The previous 5 years of history of The Villagers, Inc. is shown here.  Click here to view earlier history.

2022-2023   Post-Pandemic Events Come Back Stronger than Ever

Fundraising reached an all-time high this year with the strongest showings ever for Give Miami Day, the Holiday House Tour, and Garden Tour, with a total in excess of $100,000. Starting off the year with a bang, November’s annual Give Miami Day netted more than $14,000 among 69 contributors.

Turning the clock back to Gables Gems from the Roaring ‘20s the Holiday House Tour featured five historic Coral Gables homes, including three in George Merrick’s iconic thematic Villages (two French Country and one Dutch South African). Significantly, a much higher percentage of tour tickets were purchased online than in years past. The Quilt, Birds of a Feather, handcrafted by Joan Bounds, honored the Audubon Society’s preservation work with the Doc Thomas House. Raffles sales for the quilt also broke previous records.

The successful Garden Tour, Pinecrest Paradiso, focused on five unique private properties and Pinecrest Gardens where the boutique was held. Food trucks were a popular addition to the event.

Preservation grants were awarded to 12 of 25 applicants, totaling $47,500. This brings The Villagers’ total grants funded to 230!

Another fund-raising milestone was the sell-out of the coffee table books, Gardens of Miami. In keeping with changing times, the group closed out the stored library by selling and donating remaining books, and cleared out the inventory of Attic Treasurers traditionally sold during the boutiques.

Efforts to update technology continued, with the consolidation of the monthly members’ newsletter and weekly news into a single emailed weekly update – Tuesday News, and colorful stationery was printed featuring historic images. Regular membership categories were also streamlined with just two categories, Active and Sustainer. Life membership was left in place for those who have been Villagers for 15+ years and meet certain criteria.

Members were delighted to be able to return to a full schedule of in-person meetings at historic sites supported by the organization. During the year, meetings were held at the Deering Estate, Doc Thomas House, Miami-Dade Public Library, Old School House at Plymouth Congregational Church, 94th Aero Squadron, Historic Black Police Precinct Courthouse Museum, and Coral Gables Cinema. Curated special events tailored for members were also back on track with trips to Flamingo Gardens in Davie and a culinary tour in Little Havana.  Attending the preview of the Gables Stage Play El Hurican, not only brought out Villagers, but netted a nice donation.

It was a perfect evening for the wonderful member appreciation party held around the pool at President Susan Medina’s lovely home, featuring paella and lots of goodies from Villager-chefs.

Three university scholarships were awarded, each for $5,000. Two went to architecture students at the University of Miami and one to a student in the master’s program for Historic Preservation at the University of Florida. At last, the in-person Historic Hunt & Road Rally returned in April, leading hunters throughout Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, and Miami in search of the area’s Woman Pioneers. The Rally lived up to its reputation of being a diabolically fun way to close the year’s big events.

May was National Preservation Month and The Villagers were honored to be recognized by the City of Miami for their long-standing work in the field. Additionally, Villagers were instrumental in working with the City of Coral Gables to proclaim May “National Historic Preservation Month in Coral Gables.”

2021-2022   Transitions: Not Quite Back to Normal

Pandemic policies continued as the year began with Zoom meetings. Although work had begun in earnest on the House Tour, it was canceled for the second year due to a Covid surge. With lightening nimbleness, the organization segued into creative fundraising ideas and by early spring were, thankfully, able to host the 29th successful Garden Tour.

Anchored by more than $10,000 in donations from Give Miami Day, the group raised funds through a December Night of Lights at Pinecrest Gardens, a virtual art sale of donated works, Garden Book and angel sales at local events and Farmers’ Markets, and the entertaining Gringo Bingo event sponsored by the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, who generously shared revenue with The Villagers. A Gilded Age Lawn Party at Montgomery Botanical Center capped the fundraising season with guests attired in vintage white, surrounded by gourmet fare, sterling silver, and lawn games, on a perfectly beautiful spring Miami day.

The group managed to beat the odds, raising $65,000 to enable project grants of $45,000 and $10,000 for college scholarships. This year scholarship funds were split among two deserving architecture students. An additional major gift of $20,000 was received for use funding a future sustainable/green historic project.

The Saving Places/Education Committee launched a series of virtual education seminars that proved to be a huge success. The one-hour Zoom Lunch & Learn programs ran monthly at noon on a Wednesday and featured community-based experts and an interactive Q&A session. Speakers and topics included:

  • Richard Heisenbottle, architect, “Restoration Before Demolition”
  • Harold Wanless, UM professor, Geological Sciences, “Impact of Sea Level Rise to Historic Places”
  • John Medina, architect, “Replacement Windows for Historic Buildings: Managing Compromise When Perfection is Out of Reach”
  • Hugh Ryan, specialist, historic preservation restorations, “Historic Properties Pros & Cons”
  • Nancy Liebman, author & preservationist, “Saving Art Deco”

2020-2021   Philanthropy During a Pandemic

In a time of crisis, Villagers pulled together, kept in touch, utilized technology, and creatively tackled fundraising challenges.

In spite of the inability to meet in person and the cancellation of the House and Garden Tours, much was accomplished “virtually.”  The organization shifted into Zoom meeting mode and planned virtual events. A massive training effort led by the Technology Committee got members up and running on Zoom and familiar with the ins and outs of a new reality. Incredibly, as many as 70 signed on electronically for virtual general meetings, and board meetings and committee meetings were extremely well-attended.

