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2017 was an eventful year for the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation as it continues its work of preserving the heritage of the Mennonite village.

A small crowd of local residents gathered to hear a variety of reports at the organization's annual general meeting this month.

One of the biggest restoration projects the Foundation has initiated is the Klippenstein housebarn, and good progress was made on that front in 2017, according to spokesman Ray Hamm.

"Last year, a washroom was constructed on the Klippenstein and Altbergthal schoolyard together so that the picnic shelter and school are much more accessible and usable. Work was also done on re-doing the barn. We stripped it down and took off all the bent and broken boards and that barn is looking very good right now. We should be done in about month or so."

Not only will the housebarn be rehabilitated to its original state, but it will also serve the community as a multi-purpose facility that will involve education, a venue for social events such as weddings and a community centre for the village.

That project received major financial assistance last year when Parks Canada announced its approval for a $560,000 grant in support of the restoration work which is expected to cost an estimated $900,000 when completed.

According to Hamm, the Foundation has received just over $280,000 as an advance on that money with the rest of the funding to be provided once it's finished.

2017 also marked the first year the foundation ran an active fundraising campaign for the project which has reaped some positive results.

"We did some local community fundraising which hasn't been done before and we felt very positive about that. I mean, we would have liked to have raised more but we're trying to build a local base," said Hamm.

While the Foundation intends to continue local fundraising, he pointed out they have also begun building a base of larger donors who live near or even outside the area to help support their work financially as the cost of restoring century-old buildings don't come cheap.

As Hamm put it, "It takes a lot of bake sales to build a barn."

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