History, culture, park energize Poland woman
POLAND — It’s been said that the Schwebel’s Baking Co. is Youngstown born and bread, and you could add that Laurie Fox is Poland born and bred.
“We do walking tours in (Poland) Village along South Main Street,” said Fox, 71, who grew up in Poland and is a 1969 Poland Seminary High School graduate.
She was referring to one of the duties of the Poland Township Historical Society, for which she has served about four years as president.
The historical society, formed in 1979, is dedicated largely to promoting the township’s heritage and landmarks, educating and fostering a greater interest in Poland’s history and maintaining The Little Red Schoolhouse, 4515 Center Road, which the Poland Board of Education owns and the society leases for $1 per year.
The building also is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For her part, Fox organizes such walks on South Main, along which is a series of homes and businesses that were established in the 1800s.
For such occasions, members dress in period clothing and conduct re-enactments, Fox explained. Also included on tour itineraries are the Riverside and Poland Presbyterian cemeteries, the latter of which is the resting place for many of the township’s original settlers, she noted.
“It’s a history lesson for the kids,” Fox said.
She also serves on the Poland Township Park Advisory Board, with a primary goal of increasing interest and activities in the 107-acre park off Moore Street. Plans are to build a gazebo and swing sets, as well as to add facilities for those interested in pickleball, sand volleyball and disc golf, Fox noted.
In addition, she has served eight years as treasurer for the Holy Family Seniors Group at Holy Family Parish on Center Road, for which Fox’s mother, Ruth Burns, was president. Seniors meet once per month, and Fox makes her presence felt in other, more overt ways.
“I’m the bingo caller for bingo,” she said with a chuckle, adding, “They’re very active with the community.”
Her Poland-related activities don’t end with the last winning letter and number, however. Fox also is part of the McMurray, Pa.-based nonprofit National Slovak Society USA, as well as the local chapter, which have an estimated 37,000 and 1,000 members, respectively.
The NSS’ main mission is to offer its fraternal family a measure of financial security via annuities and insurance, its website states.
Specifically, Fox is on the NSS National Board of Directors and president of the local Assembly 0731 chapter, which also provides activities for children.
In 2009, Fox, who also is an amateur photographer, retired after having worked 35 years as administration secretary for the superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
“I just knew she could do a great job (for the Poland Township Historical Society), and she’s met every expectation as a president to follow me,” said Larry Baughman, who served in that capacity from 2014 to 2018, adding, “She’s great with photography and communications, and is a great leader.”
These days, Fox and other society members are busy leading the charge to beautify and add to The Little Red Schoolhouse, which was built in 1858 but ceased to function as a school in 1915. Those efforts include plans to add flowerbeds and a donated shed in the rear, Fox explained.
After 1915, the building occasionally was used for church services and other functions, she continued.
In the 1980s, after it had fallen into disrepair, an addition was made to the building, and it procures and houses numerous donated artifacts related to the township’s history. Among them is a display case that contains portraits of former President William McKinley, whose boyhood home was in Poland, as well as filing cabinets with records of Poland’s early history.
Recently donated to the historical society was a replica of the former Deposit & Savings Bank near Riverside Drive, which was chartered in 1875.
In addition, the Poland school board meets in the former one-room schoolhouse once per year, Fox added.
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