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Stony Brook Grist mill

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted its 2nd annual Summer Soirée fundraiser on June 27 at the historic Three Village Inn in Stony Brook Village. 

The memorable event brought together community members and leaders to celebrate and honor the outstanding contributions of individuals who have made a significant impact on the community. Among the esteemed honorees were Charlie Lefkowitz, Barbara Damianos and the Damianos Family, and Michele Miller.

The primary goal of this year’s fundraiser was to support the ongoing restoration of the cherished Stony Brook Grist Mill, a historic landmark dating back to 1751. Thanks to the generosity of attendees and sponsors, WMHO can continue its vital work in preserving this piece of local history.

For more information about WMHO and its initiatives, please visit wmho.org or contact 631-751-2244.

All photos courtesy of WMHO.

Pictured from left, Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO Chairman; Honorable Steve Englebright; Olivia and Harlan Fischer, President of Branch Financial Services; and Gloria Rocchio, WMHO President. Photo courtesy of WMHO

Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) announced on Oct. 13 that former Assemblyman Steve Englebright has successfully secured a $125,000 grant for repairs to several of Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s historic properties.

Pictured from left, Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO Chairman; Honorable Steve Englebright; Olivia and Harlan Fischer, President of Branch Financial Services; and Gloria Rocchio, WMHO President. Photo courtesy of WMHO

“When Ward Melville rehabilitated the village most of the renovations were completed at the same time. We have had repairs done over the years, but everything is accelerating because of age. It is hard to do everything at once. Thank you, Steve and so many more for helping us preserve this legacy,” said WMHO Chairman Dr. Richard Rugen.

The properties to receive restoration are the Stony Brook Grill Mill c. 1751, the Brewster House c. 1665 and the Eagle (1940) atop the Stony Brook Post Office.

Honorable Steve Englebright said, “This beautiful, carved, mechanical eagle is likely the earliest public art sculpture in our region. It is also a symbol of our nation. It is an honor to have helped advance restoration of this icon of American history.”

This iconic eagle is the only one in the United States to flap its wings every hour on the hour. When word went out about repairs needed to the eagle, donations were received from around the country. The cost to restore it was larger than anticipated, so WMHO organized a Summer Soiree and Olivia and Harlan Fischer, Branch Financial Services, came forward with the largest donation to meet the goal of $75,000 for the eagle alone.

Olivia and Harlan Fischer and Dr. Richard Rugen, examining the mechanism that controls the eagle. Photo from WMHO

In making this contribution Olivia and Harlan said, “That eagle has been flapping its wings every hour for over 80 years. Both residents and visitors wait in front of the Post Office just to watch. We wanted to make sure that this tradition continues.”

A restricted account has been established to handle any repairs to the mechanism or the eagle itself in the future. Any donation to the eagle is tax deductible.  Work will begin in the Spring of 2024, but the work on the elements of the eagle will begin over the winter 2023. Work on the other properties will begin in the Spring of 2024.

Founded in 1939, WMHO is a not-for-profit corporation that develops and fosters community enrichment through cultural and educational experiences. WMHO accomplishes this by enhancing and interpreting its historic and environmentally sensitive properties and by utilizing state-of-the-art technology. For more information, please visit www.wmho.org

Stony Brook Grist Mill. Image from WMHO

Join the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) in a walking tour experience, Unwind & Uncork History: The Story of Wine & the Stony Brook Grist Mill on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 3 p.m. and again on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 3 p.m. 

Image from WMHO

In this walking tour experience, tour-goers will “uncork” the stories of the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751), the sight of Long Island’s very first vineyard. This will include a tour of the Stony Brook Grist Mill, the scandalous story of Edward Kane, his Lakeside Wine Company, and a brief lesson on wine. 

The tour will begin at Tranquility Park (also known as T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park) across from the Stony Brook Grist Mill, and will end at Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique at the Stony Brook Village Center, which gained its name from Kane’s Lakeside Wine Company.

Fee for the tour  is $25 per person and includes a bottle of authentic Catawba wine from Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique. All participants must be 21 or older. Advance registration is required by calling 631-751-2244. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

This year's event will raise funds for the ongoing restoration of the Stony Brook Grist Mill. Photo courtesy of WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has announced a new self-guided stroll, the Stony Brook Grist Mill Audio Experience.  

The Stony Brook Grist Mill Audio Experience is $3 and can be accessed at anytime, anywhere. To start your tour, scan QR codes outside of the mill, or visit audio.stonybrookvillage.com.   

