by Michael Sheldon 8/5/2023
The 2022-2023 SFA membership year ends today. It is the President’s responsibility to summarize the actions and activities of the past year. As in the past, this report is an amalgamation of the efforts of many people whom, from the bottom of my heart, I thank. I have described it before. There are always highlights and low points throughout the year. While we can put in place aspirational plans, there are events that occur outside our control, and when resources are limited, your choices are based guided by patience, understanding, and priorities. Such has been this year. The bottom line is that SFA continues, and the future looks to be much brighter than the recent dusky days.
Wende has given the Membership report. My summary is that we held our own with membership numbers remaining reasonably constant.
Kevin has given his webmaster’s report. Again, my summary is that our website is up, running, relevant, contemporary, and a wonderful resource to the membership that uses it. He has done a wonderful job of controlling its expense despite some of the phishing and outright assaults on it. Today, I can confidently say the website and any transactions done on it are secure.
Lauren has done a lot to reinvigorate our social pages with an emphasis on the Facebook feed. We consolidated the two sites we had to reduce the confusion and effort required to manage them. Our membership growth has been excellent, with 456 members today and people joining every week. Content to keep it interesting can be challenging and this is an area I think we can use some volunteer help.
James has done a good job of keeping SFAQ on schedule. SFAQ is one of those things that sets us apart from others. On the horizon, there is the possibility of getting more historical and research-oriented material back into it. Again, we really look forward to contributions to SFAQ from the membership to share with our cousins and the world of genealogy.
Libby has put together another fun time for those of us attending Fort Wayne. First, I thank her for being a listening ear and a source of support. But back on task, It has been said many times, but the repository of Sheldon records here is incredible. We return to Fort Wayne after two years with the meeting in Boston in between. We return because we really want to get as much of the information here out into the webspace so all of you can see it and access it. There were several items that held us back, with the lack of volunteer resources being a big one. However, things are moving once again in a direction that I think resources are becoming available, and so we are here to reignite the fire.
There were no Bylaw submissions this year, so the elections process was limited to Officers and Board. It was conducted by Wende and Elizabeth. We received enough votes to have a quorum, and all those who voted were members in good standing. The outcome was Kevin Sheldon as President for the next two years. Michael Sheldon as Treasurer for the next two years, Wende Warren and Lauren Sheldon as Directors at Large for the next three years. Both Elizabeth Townsend and Libby Wilson remain in their positions as Vice President and Secretary, respectively, for one more year. James Berrie remains as another Director at Large for two more years: Before finishing this part of my review, the two names I mentioned were Wende and Elizabeth. I do not think I could have persevered this year without you. Your friendship has meant the world to me.
To proceed now, I will give the highlights of our elections, a quick comment on our legal proceedings, financials, and then a wrap-up on things I see going forward.
The survey for the meeting for next year’s SFA 85th anniversary leaned heavily toward the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. If I must ponder the primary reason, it is because of the amount of Sheldon history associated with the east coast. Once we get past this anniversary, I, too, am a strong proponent of doing something a bit wild and crazy….. Alaska (Denali), California, or the Carolinas…. bring the ideas on!
Next up is the ongoing litigation with a former member. The issue remains open and has been ongoing since the summer of 2021, leading to a suit filed in August of 2022. It is inappropriate to delve into specifics, but during the year, when the Board meets, there is a closed session where all updates are given, and opinions expressed. It has been a financial burden, as you will see in the financial report, but we have been able to manage that well, and as you will see, the organization is still in good financial status. The biggest news to give is that we are now on the court’s docket; therefore, the dragging of feet will substantially pick up in pace. Some discovery is already ongoing.
Percent Change over the past year
Total Expenses over Income
Total Expenses excluding Legal
Excess over adjusted expenses
2022 Annual Meeting
So, what are the financial takeaways:
- Our Net worth went down 8.2% principally due to money taken from savings to pay our legal costs.
- However, when you exclude the legal, the amount of Income over Operating expenses was significantly improved. We spent only 66% of our income. Why? Because of savings in web costs and research. Had we been a bit wiser on the 2022 meeting expenses, it would have been 56% of income.
Corporate Status: We are still incorporated in the State of Maine. Our IRS status is still that of a not-for-profit fraternal organization, aka 501(c7). A goal we hope to change, as I will discuss below. All the paperwork is current.
- Let me first congratulate Kevin, Wende, and Lauren on their election. I truly believe they will lead us in the right direction and continue to make SFA viable and relevant and provide meaningful member benefits to all Sheldons and to Sheldon history.
- There is a light at the end of the legal tunnel, and once we pass through it, I see down the tracks:
- Immediately undertaking major efforts toward making the Sheldon records at ACPL available on the web in concert with continuing to grow the SFA database with tree expansion.
- More unique historical data and adding leads to members for supporting DNA information.
- An application for 501(c)3 status to strengthen the charitable contributions program,
- An option for the Sheldon DNA information and
- Global research-related material on both our web page and SFAQ
- Resuming charitable contributions to aid in preservation and education of History made by or attributed to Sheldons.
My thanks to all. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as your president. I look forward to my next role as Treasurer and then as a Past President on the Board. SFA thrives because of a hard-working Board and committed volunteers on the various committees. Please join us to become a part of the vision.
Lastly, next year is our 85th anniversary. Help us to celebrate it as one of the oldest Family Associations in America. See you there!
Post meeting: We made great progress on the files with the help of Ross, Bob and Carol Sheldon, Jim and Susan Russell, Marisa and Sondra Sheldon, along with the Board members. Special thanks to Curt Witcher and the staff at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). Keep checking the website at ACPL (a link is on the SFA website). Soon you should see over 75% of Rose Sheldon’s files, much more of Hortense’s research files and a bunch of new membership cards.
