Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove has just begun a two-year capital campaign. The group is now seeking donations to pay for exterior renovations to the Ballard House, as well as enhance the organization's endowment fund.

GOE board member Bill Fried spoke last week on the goals, which include raising $100,000 towards renovations and $50,000 for the endowment.

Fried said that besides repairs to the group's headquarters, part of the planned work includes the establishment of the Enger Memorial Garden, which will wrap around the building.

"We'll be putting in pathways, and three distinct garden beds," he stated. "One will feature aromatic flowers while another on the opposite end will try to replicate bluff and forestland (plants)... In between we're going to have a variety of decorative grasses and lower-lying plants with a path going through all of this.

"The other part of the garden will enter from Main Street into a fairly grassy area featuring two Kuub courts, just east of the building."

An outdoor sculpture memorializing award-winning artist Sigmund Aarseth is also envisioned, Fried added. Aarseth produced murals that now adorn the interior of the Ballard House.

"We also decided that this would be an opportune time to embellish the endowment fund so that we can start maintaining it from interest that might accrue in the future," he said. "The fund is for basic projects and/or emergencies. One of the reasons that we're doing the exterior of the building is so we're a long ways into the future before we run into that again. We want to make sure it's still standing for a while.

"We're mailing out fliers for prospective donors to consider, but anyone is welcome to contribute to this project.

"As a part of the fund drive, some people may want to memorialize their ancestors. In Immigrant Hall, you'll see names in gold leaf paint of people who came to Spring Grove and settled in this region. The names are contributed by descendants.... There's more to it than the names. We ask them all to tell that family's story. It's an ongoing thing."

The stories become part of a project called the Bigdebok. That growing document is an important aspect of GOE. "We share the information, not only in the building but also in newsletters and online," Fried said. Adding a name to the honored immigrant wall requires a $2500 commitment.

"It's usually a group of grandchildren or great-grandchildren who would get together to do this as a family project.

"Spring Grove really has a remarkable track record as far as non-profits," Fried concluded. "Whether you're looking at service organizations like the Lions or Commercial Club, or a non-profit like the Spring Grove Fire Department. Then there's 35 years of Ye Olde Opera House providing numerous shows every single year. We also have the (Bluff Country Artists) Gallery, now going on 10 years and providing a whole variety of activities.

"One of the areas that we think we (at GOE) were paying attention to is the ability of families to honor their ancestors, honor their families and pass that information on to future generations. That's the niche that we're hoping for Giants to fill."