Oysterponds Historical Society has another new director

The Oysterponds Historical Society has named a new executive director following Marianne Howard’s resignation earlier this month.

Sarah Mills Sands officially began in her new role as executive director July 10. 

“I’m looking forward to helping the historical society grow and continue its mission to serve the community, preserve and celebrate its rich history,” she said during an interview at the Orient campus Monday.

According to a newsletter sent out by the historical society, Ms. Howard cited personal reasons for her resignation. She had recently joined the organization in January.

“In her short tenure, Marianne was able to immerse herself in the community and to oversee the opening of our summer exhibitions, an exuberant North Fork Fresh and to shepherd to its completion the Oysterponds Historical Society Collections Care report funded by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation,” the newsletter stated. “We wish Marianne great success in all her future endeavors.”

The job opportunity arose at an opportune time for Ms. Sands, a Greenport native.

She and her husband, David, recently completed building a future ‘retirement’ home in Orient, returning to the area after 25 years living in the Philadelphia suburbs.

There, Ms. Sands worked as the executive director for the nonprofit American Helicopter Museum & Education Center in West Chester for seven years.

“Southeastern PA is sort of like the Kitty Hawk for helicopters,” Ms. Sands said, noting that during her tenure, she oversaw an extensive renovation project and worked to expand exhibits and educational programs at the museum. “There was a lot of growth and some struggles too, like any nonprofit.”

Prior to that, she served as executive director for a branch of Habitat for Humanity in Delaware County, Pa.

Her first foray into this area came in the early 1990s, when she worked as the director of development and community relations at Eastern Long Island Hospital.

She said she’s always been drawn to the public service aspect of the career and holds a B.A. from Boston University and has studied public policy and non-profit management at George Washington University and New York University.

In May, Ms. Sands was named executive director of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, but has since stepped down to accept the full-time position at OHS.

The Riverhead BIDMA has not yet announced a replacement for Ms. Sands.

“For years, I had admired this place and thought it would be a wonderful job because I love history,” she said. “And this is a wonderful community.”

Her main focus now is ensuring the society’s annual summer benefit, slated for Aug. 3, runs smoothly. “It’s our largest fundraising event and supports the operations of the society year-round,” she explained.

The society is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, with six special exhibitions that feature ship paintings, embroidery, Oysterponds during the Civil War, weapons, early photographs by L. Vinton Richard and the history of the society itself.

Beyond that, she likened running a nonprofit to running a small business. “You do a little bit of everything.”

She’s eager to meet OHS members and volunteers and is fascinated by everything she’s learning about local history.

“The amount of artifacts that they have preserved and captured and now use to teach future generations … I’m very impressed with all that they do here,” she said. “It’s a community resource, a community center, a cultural center. It’s not just a historical society. There’s a whole community effort to be involved.”

Aside from now having a five-minute commute to her office, Ms. Sands said she’s glad to be back home. Her family is nearby in Greenport, where her brothers have taken over the family business, Wm. J. Mills Sails & Awnings, which was established in 1880.

She explains how she and David have vacationed all over the East Coast, searching for potential retirement locales. “We never found a place quite like the North Fork,” she said.

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