By ALVIN REINER
---- — WESTPORT — Appreciation was bestowed upon 46 volunteers who helped out at the Westport Heritage House Visitors Center during the past summer season.
The ambassadors welcomed more than 325 visitors — almost half again as many as they served last year. The visitors book had signatures from tourists coming from as far away as the Netherlands, as well as from 22 states, among them Florida, California and Alaska.
“Thank you for giving your time,” Ambassador Co-chair Betty Band told the volunteers at the recent event. “It’s you who made this a success. You also gave us many suggestions to improve visitor interactions.”
Communities rely on volunteers, said Westport Town Supervisor Dan Connell.
“In behalf of the town board, you did a massive job in seeing the (Heritage House) building come to fruition.
“This community is bucking the national trend of people not volunteering.”
Representing the Westport Chamber of Commerce, Dee Carroll told the gathering, “You are the face of the community.”
A BUSY PLACE
The Heritage House serves many purposes — its website describes it as “a place that links Westport to the history, arts, and culture of the region … A center that connects multiple generations and interests to foster a dynamic community … A house to welcome visitors to Westport where they can discover and experience its spirit of place.”
And though summer has faded away, Heritage House remains a busy place.
“There is so much going on during the winter, with Zumba, yoga, and ballroom dancing, as well as meetings,” Heritage House Manager Nancy Decker said.
The building was initially a Baptist church, built at a cost of $2,500. It rose from the ashes of an earlier church erected around 1830 and razed during the Aug. 16, 1876, “Great Fire of Westport,” which also destroyed a large part of the business district.
The new structure, built in the “cottage style,” with a slate roof and mostly ash interior, could accommodate as many as 225 people.
Its chapel still offers acoustics that lend themselves to musical events, which include chamber recitals.
In 1936, the Baptist and Methodist churches of Westport merged and formed the Federated Church. The church still owns the property, Decker said, but has leased it to the town. Westport, in turn, rents it to the Chamber of Commerce.
The Visitors Center is always looking for items that celebrate Westport’s history and culture to borrow for display.
And more ambassadors are needed, she said.
Reach Decker at 962-4805.
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