WINNSBORO, SC (WIS) - The Mt. Zion Institute grounds date back more than 230 years and the buildings on the site have been vacant since 1991, but there is a sign on the front steps that is new. "It reads, "Friends of Mt. Zion Capital Campaign Pledge Drive."
"There's enough interest [in investing in the property], and a variety of interest that we feel like if we can hold onto it long enough for the economy to turn around then it can be a lot of things," said Vicki Dodds, Chairman of the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute.
FOMZI helped to save the vacant school from demolition back in 2008. They say a developer had plans to renovate the 3-acre site, but tough economic times have made it more than difficult.
"[The property] is expected to go back to the town and when it does we wanted to be prepared to show them X amount of money and say 'Give us a chance,'" said Dodds.
In less than two weeks, FOMZI has raised more than $30,000 in donations. They're hoping to raise at least $100,000, which they say would be a minimum starting point in their efforts. Their first goal is to repair the windows and the roof of the buildings.
"If you tear it down, then you tear down the last remnant of the whole series of schools and the story of the property and its use for educational purposes," said Dodds. "It's a story that Winnsboro can utilize…and right now we need to maximize all the attraction, story, and history that we have."
The friends of the Mt. Zion Institute say there is no denying the history of the campus and while they believe the preservation is important, they also believe the campus is key to economic development in Winnsboro.
"If we get something going in there, then we've got jobs, we've got hope and hopefully we've got a turnaround," said Dodds.
A turnaround is something that nearby residents like Kitty Rabb are hoping for, as well. "It's just such a black hole when you ride by there," said Rabb. "It used to be so big in Winnsboro and so nice. It would be so wonderful to see something put in there—to bring it to life."
The Capital Campaign Drive will run through the end of this December. For more information on the Friends of Mt. Zion Capital Campaign Drive visit http://www.mtzioninstitute.com/.