Programming quickly segued and wonderful, interesting speakers Zoomed into monthly General Meetings. By reactivating the very inspired Ways and Means Committee, more than $17,000 was raised. Because of careful stewardship in previous years, The Villagers were still able to fully fund programs. The Grants Committee selected 12 organizations to share $50,000 in funds and another $18,000 was awarded to 10 college scholarship winners. 

Fundraising efforts included a Virtual Art sale, Halloween “non-party”, Holiday Raffle, and Give Miami Day. The Hunt Committee came through with a very successful Virtual Historic Hunt, not once, but twice, with themes “In the Age of Coronavirus” (June 2020) and “The Roaring ‘20s, the Era of Change” (March 2021) to celebrate the Miami of 100 years past.  On a beautiful, cool night in December, members and limited guests donned their masks and stayed socially distanced for a “live” fundraising event, a Night of Lights at Pinecrest Gardens.

Committees took advantage of available time and focused on systems and planning with enhancements to the website, development of a comprehensive graphics and editing Style Guide, updates to Bylaws, Policies and Procedures, creation of annual reporting templates, and other “back of the house” efforts.

A Friends of The Villagers Program was put together to enhance external fundraising, and the Saving Places Committee incorporated education as part of its purpose and began a survey of historic properties in Miami and Miami-Dade County to assess their condition. The Strategic Planning Committee was reactivated and went to work.  The introduction of Tuesday News minimized the volume of emails to members and also kept Villagers connected and entertained throughout the pandemic. The monthly newsletter was successfully rebranded “News & Views.”

2019-20 From Record-Breaking Fundraising to Virtual Reality

Fundraising started off with a bang with the most profitable Holiday House Tour to date. Featuring homes in the Pinecrest area, “Inside Out – A South Florida Lifestyle” toured guests through five distinctive homes, raising more than $35,000.  The event was enhanced by the gift boutique, sale of Attic Treasures, raffle of the handcrafted quilt, “Biscayne Bay Regatta,” and the sale of 200 unique handmade angels.

Give Miami Day was another record-breaker, with $5,000 donated, well over double prior years. Garden Book sales continued at a robust pace and meetings featured historic sites with interesting speakers.  The September meeting kicked-off the fall season at the Coral Gables Merrick House with four Villagers in period costumes channeling Miami pioneer women and their stories. Meetings were also held at the Coral Gables Congregational Church, Vizcaya Carriage House, Pinecrest Gardens, the Koubek Center, and Coconut Grove Woman’s Club. Guest speakers covered updates about many local sites and the more unusual topic of “Filming on Historic Properties.”

Members continued gathering for lunch following morning general meetings (with 35 at The Peacock Garden Café in February) and enjoying member excursions to The Wolfsonian Museum, History Ft. Lauderdale, Key Largo, and a Culinary Tour of the Miami Design District. Everyone embraced their inner flower child at the annual member appreciation party held at The Barnacle and honoring the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, complete with a vintage VW bus.

As the novel Coronavirus began to dominate the news, on a perfect spring day, “A 20/20 Vision of Tropical Splendor” Garden Tour featured a curated collection of five heritage gardens, all carefully created by homeowners in greater Pinecrest and Coral Gables. Another record-breaking fundraiser, the event generated $30,000.

Then the world stopped. Miami-Dade County went on lockdown and Covid-19 dominated. Villagers adapted quickly. The Technology Committee swung into action and meetings of all sort went on with Zoom. Members were trained and committees ramped up. Tuesday News became an essential way for members to keep up-to-date about projects and events, also providing pandemic tips and some much-needed laughter. The Historic Hunt went virtual, sold tickets online, and took participants on a 3-hour tour of Miami-Dade sites (all funded by the Villagers), with 25 tough questions. Even with a minimal $10 fee, $640 was raised.

Eight organizations shared $45,000 in grants and $12,000 was awarded for university scholarships. 

2018-2019 Fundraising Exceeds All Expectations

Members came together to plan and host very successful House and Garden Tours, beating all fundraising expectations. It gets harder with every passing year to find homeowners willing to allow their homes to be showcased to the public. Other fundraisers included the annual quilt raffle held during the House Tour, and silent auction held at the Historic Hunt. The sale of Christmas angels, art rental, book sales, and the popular member 50/50 raffle generated additional funds.

Architectural Gems South of Sunset” was the theme of the House Tour featuring homes designed by notable architects and “A Kaleidoscope of Gardens” tour featured five private gardens in Kendall, Pinecrest, and Coral Gables. The theme for The Villagers’ Annual Historic Hunt & Road Rally was “Larkin-about the City of Pleasant Living” held in South Miami followed by a fun and entertaining Western-themed BBQ dinner.

The Projects Committee awarded $50,000 to be shared among 11 local preservation ventures. Additionally, the Committee developed a contract for grantees to ensure compliance with concepts and details as awarded.

Members were treated to some wonderful historic programs during meetings including the hearing about the history of Bacardi, a visit to El Jardin at Carrollton School, a video about the history of the Deering Estate property, and a presentation on the history of the Coral Gables Congregational Church and its relationship with George Merrick. Special programs for members were exceptional with a delightful field trip to the Naples Botanical Garden, tour of the historic Spanish Monastery in north Miami-Dade, and an interesting Art Deco walking tour on Miami Beach. For the annual Holiday Party, the historic Coral Gables Congregational Church became a jazz club for the night.

Twelve college scholarships totaling $31,000, were awarded to outstanding students from the Miami Dade Design and Architecture High School, Florida International University, the University of Florida, and the University of Miami.