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It takes a village to honor its past

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
August 24, 2018

It takes a village to honor its past

With many non-profit organizations today struggling to gain support, volunteers and funding, the Cotati Historical Society, founded in 2007, has had a team of passionate people who have played a pivotal role in preserving Cotati’s history and ensuring the creation of the Cotati Historical Museum. 

“It takes all of us,” says John Allred, President of the Cotati Historical Society. “It’s like they say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village or a community to create and maintain something like the historical society and especially the museum. The city has been very much a part of that…The politics, the city, the community – it all kind of blends together. So many people contributed time, and materials and labor. We’re blessed with a dedication and commitment.”

Lloyd and Prue Draper, who owned The Cotatian weekly newspaper from 1951 to 1965, were instrumental in collecting and preserving historic documents, artifacts, and memorabilia for over 50 years. When the non-profit was finally established in 2007 they leased an unused room at city hall for the historic museum and archive. Robert Leys, a Cotati architect, helped create a plan to convert the room into a functional museum space and a team of local volunteers set to work obtaining donations for furnishings and display cases, and transporting the items, as well as the memorabilia, to the museum. Cotati city government and numerous businesses got involved to help make the room resemble the first grade classroom that it had been when the building was the old Cotati School, donating everything from the demolition, to drywall and sheetrock, to electrical wiring and lighting, to windows and doors, to paint and finishes. Even the floors were refinished to the original old fir. 

The museum finally opened in 2010, fulfilling Cotati Historical Society’s mission “to preserve Cotati history through the acquisition and preservation of artifacts, photos, archives and other historical materials.” It continues to be funded through the support of visitors and private donors and through their annual barbeque fundraiser.

“It totally amazes me how much everyone contributes to make it work,” says Allred. “Individuals from all over the United States that have a history with Cotati send us things and the city participates with our chicken barbeque and silent auction, our one fundraiser a year in April.  City employees are there literally serving food and serving on many levels.”

While Cotati has been incorporated as a city for about 50 years, it has been a community for over 120 years with an interesting and varied history. The historical society and museum ensures that current and future generations will know and learn from the town’s past. 

“It’s a place to focus the past to show where we’ve been and how we got to where we are now,” says Allred.

Allred encourages others to get involved however they can. As he states, “Our future history starts now. I joke and tell people ‘get in and participate and get your picture taken at the barbeque or one of our events because 40 years from now your grandkids will say ‘there’s grandma and there’s grandpa! Look how funny they’re dressed!’” 

Residents can volunteer to work in the museum, participate on the board or at the annual fundraiser, donate money, or simply collect and perhaps donate to the museum items from the past that would interest history buffs of all ages. 

“What I like best [about the historical society] is the sense of community,” says Allred. “If you want someplace to feel like home, participate. That’s all you’ve got to do. Then you’re part of it and it’s part of you. It’s about a willingness to make a commitment to some time and energy. If it gives you something back then it makes it worthwhile. Participation is a big key to anything. I invite people to participate - to join in membership or to volunteer. It’s much more fun to be part of something.”