Helping Hands: Piece of History

Dec 14, 2023 • 4 min. read | By Beth A. Klahre

Do you love the charm of old houses? Have a knack for interior design or woodworking? Maybe you prefer filing and computer work? Or working with students? The Historic Wilmington Foundation might be just the place for you.


Founded in 1966, Historic Wilmington Foundation (HWF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that exists to keep historical buildings intact and in place throughout New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties. 


HWF’s efforts include education and advocacy to preserve intact historic resources and to safeguard structures from disrepair or neglect. HWF offers monthly workshops and walking tours, including Tar Heels Go Walking for elementary school students, Historic Preservation Certification course at Cape Fear Community College, and connections to experienced preservation professionals. The foundation advocates for a local, statewide and national preservation policy that supports its vision: a historic landscape that is inclusive, resilient, affordable and accessible.


Volunteer opportunities with HWF include office administration and reception and various roles at Legacy Architectural Salvage, an operation of HWF. From working in the warehouse staging retail items for showcase and sale, saving doors, windows, siding and flooring from a property scheduled for demolition, to repairing damaged donated items or repurposing salvaged materials in the workshop, there is plenty of hands-on work to be done.


“Our Legacy volunteers are creative souls, woodworkers, former contractors who know a lot about tools and people who just love old stuff,” said Blair Middleton, the foundation’s office manager. “Our office volunteers are friendly folks who like asking questions and taking messages. Our volunteer tour guides generally love working with kids and may have a background in education or as a guide in other capacities.”


HWF volunteers range in age from early 20s to late 80s. Fran McCann is the oldest volunteer at 88 years young. “I’ve always been interested in historic places and wanted to know more. I volunteer doing office work, reception and calligraphy,” she said. 


“Our volunteer positions are flexible,” Middleton added. Some volunteers spend just a few hours each month, some are there for 10 hours a week, and some only volunteer during events and fundraisers such as the Azalea Festival Home Tour in April and the HWF annual luncheon. Most positions are year-round. 


“We can almost certainly find a way to work with your schedule,” Middleton said.


Volunteer Patty Klimschot has catalogued HWF’s collection of books, reorganized digital and paper files, helped prepare for committee meetings, stuffed envelopes for mailings and even helped decorate for the holidays. 


“The most fun is meeting people, learning about the history of the area and working with the enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff,” Klimschot said.


Training is completed on-site, except deconstructions. “You can sign up with no prior experience,” Middleton said. “You choose your comfort level, location and schedule, and know that you are appreciated and making a tangible difference in our community.” 


As an added perk, volunteers who work a certain number of hours receive a discount on purchases at Legacy.


“We cannot fulfill our mission without the help of our volunteers. We rely on them to support our members, donors and customers through projects and tasks,” Middleton said. “Our volunteers’ warmth, curiosity and ingenuity buoy us as staff. Nonprofit work is not glamorous, and the fact that our volunteers choose HWF inspires us to be worthy of receiving their time,”.


The group’s highest need at the moment is deconstruction volunteers. Additional tour guides will be needed next summer/fall. Fill out a volunteer interest form online at or call (910) 762-2511.