Michael B Sheldon
by Kevin Sheldon
My first message as president is long, and I promise to keep them shorter in the future!
I’m very honored to be your president, especially after reviewing all the SFA documents at last week’s reunion and seeing the work of all the dedicated people in this role before me. It’s very humbling.
As my first action, I want to thank Michael Sheldon for all his work as president to bring the SFA out of some tough times and back into a solid, well-functioning organization that will continue to serve its members. He has a true passion for the SFA, which I’ve witnessed since I joined the board a few years ago.
I would also like to thank the previous board members and committee chairs for all their hard work over the past year: Libby Wilson, Elizabeth Townsend, Susan Russell, Jim Berrie, Lauren Sheldon, and Nancy Olsen, who recently stepped down.
I would especially like to thank Libby Wilson for her work in putting the reunion together and Wende Warren for taking on multiple roles and doing them so well and for keeping me on track.
As I mentioned above, our annual meeting last week was held in Fort Wayne, IN., at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL), one of the best genealogy libraries in the country. Those who attended in person worked diligently on organizing and categorizing SFA information donated to the Allen County Library by former SFA president, the late Rose Newton Sheldon. The information will eventually be scanned and posted on the ACPL site for public viewing.
The amount of information from this collection is awe-inspiring, but so is the quality. Records go back to the beginning of the SFA, including notes on individuals and SFA meetings, and we even saw some heated “debates” on topics such as Isaac and Richard 22 that continue today.
I’ve been involved with the SFA on and off since around 1997 and was only very active recently when I took on the role of webmaster. I attended my first SFA Reunion in Fort Wayne in 1997, where I won the award for the least amount of gray hair. I would no longer be a contender.
A few years ago, I kept seeing notices from Michael looking for a webmaster, and I kept thinking, “Well, someone else will do it”. That didn’t happen, and since I had some experience in this area, I said I would do it. My wife will tell you I have a terrible habit of getting overly involved in organizations. She said as much when I took on the webmaster role. Now I’m president, and I can confirm I already got the “I told you so” from her.
I’ve been married to my wife, Vicki, for 38 years and have two children. My son Bob is an electrical engineer and lives in Huntsville, AL. with his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Abigail Victoria Sheldon (1 ½). My daughter, Laura, is a nurse and lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Terry, and new daughter, Beverly Ann Kowalski (2 months).
I was born and raised in Chicago and grew up about a mile from Wrigley Field (Go Cubs!). I lived in the Chicago area for most of my life, other than a short stint in England, and just recently moved to the Knoxville, Tennessee, area.
I retired at the end of March but had been in the electronic components business for most of my career on the sales side. I’ve worked with many household names in electronics and had the good fortune to travel to many countries around the world. I retired from my company as president.
So what do I bring to the table? It’s certainly not my superior knowledge of genealogy, for I’m sure many of you know much more than me. However, besides running a company, I’ve held leadership roles in numerous organizations ranging from church boards and alumni boards (both high school and college) to various roles in scouting. The ability to organize and sustain organizations is my value to the SFA. Every good organization needs leadership but cannot be run by only one or two people. It’s my job to get participation and input from as many members as possible.
As for my vision for the SFA, I want to continue the great work that Michael Sheldon has done to make us a solid organization once again. There were a lot of problems when he took over, and he has undoubtedly righted the ship. Michael has a passion for the SFA, and I’m fortunate he will continue as SFA Treasurer.
I want to see us Increase our membership, not for the dues but to expand our Sheldon heritage to those who might have an inkling to know about their past. There must be thousands of Sheldons interested in their heritage, but they don’t know about us and what we can offer them. I don’t see why we couldn’t double our membership over the next three years. To do this, we need a role dedicated to promoting the organization externally and internally.
Most importantly, I want us to continue to be the gold standard for Sheldon-related genealogy information. Thanks to our members, we have so much solid research that started in 1939 and continues today.
We must check and recheck information and have definitive proof before we assume something is correct. For example, another group has recently decided there was never a Richard 22, my progenitor, and is now promoting this as “fact.” Their assertion may or may not be accurate, but I can tell you that Richard 22 has been a mystery going back to the beginning of the SFA and to H.O. Sheldon, who put a question mark next to his name, and many experienced genealogists have pondered over this for many years just as we do now. Why did H.O. Sheldon put the name in the Sheldon Magazine and put a question mark next to it? We don’t know. Also, there are no records of Richard 22 other than H.O. Sheldon’s question mark, and things don’t line up from a date perspective, but until we see solid proof of something different, he should remain. In other words, this is the best information we have now, despite the many theories that have been out there for years. It’s like instant replay in sports, where there must be overwhelming evidence to overturn a call. It’s all too easy these days to put hastily gathered information out on the web, where it’s picked up and reposted repeatedly until it becomes the “truth.” What I term “cut and paste genealogy” has become all too prevalent, and it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions based on a few internet searches. We shouldn’t focus on being first with information but instead, be the most reliable source of information.
The SFA is a great organization with many good people who work hard to make it so. Please have patience and empathy for those on the board and committees donating their time and talent to the organization. I’m pretty easy to get along with, but one thing I won’t tolerate is people getting unnecessarily berated, which is something I have seen on occasion. If you have an issue with something, don’t hesitate to contact me directly at email@example.com.
I’m very open to new ideas and would love to hear yours, and even better, I’d like to see more members get involved. Some of you have already expressed interest in doing so in our recent survey. I’ll be in contact with you soon!
Thank you again for honoring me with this position, and I will work hard to lead us to success and continue to make the SFA the gold standard in Sheldon research.
Reunion plans are underway for 2023. We hope you will join us in Fort Wayne, August 2-6, for our Annual Reunion and Meeting! For those