Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Little #Encouragement Goes A Long Ways

One Room School house byDennis Javis

January 26

Toad Hollow Day 

Happy Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement. Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement is a little known holiday that was created by Michigan storyteller, Ralph C. Morrison. Ralph has been telling stories since he was child and has been a juried performer with the Michigan touring arts council for over 20 years. He specializes in telling stories from a Messianic Jewish point of view including life, scriptures, Passover and other Jewish holidays. Ralph conducts several workshops, performances and is the founder of the nonprofit organization Toad Hollow in Garden City, Michigan. Toad Hollow was founded on July 2, 1992. 

The origins of the name Toad Hollow began one year while Ralph was teaching at a local community college. One of his student, an elderly woman named Eunice, had been featured in the local paper. She recalled how she had attended the Toad Hollow County School in her youth. The Toad Hollow schoolhouse had been built in 1834. It was the first schoolhouse to be erected in Kalamazoo. Ralph instantly fell in love with the name. Like all creative writers fascinated by a particular place, he began to create stories that were set in Toad Hollow. When people asked him where Toad Hollow was on a map he would tell them it was found in their hearts. 

The legendary Toad Hollow fascinated anyone who heard his stories. In 1992, the residents of Kalamazoo, Michigan decided they wanted to donate a little used park to Ralph for his storytelling events. Ralph graciously accepted their offer, created his non-profit organization in July and organized volunteers (known as Voluntoads). With the help of his voluntoads, he constructed a replica of an 1800's schoolhouse, homestead, refurbished a 19th century gristmill already on the property, and built a small town. Toad Hollow was a busy place. From 1992-1995, Toad Hollow was the host of Civil War reenactments, Renaissance Fairs and Teddy Bear Picnics. At the height of it's popularity, Toad Hollow had 100 Voluntoads. Throughout the three years, Voluntoads would share their expertise by conducting classes in blacksmithing, quilting and soap and candle making. 

Toad Hollow Park was reverted back to the Kalamazoo County in 1973. Three years later, it was opened to the public as Scotts Mill County Park as part of the county's bi-centennial project. Although the park no longer headquartered the Toad Hollow nonprofit organization, Voluntoads continued to offer classes to the public. The conducted classes off campus and started seven schools. The seven schools included writing,  storytelling, early American arts and trades and barbecuing. The school continued to operate until 2003. 

Without the encouragement of the Kalamazoo residents Toad Hollow might have never existed and the people may never have appreciated the skills they had learned through the Voluntoads. 

It just goes to show you, with a little bit of encouragement anyone can do anything. You never know the effects that encouragement may have on another person. 

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