FRIENDS OF RALPH CONNOR HOUSE (FRCH) HISTORY
The historic Ralph Connor House has been the home of the University Women’s Club since 1937, and this lovely old Jacobean Revival house has served us very well indeed. However, it has been showing its age for some time now, and is very expensive to maintain.
Doris Saunders, a long-time member of the Club who served a term as president, celebrated her 100th birthday in the house. The sitting room was named in her honor while she was still alive. Unfortunately, she was no longer able to navigate the stairs, so in her will she bequeathed the sum of $25,000 to be used to install an elevator.
This bequest opened the proverbial ”can of worms”, in that permission was required from the city to proceed with the installation. It was found that the house did not meet the current fire code, and this situation would need to be remedied before work on the elevator could proceed. Further investigations by an engineering firm revealed that the estimated cost was far beyond the current means of the UWC. Members were then polled to determine whether to sell the house, continue to live dangerously, or to launch a capital campaign to bring the building up to code.
Members chose to go ahead with a capital campaign, and they determined that the best way to do this was to form a separate organization. This resulted, in 2003, in the birth of Friends of Ralph Connor House (FRCH), a charitable organization whose mandate is to ensure that this historic treasure would be maintained and preserved in good condition so that it might be enjoyed by future generations. The UWC rents the house, and all UWC members are automatically members of FRCH. The board of FRCH consists of both community members and UWC/FRCH members.
In 2004, under the UWC presidency of Muriel Smith, an application was made for charitable tax status, and after much work, supported by the Winnipeg Foundation, this was granted. A fundraiser was engaged and a campaign committee was formed, made up of both community members and UWC/FRCH members and chaired by a community member. On advice from this committee, it was determined that UWC would need to raise its image by bolstering its community involvement. One proposal was that the FRCH board would be composed of four community members and three UWC members who were not on the current UWC board. This proposal was eventually agreed to, but unfortunately the overall fundraising target was narrowly rejected by the board of UWC, and this decision led to the resignation of the fundraiser and all members of the campaign committee, and the end of the campaign.
UWC members had been the first targets of the fund raising campaign. Because of the commitment of the members, it met its ambitious target, and these funds have been well invested. The present FRCH board has spent considerable time and skill in managing both the funds and the upkeep of the building structure. Bob Darling, as past president of FRCH, has been a strong force in ensuring that this continues.
All members of UWC are now also members of FRCH for one dollar a year. Community membership is now $50, which not only gives members the opportunity to support the house, but also the privilege of attending courses at member cost as well as hosting functions in the house.
It should be noted that Ralph Connor House has been recognized by federal, provincial and municipal governments for its historical and architectural significance. These designations allow the FRCH board to apply to various programs for funding.