Immersing themselves in the story of the most fully operational mill on Long Island, participants will learn about the 320+ year-old Stony Brook Grist Mill from its construction to today. Discovering the mill’s history, tour-goers will learn of the structure’s construction, owners, operators, its surprising role as one of Long Island’s “firsts” and more. 

Located at 100 Harbor Road in Stony Brook Village, the grist mill is listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places.

 The Stony Brook Grist Mill Audio Experience is the second audio tour offered by Stony Brook Village. Currently, the FREE Stony Brook Audio Experience has 14 stops, and covers the history and the quirky stories from the Three Village Inn’s original residents to the entire development of Stony Brook Village Center. It is recommended that participants of the experience begin at the recently restored Hercules Pavilion. 

Additional stories will be added soon, including the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park, and the Country House Restaurant (c.1710). To start a tour, scan QR codes throughout the village, or visit audio.stonybrookvillage.com.

 To learn more about events and activities in Stony Brook Village Center, please visit stonybrookvillage.com or call 631-751-2244.

The event will feature a petting zoo. Photo from WMHO

Do you have a case of spring fever? April is blooming with lots of outside events on the North Shore including The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Stony Brook Village’s free Spring Appreciation Day which returns on Sunday, April 16 to Stony Brook Village with live music, a car show, a petting zoo and scavenger hunts with prizes from noon to 3 p.m. 

Rocking Horse Farms will be set up in front of the Rustic Loft with a variety of animals for children to pet. The Mustang and Shelby Club of Long Island car show will take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Post Office with classic Mustangs and the latest Pony cars that Ford has to offer. Automobiles from 1964 to 2022 will be on display, including some special edition Mustangs like the classic Shelby GT500, GT350 and the iconic Boss 302. 

Brenda and Burke will be performing original and cover songs in the genres of R&B, Roots, Blues and Contemporary Acoustic on the steps of the Stony Brook Post Office and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO)’s Youth Corps will be offering scavenger hunts around Stony Brook Village. Each person to return a completed scavenger hunt will be entered into a raffle to win Discovery Wetlands Cruise tickets. 

Lastly, the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751) 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook will be open for tours ($4 for adults, $2 for children, cash only) of the inner mechanical workings and history of the building and shopping in the Country Store from 1 to 4 p.m.

Spring Appreciation Day is sponsored by Goldfish Swim School and Suffolk Speech. For more information, call 631-751-2244.

Stony Brook Grist Mill. Image from WMHO

Didn’t have a chance to tour the Stony Brook Grist Mill this season? You’re in luck! The mill’s season has been extended for one more day!

Tour the Stony Brook Grist Mill, circa 1751, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook this Sunday, Nov. 6, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m before it closes for the winter.

Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill, it is listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. Visit the Country Store and watch the miller grind grain into flour just as it was done during the Revolutionary War.

Tickets for the tour are $4 for adults and $2 for children. Cash only.  For additional info, call 631-751-2244.

Stony Brook Grist Mill. Image from WMHO

Join the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) in a new walking tour experience, Unwind & Uncork History: The Story of Wine & the Stony Brook Grist Mill on Friday, September 30 at 11 a.m. (3 p.m. tour is sold out!)

The Stony Brook Grist Mill. Photo from WMHO

In this walking tour experience, tour-goers will “uncork” the stories of the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751), the sight of Long Island’s very first vineyard. This will include a tour of the Stony Brook Grist Mill, the scandalous story of Edward Kane, his Lakeside Wine Company, and a brief lesson on wine. 

The tour will begin at Tranquility Park (also known as T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park) across from the Stony Brook Grist Mill, and will end at Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique at the Stony Brook Village Center, which gained its name from Kane’s Lakeside Wine Company.

Fee for the tour  is $25 per person and includes a bottle of authentic Catawba wine from Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique. All participants must be 21 or older. Advance registration is required by calling 631-751-2244. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

The Stony Brook Post Office is one of the stops on the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience. Photo courtesy of Sean Mills

Stony Brook Village has announced that the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience is now available and can be enjoyed on your own time and at your own pace! The experience is free to the public and will allow all visitors of Stony Brook Village to immerse themselves in the quirky history and stories of the lifestyle center and some of its surrounding properties. The audio experience is obtained by scanning QR codes throughout the village and is also available at audio.stonybrookvillage.com.

Currently, the experience has ten stops, and covers the history and the stories from the Three Village Inn’s original residents to the entire development of Stony Brook Village Center. It is recommended that participants of the experience begin at the Three Village Inn. Additional stories about the Country House (c.1710), the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c.1751) — including the first vineyard on Long Island, and T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park will be added soon.

