonprofit group, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions, the park’s officially chartered Friends group.

photo by: Leah Overstreet

Los Compadres’ involvement in this project first came as a result of the park’s Chief of Facilities Management, David Vekasy’s plan to connect young, budding workers with the older, skilled preservation masons he currently has on staff.

“Some years ago, Parc Smith [of Texas Conservation Corps] and I came up with the idea to establish an apprenticeship with their youth, that would be able to provide labor for us in the short term, and then in the long term, providing training opportunities for those same youth to take this on as a future career as skilled craftspeople,” said Vekasy. “Without having funding for that idea, we approached Los Compadres and wrote up a proposal for them to fund apprentices from Texas Conservation Corps to work with our masons and become the future skilled craftsmen that not just us [NPS], but all preservation organizations are in desperate need of assistance [from].”

This year, the San Antonio Mission apprentice program has partnered with HOPE Crew and, as a result, even more work in the park has been made available to corpsmembers, including the Tufa House rehabilitation project, which is separate from the traditional apprentice masonry work. For the park, the corps, and Los Compadres, the partnership has paid off so far.

“Certainly making this a HOPE Crew project adds great value from our perspective,” said Susan Chandoha, Executive Director of Los Compadres. “We compete with at least 3,000 other nonprofits here in San Antonio. Sometimes, in people’s minds, preservation is not as high a priority. Bringing the National Trust in, as a nationally recognized name, helps bring some visibility to the cause.”

photo by: Leah Overstreet

Ilena (front) and Monica (back) work on the interior of the Tufa House

““The beauty of it is the educational component. We were thrilled with the opportunity HOPE Crew gave us to have these preservation projects for young people to do in our park.”

Susan Chandoha, Executive Director of Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions

Receiving funding from a nonprofit friends group such as Los Compadres is new ground for the HOPE Crew program, which has found project funding from a number of sources over the past 15 months of operation.

“Most of our projects have been funded either through the Park Service’s deferred or cyclical maintenance, or through property owners,” said Monica Rhodes, who oversees HOPE Crew for the National Trust. “To be funded by a Friends group, as we are in San Antonio, is really a testament to how committed the National Park Service and supporters care about this site, and how much confidence they have in the program.”

The work in San Antonio is expected to wrap up in August, thanks to a new, creative source of funding and an existent network of strong relationships and preservation expertise. But the key, as we, the National Park Service, and Los Compadres all agree, is to engage and create a new generation of preservationists.

“The beauty of it is the educational component,” said Chandoha. “We were thrilled with the opportunity HOPE Crew gave us to have these preservation projects for young people to do in our park.”

According to Chandoha, there are an estimated 7,000 feet of masonry walls throughout the park, so the need for preservation work is constant and plentiful. Chandoha also said that by this time next year, the entire San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is expected to be officially be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- and we anticipate the first to host a HOPE Crew when we return next year.

photo by: Leah Overstreet

Emily, a masonry intern, worked on structures throughout the park.

Tom Wall is the associate manager of Community Outreach. His background includes television production, journalism, nonprofit communications, and marketing. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tom is a graduate of the George Washington University, with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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