TROY — It’s fitting that Karen Purke is a veteran of working with the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, having served the organization in many capacities for almost a decade.
Purke recently accepted the position of executive director of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, a volunteer position selected by the museum’s board.
Purke said her interest in veterans started in 1991, when she was asked by longtime Troy resident Joe Reardon to assist as project administrator in the creation of the Troy Veterans Memorial Park at Riverside Cemetery. She worked with Reardon, made presentations to veteran and service organizations, identified and organized supporters and coordinated many providers of services for the project.
“Working on the veterans’ park project, I gained a renewed respect for veterans and their service to their country and their community,” she said.
Purke, along with husband Terry, are founding members of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum.
“I have been involved with the museum since its founding in 2009 as a volunteer, event planner and artist,” said Purke, who was commissioned, with the support of the Troy Foundation, to create a 48-foot mural, “Veterans Marching Through Time 1775-2016,” at the museum.
Purke said her decision to accept the director’s spot was to help to ensure the museum’s success in the future with a possible need to relocate. With the Troy Masonic Temple building being for sale at 107 W. Main St., Troy, where the museum is now located on the second floor, Purke said there is much to consider. She said the board is evaluating their options for the expansion of the museum.
Recent Executive Director Mitch Fogle, who served as executive director for four years, was ready to step down due to his expanded responsibilities as facilities supervisor at the three Troy-Miami County Public Library buildings. Fogle thought that Purke had the right skill sets needed to help the museum through such a transition successfully. Museum President Stephen Larck agrees that Purke is a good fit, as do the trustees, he said.
Purke said the museum now occupies a 4,500-square-foot space, which the organization has outgrown. She said they are now exploring options for a 6,000-to-12,000-square-foot location, which will be handicapped-accessible.
“I accepted the position because the museum is at a pivotal point in its growth as an organization. I did not seek out the position, but was asked to consider it based on my skill sets and my past experience with the veterans museum,” said Purke, who added that there is no defined ending date for the position, but that she will “stay the course until the job is done.”
“I have past experience working with two other non-profit organization facing relocations of their operations — The Troy Historical Society and The WACO Historical Society. Relocation is only a part of the story. There is much work to be done after a transition to bring a museum back into focus after change.”
Beyond finding the museum a new home, Purke said she also plans to focus on raising awareness about the Miami Valley Veterans Museum and the services it provides, including a monthly coffee and doughnuts event for veterans on the first Wednesday of every month.
“The museum’s mission is to preserve the legacy of veterans and to educate all ages as to the value of military service. Based on that mission, the museum has created many forms of interface with the community,” Purke said. “It is a place where veterans and non-veterans meet to talk to each other. The museum is also a place to come to learn more about the service and sacrifice of local veterans.”
Purke, who also is the owner of McGuffey Herb & Spice Co., said museum organizers welcome school tours, home schoolers, youth groups, service organizations, veterans organizations, reunions and other groups.
“We are a community-based organization that values service,” she said.
Prior to her newest title, Purke has been an active museum volunteer, serving as the museum’s tour guide, working on development and execution of the educational programs, and supporting the monthly coffee events. She also has served as a grant writer on four occasions, set up at public events to showcase and raise awareness of the museum and has participated in the Miami County Fourth of July parade that is planned and coordinated by the museum.
Purke said the museum continues to seek more items for exhibits, including donations of military-type artifacts including uniforms, gear, personal items and related paper memorabilia for display in the museum or for use in the Learning Center Outreach Program. Purke said the museum exhibits change on a regular basis to allow organizers to display all of the artifacts, some of which reside in storage due to current space limitations.
The museum also is in need of additional mannequins to display uniforms and would like to retire some of their aging display cases.
Funding is an ongoing need, said Purke, who said the board will soon be launching a capital campaign and promoting organization memberships in support of taking the museum to the next level.
“Funding for that effort will be used to propel the museum into the future and further the museum’s mission to preserve the legacy of veterans and educate all ages regarding the value of military service,” she said.
Purke also requested that anyone looking for a volunteer opportunity consider the museum, where there are opportunities such as data entry for the collections, tour guides, helping during the monthly coffees and the educational outreach program.
“My goal with the veterans museum is to aid the museum during this transition, to continue its mission to honor and preserve the legacy of local veterans and to educate all generations about military service,” Purke said.