To learn more about events and activities in Stony Brook Village Center, visit stonybrookvillage.com.

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO)’s Stony Brook Grist Mill, a nearly 300-year-old building, has undergone a series of procedures to stop water from entering its basement. Groundwater around the foundation of the building has been leaking through the walls due to the hydraulic pressure from upstream for years.

To halt any further damage and repair the structure, Excav Services Vice President Dylan Governale was retained. Excav Services has already begun their work waterproofing the wall below the footing with black mastic against the foundation along the fiberboards and then protection board and installing drainage at the bottom of the trough, as well as installing three inches of clay material and fabric and then backfilling it. 90% of the water has stopped leaking. To find the remaining 10%, the interior wall was pressure washed to see where the water was coming from and then they will inject those spots with a compound to fully stop leakage through the walls.

The Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751) is Long Island’s most fully operational mill. A mill is a place that grinds grains such as wheat, barley, corn and oats. Grist Mill has played a role in the development of Stony Brook since its original construction in 1699. It was once even a health food store and grain was shipped to 46 states. 

New stories have been uncovered about the Stony Brook Grist Mill, including ones about its patriotic owners during the American Revolution, a scandalous will and its suffragette owner in the early 1900s who sought an experimental child birthing experience.

People of all ages are able to experience the history and inner mechanics of the mill in the WMHO’s Dusty Program.

The Stony Brook Grist Mill will be open for the 2022 season on Saturday, April 16 and will be open on weekends through October starting the weekend of April 23, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for tours ($4 for adults, $2 for children), as well as its Country Store. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

Ward Melville at the Stony Brook Village Center in the 1970s Photo from WMHO

By Heidi Sutton

I’m sitting on a bench on the Village Green at the Stony Brook Village Center. I’ve come to see the sun set over the harbor. It’s mid-June and there’s still a slight chill in the air. Behind me are the quaint New England style shops and restaurants; across the street Hercules sits in his Pavilion, tall and regal with a lion’s pelt wrapped around his shoulders while kayakers and paddle boarders row silently behind him.

Down to my right I spy the little stream that I used to play in as a child and beyond that the Three Village Inn, the spot for so many family gatherings. I hear a familiar sound and turn to catch the mechanical eagle on the post office flap its wings. It’s 8 p.m. and the chimney swifts above me make their last rounds in search of insects as the sky turns orange and purple and pink. The scene is peaceful and beautiful; a community treasure.

One man’s vision

According to Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, this exact spot was the focal point for Ward Melville’s vision to build the nation’s first planned business community. Originally Melville’s mother, Jennie, came up with the idea of rebuilding the village after the Great Depression and started purchasing properties in the area. When she died in the summer of 1939, “Mr. Melville took up the gauntlet” and envisioned opening the whole village to the harbor. 

After establishing The Ward Melville Organization (then known as the Stony Brook Community Fund) on Dec. 31, 1939 the philanthropist presented his grand plan, a crescent-shaped Village Center with connected shops grouped around a Federalist-style post office, to the community in January of 1940 at a special dinner at the Three Village Inn. The project was well received.

“He officially opened [the Stony Brook Village Center] on July 5, 1941 but the last tenant, the hardware store, opened on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day,” said Rocchio during a recent interview, adding that the mechanical eagle was there from the first day. “The idea of attaching buildings together and having the road network where the deliveries went in the back – all of it was very unusual and unique,” she said.

Now known as the Harbor Crescent section, the shops featured big show windows with identical signage. Full-size trees were planted in the grassy area in front of them (probably to keep them from blocking the storefronts as they grew, theorizes Rocchio), with green metal garbage cans inscribed with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives,” placed next to them.

Melville then turned his attention to restoring historic properties in the area dating back to the Revolutionary War, including the Stony Brook Grist Mill and the Thompson House and Brewster House in Setauket. “Each time he did that he deeded it over to the Stony Brook Community Fund, now the WMHO, and here we are,” Rocchio explained.

In the 1960s, Melville saw that the community was changing, and to go along with the times, he built the second section of the Stony Brook Village Center, Market Square, which featured a Bohacks.

When he passed in 1977, his wife Dorothy became president of the board and headed up the third phase of the Village Center with the addition of the Inner Court. Rocchio worked for Dorothy Melville from 1979 until she died in 1989. “I worked very closely with her and she taught me a lot; I learned how [the Melvilles] thought and that was very important.” The final phase, the Educational & Cultural Center, located behind the Inner Court, was completed in 2002.

According to Rocchio, the Stony Brook Village Center was part of a larger vision. “[Ward Melville] loved history – American history. He bought all these properties as it relates to the history of this area,” she explained, adding that Melville’s goal was to have Stony Brook look similar to Colonial Williamsburg.

