by Terry Rogers
The CenDel Foundation recently awarded $24,000 in grants to organizations who foster the arts throughout the state. Four Milford organizations were recipients of grants from the fund including Downtown Milford, Inc. (DMI), Diamond Dance Company, The Music School of Delaware and Mispillion Art League.
“This spring, Diamond Dance Company will be performing the ballet Cinderella for the first time,” Aimee Voshell String, Assistant Director, said. “The production will combine the classic ballet with a little bit of the Disney twist that audiences know and love. Creating a new ballet also means new costumes, choreography, sets, props and scenery. We are extremely grateful to the foundation for choosing us as a recipient of this grant to help fund those things. The CenDel grant will assist us with bringing all of the production elements together in a way that allows us to bring the magic to the stage.”
Sara Pletcher of DMI explained that the grant monies will be used toward the 2nd Annual Ladybug Music Festival planned for September in Downtown Milford and the Mispillion Art League will use the funds for programs offered by the organization.
“The CenDel grant from Kent County Fund for the Arts will be used to support the Music School of Delaware’s expanded middle school programming in the Capital School District,” Kate M. Ransom, President and CEO, said. “This will be the third partnership year of the District and the Music School working and growing together to provide music excellence for the increasing number of participants.”
According to Ransom, the Music School will provide expert instruction for an after school music program as part of the district’s 21st Century grant. This partnership provides Capital School District the ability to provide outstanding musical instruction to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to receive such instruction.
“Our partnership programs allow the Music School to reach neighborhoods and populations that otherwise might not find us,” Ransom said. “We can avoid many barriers to access by partnering with schools and school districts, pre-schools, community centers and daycare providers to bring more music to more people in more places. Partnership strengthens communities.”
The CenDel Foundation is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to foster philanthropy in Central Delaware. Although funding for grants offered by the organization come from many sources, one fund that the organization manages has its origination in Milford. The Benjamin Potter Fund was created by Colonel Benjamin Potter who, at one time, lived in Parson Thorne Mansion. There is no indication why he was designated as a Colonel as there is no evidence he served in the Revolutionary War. However, he may have supported independence in some way and was honored with the designation.
Colonel Potter arrived in Cedar Neck around 1777 as a young child, moving here from Accomac, Virginia. He was the son of Captain Edmund Potter who purchased the 350-acre Hudson tract after the death of John Holmes. When Captain Potter died, his oldest son, John, inherited the farm. His brother left the farm in order to enter the tanning business. He began learning his trade by purchasing animal furs and boiling the hides in large wooden vats while treating the skin with quercitron, a solution extracted from the bark of black oak trees.
In 1798, Colonel Potter purchased a tanning operation owned by Isaiah James, Milford’s first tanner. Mr James owned a three-acre lot along with an extra lot for a home. He built a brick house that still stands adjacent to the Avenue Church rear parking lot. When James died at the young age of 40, Col. Potter approached his widow, who had remarried Dr. John Owens, about purchasing the tanning business. The widow agreed to sell the tanning business but kept the brick home.
After the death of Parson Thorne, his mansion and lands were left to his nephew, Peter Caverly, who moved into the mansion. Eventually, he sold the business interests to James and Sarah Clayton but he kept most of the Thorne farm and mill operation. In 1822, James Clayton died and Col. Potter purchased the Parson Thorne mansion and tannery operation at auction. Col. Potter died in 1843 and was originally buried on the mansion property until they were moved to the Milford Odd Fellows Cemetery in 1926.
Col. Potter died a widower and two children, a son and daughter, also predeceased him. With no heirs, Col. Potter left the bulk of his estate to charity in a fund that became known as the Potter Charity Trust. Instructions in his will ordered his executors to create a trust that would support the poor citizens of Kent County outside of the poor house. Today, almost 200 years after it was established, the Potter Trust continues to provide support to organizations in Kent County.
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