Library Receives $5K Surrey Renovation Gift




August 23, 2018


Library Receives $5K Surrey Renovation Gift


The Harrison District Library received an unexpected gift to the Surrey House Renovation Project Fund. Ken Weiler from Findlay Ohio has been visiting the Harrison area for 42 years. Ken purchased his cabin in the area because of his oldest son’s love of motor cross. The cabin, located in Piney Woods, was a great location for Eric to bike on area trails. It was also an easy drive from their home in Detroit.

After reading the Clare County Cleaver article regarding the renovation of the Surrey House as the future home of the Harrison District Library, Ken was moved to support this project. Thanks to his $5,000 donation, Ken’s gift will name the children’s area the “Buttons the Clown Children’s Area” after Nancy Siferd, a close friend of Ken’s, who is also a professional clown and balloon artist.

When asked why it was important for him to support this project, Ken replied, “Because anyone who can read can do anything.”

He said the project spoke to his support of the mission of the library and to the preservation of the Surrey House. 

Ken has three sons who all live outside of Michigan. After 34 year with the Ford Motor Co., Ken retired and relocated from Detroit to the Smoky Mountains, but continues to visit Harrison several times during the summer.

Nancy Siferd has been working as a professional clown for more than 30 years. She has four children, 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. She will make an appearance as Buttons the Clown and making balloon animals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15 at the Harrison Street. All tips for Buttons balloon animals will go to support the Harrison District Library Surrey House Renovation project.

For more information regarding the Surrey House Renovation Project, visit or call the Harrison District Library at 989-539-6711.  



By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer

HARRISON – The “Turn the Page” fundraising campaign has begun in support of the Harrison District Library and Surrey House Renovation Project. Funds raised will go to defray the many costs of converting the historic landmark structure into the library’s new home. HDL Director Sheila Bissonnette spoke with the Cleaver about the progress being made and what’s next for the project.

“We have just begun our fundraising campaign for the Surrey House Project,” Bissonnette said. “We began June 9 – it has taken us a little while.”

Bissonnette said that while the Surrey House had been purchased in April 2016, and architectural drawings done by May 2017, the HDL Board of Directors has only just recently settled on a finalized plan.

Surrey House Plan

“The floor plan hasn’t changed,” she said. “Now the whole plan is set.”

Bissonnette said there had been ongoing debate among Board members regarding the proposed tower façade changes on the north end of the building. That is where the main entrance, lobby and book drop/pickup will be. She attributed some of that discussion to the fact that the architectural drawings, which were simply single-side elevations, didn’t completely convey all the depth and dimension which will actually tell the modeling story.

The Board recently received an computer-generated rendering [3-D model] of the proposed exterior, which made the vision come clear.

“I think they liked it more once they saw it in the 3-D version and could actually see what it would look like,” Bissonnette said.

The special advantage of having the dimensional drawing is that it enables potential donors to understand the vision for the new library, and how their donation would be used.

The library will occupy only the first floor of the building, and the book stacks will be housed in what used to be the kitchen area. That slab concrete floor is stable and suitable for supporting the weight of the books. Bissonnette said the framed floors in the rest of the building are inadequate to handle that weight and would require additional substructure support, leading to additional expense.

The plan is still to take all the walls back to the studs, install new ceilings, floors, necessary wiring and communication lines. The roof also has to be completely replaced, which represents a sizeable portion of the cost.

Bissonnette said the spaces for community events and activities will greatly enhance the library’s usability. She also noted the expanded space for young children. That area is adjacent to the existing patio which can be used in mild weather. She is especially excited about all the storage space to be realized in the new building, enabling ready access to the many items now stuffed away in any available nook or cranny. She noted that children age 3 and older, and students in third grade and older are the fastest growing group of library patrons.

The Board has set a goal of $650,000 of which it now has $50,000. A project donor board has been placed on the southwest corner of the Surrey House, and changes will be noted with each additional $50,000 raised. A smaller version will also be displayed inside the library. Bissonnette said getting to half way is the big challenge, a figure she said is key in being able to pursue matching grant funds.

Community members are encouraged to present any fundraising ideas they may have. Bissonnette said Carol Leary and Colleen Bearss are helping with the community fundraising.

There are a variety of ways people can contribute in a structured way, and donor contributions will be recognized with a special plaque wall. She said the specific design for that area has not been chosen, but that it will appropriately note donor generosity.

Plaques in four sizes ranging from 3.5 inches-by-2 inches up to 7.5 inches-by-4 inches will recognize gifts of $500-$2,400; $2,500-$4,999.99; $5,000-$9,999.99; and $10,000 and above. Bissonnette said that when donating in specific designated amounts, donors will be able to name designated areas in honor of their family, business or organization.

The first such area, the Library Entrance Lobby, has been claimed by the Harrison Lions for $5,000. Other opportunities include: The Community Room for $25,000 and the Surrey House Front Porch area or the Activity Area for $10,000. A $5,000 gift names the Technology Lab, Children’s Area, Fireplace, Book Drop-off/Pick-up area, or the Outside Patio area. A $2,500 gift names one of the 10 Collection areas.

Gifts to the Anne Smith Memorial Local History Room will be recognized with a plaque to be located in that room. Bissonnette noted the much beloved Smith had been Harrison’s library director for more than 30 years.

“If you add it up, it doesn’t come up to all the funds that we need,” she said. “But it’s giving the community the opportunity to sponsor it.” Bissonnette said the library is fortunate to have aligned itself with the Clare County Community Foundation for fundraising, as that enables a better return on investment.

Turn the Page pledge cards are available at the library which offer the ability to make donation over the course of one, two or three years. Online donations can be made at – select “Harrison District Library-Surrey House Renovation Project”.  Donations by check should be made payable to “Clare County Community Foundation” and mailed to P.O. Box 391, Clare MI 48617. Donations to the project are tax deductible.

For more information visit the Surrey house website at