Supporters of Second Stage Amherst gathered Saturday to celebrate the historic designation of its building and a garden dedicated to two talented patrons.
A hub for the arts, small businesses, community groups and a coffee shop, the nonprofit’s headquarters recently was named to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, which will help pave the way for future grant funding and donations. Formerly Amherst Baptist Church, construction started on the building in 1882 and around 10 years ago was considered for demolition.
Guests on Saturday got a glimpse of a plaque next to the entrance marking the designation. Just around the corner on a column is a different ceramic plaque recognizing the work and dedication of two women who are treasured by patrons of Second Stage.
Supporters started work in the spring on a patio space near the building’s entrance, having received some funding from the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, according to Suny Monk, president of Second Stage’s board.
With a professional history in landscaping and design, Donna Meeks sketched out an accompanying garden to beautify the surroundings. When she and Monk learned in February of the death of Douwina Osinga, an Amherst personality and strong patron to Second Stage, they thought it apt to name the garden after her.
“Douwina was a wonderful support to Second Stage,” said Linda Gurtler, its treasurer. “…She was such a supporter to us and the garden club and the town as a whole.”
Osinga immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands with her husband in 1952 and settled in Amherst County, bringing their culture over in more ways than one — many at Saturday’s event recalled them introducing yogurt to the area.
Douwina and Jan Osinga were central to Sweet Briar College’s farm and dairy operations for decades, and Douwina Osinga was also remembered for being very active in the Village Garden Club in Amherst.
Meeks said plans for the garden had to come together quickly in the spring to get it planted, picking out and ordering perennials and pink flowers that Osinga would’ve loved.
Osinga’s daughters helped to get everything planted, which Gurtler said was an intense labor of love.
“It was people coming together, you know?” she said. “It was joyous.”
Ieka Scully, one of Osinga’s daughters, said she was lucky to chip in while visiting from Connecticut at the time.
“There were a lot of garden club members who wanted to come and do something and they approached us and they said, ‘What do you think about creating a memorial garden?’” she said.
Scully said the garden idea seemed perfect, recalling her mother’s hard work on maintaining Amherst’s traffic circle. Working on it with members of the garden club felt like part of the heling process, she added.
Both Osinga and Meeks have left their mark on Second Stage in more ways than one, with the ceramic sign proclaiming how they “cultivate beauty.”