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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 7 months ago

Standing O: Bonda Garrison works to preserve Ormond Beach history

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Bonda Garrison, outgoing Historical Society president, believes the city's sense of place derives from its long history.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Bonda Garrison loves a good story. 

Reading the tales of real people, seeing the similarities and differences of the way they lived compared to the lives of people today--it's like reading a novel, she said. 

The outgoing Ormond Beach Historical Society president has spent almost 20 years learning the town's stories. She officially joined the society's Board of Directors in 2004, and has been working alongside the rest of the board to preserve these stories for a new generation. 

“People always talk about Ormond Beach as having character, and having a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and I really believe that has a lot to do with the history that’s here," Garrison said.

When she moved here in 2001 after she and her husband retired, she saw an article in the newspaper about the Historical Society hosting a lecture about the city's history. Garrison had been a history major in collge, and thinking it would be a great way to get to know Ormond Beach, she attended. 

Philip Shapiro was last year's Standing O nominee. File photo by Jarleene Almenas

There, she met Don Bostrom and Alice Strickland. Bostrom's grandfather, John Andrew Bostrom, was the first to settle on the beachside, and Strickland is still considered today to be one of the town's historians. Both have since passed away, but meeting them and cultivating a friendship led Garrison to get involved. 

Since then, she's gotten to know many in the community, seen their contributions and how Ormond Beach works as a community.

“Almost everything that happens, happens because of volunteers — especially in a small town,” Garrison said.

"I have known Bonda Garrison since 2004 via the Ormond Beach Historical Society Board of Directors.  Her dedication, loyalty, leadership, and friendship to all is exemplary.  Our community is lucky to have such a person of high character and dedication.  Bonda has been a leading person in promoting the History Happenings public educational programs via the Historical Society as well as serving in a leading role in the effort to save the Stout-MacDonald House and convert that historic structure on East Granada Boulevard into our city’s historical museum."

Dr. Philip Shapiro, past-president of the Historical Society, and last year's Standing O nominee

The Historical Society has been battling to preserve the MacDonald House for years. Now, things seem to be moving in the right direction. The society is partnering with the city, who owns the house, to apply for an ECHO grant to restore the exterior. So far, the society has contributed $100,000 for this. With help from the grant, Garrison said they'll be able to do the repairs.

Then, it's on to restoring the inside of the home with the hope of turning it into a welcome center and museum of Ormond Beach history. It's not just a cultural decision — it's a business move, Garrison said, adding that studies done around the state show people who travel to a city for cultural reasons tend to spend more money and stay longer than those who simply come for the beaches.

Ormond's history in particular is very diverse, she said. It was at the forefront of early settlements in Florida, has Native American history due to the Timucua indians, and of course, it's the birthplace of speed. 

Making a museum row with The Casements and the Ormond Memorial Art Museum is the end goal. Garrison said she is just one of many working toward that.

Jokingly, she said there are only two things she won't do for the Historical Society: she won't be the treasurer, and she doesn't want to weed the Three Chimneys site.

Her life philosophy? 

"What would Jesus do?" Garrison said.

How can she make a positive impact on other people, show them love and kindness, and do that in her community? Also, "how do you handle Plan B?"

“Because invariably, things in life don’t go exactly the way you plan it and how you handle what happens instead is what’s important," Garrison said.

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