“[Melville] saw it as a master plan, the Williamsburg concept,” which included donating 400 acres of land for the development of Stony Brook University. “This [shopping area] was supposed to be the road that leads to [The College of] William and Mary,” Rocchio explained, and a lot of the homes on Main Street were purchased by Melville who removed all the Victorian architecture and brought them back to the Colonial style. Slate sidewalks were installed to complete the look.

“This was a place that you lived with history … So you just lived with the Grist Mill where it always was, you lived with the Thompson House where it always was – and to think that this one man had the vision to save all of this and to create this for the residents is such a treasure,” said Rocchio. “The legacy and the foresight that he had is just amazing to me, amazing.”

Continuing the legacy

Today, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization continues its mission to protect and preserve historic and environmentally sensitive properties deeded to it by Ward Melville including the Stony Brook Grist Mill, Thompson House, Brewster House, the 11-acre T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park and two-acre Upper Pond, the Hercules Pavilion, and the Ernst Marine Conservation Center and 88-Acre Wetlands Preserve.

The organization also leases WMHO land and buildings to the Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and the Three Village Society Lending Aids for the Sick for $1 per year with the stipulation that they are responsible for maintenance and operations. This was Ward and Dorothy’s vision of creating a community where art, music and history are an integral part of daily life.

Every year the organization offers free summer concerts in front of the post office, a scarecrow contest in October, a holiday festival and Promenade of Trees in December, educational programs for children, Master Classes for adults, cultural exhibits, musical theater luncheon and Wetlands Discovery Cruises. In addition, the WMHO hosts the Long Island’s Got Talent competition and Walk for Beauty.

The Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook is a  lifestyle shopping center with specialty shops and services, restaurants and year-round events including its annual outdoor summer concerts, Halloween Festival and holiday tree lighting.

 

 

The Brewster House, 18 Runs Road, East Setauket was built in 1665 and is considered the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven. Home to six generations of Brewsters, it was operated as a tavern and general store during the American Revolution by Joseph Brewster. Open on Culper Spy Day every year and by appointment.

 

 

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook is Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill. Listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places, it is open to the public for guided tours with a miller on weekends April through mid-October from noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children.

 

Hercules Pavilion on Main Street, Stony Brook, houses the figurehead and anchor from the U.S.S. Ohio, the first ship launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1820.  Sharing the Hercules Pavilion with the historic figurehead is the Polaris whaleboat, thought to be the only surviving artifact from the Charles Hall expedition to the Arctic in 1870.  

 

 

 

Discovery Wetlands Cruises depart from Stony Brook Marine Services across from the Three Village Inn through Oct. 20. The 27-passenger vessel cruises through the organization’s 88-acre wetlands preserve for a 1½-hour tour. A naturalist on board will highlight and describe the wildlife and flora that the passengers will see. Visit www.wmho.org for full schedule.

 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook is a state-of-the-art venue that offers a wide variety of events throughout the year including cultural exhibits, musical theater performances and children and adult programs. Home of the Heritage Gift Shop.

 

 

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook offers a treasure trove of memorabilia from some of the greatest jazz musicians of their day and even an orchestra stage that was constructed from the original Roseland Ballroom dance floor. The venue includes a full calendar of musical performances, as well as sensory-friendly programs. 631-751-1895, www.thejazzloft.org.

 

The Mechanical Eagle at the Stony Brook Post Office, 129 Main St., Stony Brook, was hand carved and has a wing span of 20 feet. It flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as it has done since 1941, welcoming visitors to the Stony Brook Village Center.

 

 

The Thompson House, 91 North Country Road, Setauket is one of the largest houses in the Town of Brookhaven. Built in 1709, this five-room saltbox farmhouse was home to five generations of Thompsons, including patriot, farmer and physician, Dr. Samuel Thompson.  WMHO education programs are held here by appointment and the house is open for tours on Culper Spy Day

 

Time to celebrate

In honor of its 80th anniversary, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization plans to celebrate with a series of exciting family events kicking off with its Summer Concerts on the Green from July 7 to Aug. 18. Titled Music Through Time, every concert will represent a different decade. “We’re going to be counting down backwards so we’re going to start off with today’s music and work our way right down to the 1940s,” said WMHO Director of Development Gabrielle Lindau.

