After realizing what I was called to do, I began to investigate. With excitement growing, my mind raced. So many possibilities. The time was now. But, how? And, where? The answer arrived in the form of a tagged Facebook post. The Charles Lee Mansion in downtown Saginaw needed lighting fixtures. After decades of heartache and degradation, the Lee Mansion was finally on the road to recovery and its former greatness. It had found new purpose with youthful passion for historic preservation and a community's die-hard commitment not to let this storied space fall to the wrecking ball like so many other historic homes in the Cathedral District.
I reached out to explore volunteering opportunities. But, I was also curious to know more about the plans for the space. It turns out the Charles Lee Mansion was waiting for its purpose, too. A place for the community to connect, a welcome space when visiting Saginaw, and an environment that would celebrate its and the community's history. And, a physical headquarters to promote all the good that is happening all over the city.
Back to Where I Started From (Almost)
In March 1993, a young, naive girl from Michigan's Thumb took her first after-college job at then St. Mary's Hospital. The Washington Street corridor was bleak. The neighborhood was rough. But, the hospital was a fortress that protected and uplifted the community where it was founded in 1874. Over the course of my employment, I learned bits and pieces about the Charles Lee Mansion and the "cat lady" resident and her infamous pet leopard, since it was across the street from the hospital. I witnessed the improvements changing the landscape in the seemingly forgotten East Side neighborhood.
Fast forward to 2012. I was working for the Vice President of Mission Integration, who was responsible for real estate dealings. It was then that St. Mary's was approached again to aid in saving the eyesore. Yet again, with healthcare budgets tighter than ever, the hospital who had saved so many couldn't save the Lee.
The Right Mix
It turns out that historic buildings like humans wait to discover their purpose. And, the Charles Lee Mansion found its as I did mine. Back in the early 1900s, the Lee was home to a physician who sought to bring health to a community. And, here it was again on the verge of doing the same. Would this also serve as my space to connect, heal and uplift? Perhaps. And, I'm looking forward to exploring this possibility.