Help Save Ellis Island - Global Recession Threatens Monument's South Side

From the time it began operation as an immigration station in 1892 to the time it ended in 1954, Ellis Island was the starting point for millions of tired, hungry and poor for a better life in the United States. Today, more than 40 percent of America's population can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island. That's a lot of Americans!

Anyone who has visited the national monument in the last 20 years is familiar with the Great Hall, which was restored to its former glory with the help of Lee Iacocca. In fact, it's the one of only a couple of buildings that are open to the public. Few people realize that there are 29 other buildings on the island that have remained virtually unchanged since the immigration station closed more than 50 years ago. For ten years, Save Ellis Island has worked side by side with the National Park Service to restore the 29 buildings on Ellis Island that have been closed to the public since the mid-1950s. The organization's goal is to create the Ellis Island Institute and Conference Center, a venue for civic discussion of issues that arise from the historic themes of Ellis Island. Topics such as human migration, tolerance, cultural diversity, and public health will be brought to a broad audience through conferences, lectures, retreats, symposia, workshops, special exhibits, family programs and themed festivals. Restoring these buildings will bring new life to a powerful symbol of America’s national ethos of freedom and opportunity and give it relevance to a much more diverse audience of citizens and visitors than ever passed through its doors a century or more ago.

Today, due to the global financial crisis, Save Ellis Island, the group that is overseeing the fund-raising for the renovation finds itself in the same position as millions of Americans and thousands of businesses and non-profits all over the United States without the funds to continue operations.

Most of Save Ellis Island’s (SEI) funding has been received for specific historic restoration work on Ellis Island, as well as to fund its outstanding and nationally recognized educational programs. Funds for operational expenses have historically been more difficult to obtain. In SEI's case, sustaining operations has been even more challenging because significant and consistent corporate support could not be attained for the past ten years as the organization has worked to secure the numerous and complex NPS approvals for the Ellis Island Institute Project.

Today Save Ellis Island’s operating circumstances are dire and I want to make a plea to anyone who can trace their lineage back through Ellis Island or anyone who knows anyone whose forebears came through Ellis Island to help the group raise $500,000 to sustain the organization over the next several months as they await new leadership commitments as well as national priority status for the Ellis Island Institute project.

If you DONATE TODAY, you will help Save Ellis Island revitalize a once-forgotten side of Ellis Island and You will help ensure that the 12 million stories of our immigrant ancestors are preserved for this and future generations.

(photo © Marc Muench)