From July 14 to Sept. 29 the WMHO will present an exhibit at the Educational & Cultural Center titled Journey Through Time. Working in collaboration with Newsday and the Kings Park Heritage Museum, the exhibit will show how society has changed since 1939 because of national, regional and local events and the advancements in technology. “Each panel will represent a different decade,” explained Rocchio. “Newsday is giving us national news, then we have Long Island news and then we have what’s happening here. It’s been a big project.”

The celebration continues from July 20 to Sept. 14 with Walking Through Time, one and a half hour walking tours that will feature costumed actors from St. George Productions portraying historic figures performing in the first person. 

“For this tour we are specifically featuring local women … and you’re going to get to meet people who really lived here and owned some of the properties,“ said Lindau, explaining that participants will meet “Mrs. Devereux Emmet” who owned the Stony Brook Grist Mill and built All Soul’s Church and then head over to the Hercules Pavilion with “Mrs. Jonas Smith” who will speak about the U.S.S. Ohio as well as the legend behind Hercules. The group will then walk over to the Three Village Inn to learn about Captain Jonas Smith, Long Island’s first millionaire. Next the group will meet “Miss Louise,” Dorothy Melville’s longtime driver who will move the group to The Jazz Loft to discuss the history of the building. The tour will conclude in front of the Stony Brook post office just in time to see the eagle flap its wings.

See below for additional details on these special anniversary events.

On Sept. 28 the organization will present The Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War. “[Participants] will have the opportunity to visit the Educational & Cultural Center, the Brewster House, the Thompson House, the Hawkins-Mount House and the Stony Brook Grist Mill,” explained Lindau. “In each of the houses there is going to be a living history performance and you’ll meet ‘residents’ who actually lived in those houses during the Revolutionary War,” she said. “There will be things revealed during this tour that most people have never heard before.” Transportation provided by WMHO to all sites. 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will also team up with The Jazz Loft to present the John Monteleone Art of the Guitar Festival from Sept. 11 to 14 and the Harbor Jazz Festival from Sept. 25 to 29 and collaborate with the Long Island Museum to present a program titled William Sidney Mount & the Sounds of the 19th Century on July 20 from 2 to 5 p.m.; Hawkins-Mount House tours on Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and a Carriage Show and Ride Demonstration on Oct. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

The community gathers for free outdoor concerts at the Stony Brook Village Center every summer.

MUSIC … ART … HISTORY, 1939–2019

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is celebrating a milestone in its history with a variety of events for the entire family.  Mark your calendars for these not-to-be-missed happenings throughout the summer and fall that will literally take you on a historical and musical journey.

MUSIC THROUGH TIME

Music Through Time free summer concerts will take place each Sunday evening 7 to 9 p.m. in front of the Stony Brook Village Post Office from July 7 through Aug. 18. 

Take a musical journey through the decades:

July 7: Sound Chaser Band (2000s-today)

July 14:Tom Manuel & Guests (’90s/Motown)

July 21: Six Gun (’80s/’70s country rock)

July 28: Left Jab Band (’70s/’80s)

Aug. 4: Just Sixties (’60s)

Aug. 11: NY Exceptions (’50s)

Aug. 18: The Jazz Loft (’40s)

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Journey Through Time summer exhibit will open July 14 and run through Sept. 29 at WMHO’s state of the art Educational & Cultural Center daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See how our lives have changed since 1939! Enjoy vintage items such as a WWII Army helmet; a fire engine red T-Bird; Marilyn Monroe, Popeye and Wizard of Oz dolls; a rotary phone as it compares to an iPhone; and so much more! General admission is $8 per person; seniors and children under 12 are $5 per person. Call 631-689-5888 for more info.

WALKING THROUGH TIME

Walking Through Time historic walking tours will begin at the Stony Brook Grist Mill at 1 and 3 p.m. and introduce visitors to a variety of historic figures performing in the first person. Enjoy fun facts and historical happenings from the 18th to the 21st centuries! “Mrs. Devereux Emmet,” c. 1940s, an Astor orphan, who was from Stony Brook, will tell you about why All Souls Church stands here in Stony Brook Village.  “Mrs. Jonas Smith,” c. 1850s, will tell you about how her husband became Long Island’s first millionaire through shipbuilding; and “Miss Louise,” c. 1980s, will talk about Dorothy Melville and her interests and activities during this period.

Tour dates are: 

July 20 (rain date July 21)

July 31 (rain date Aug. 1)

Aug. 10 (rain date Aug. 11)

Aug. 21 (rain date Aug. 22) 

Sept. 14 (rain date Sept. 15)  

Regular admission is $15 per person; a Premium Ticket is available for $20 per person, which includes the Journey Through Time exhibit and refreshments; children ages 5 and under are free. Reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888 or 631-751-2244. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.