Originally consisting of an informal gathering of retired lighthouse keepers, their families and friends, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA) was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1983, making it one of the nation’s longest-lived lighthouse preservation groups.
With a mission statement calling for “the preservation of lighthouses, the stories of those who kept them, and developing a new generation of preservationists”, the Association’s second President Dick Moehl realized the group needed to find a lighthouse to restore in order to fully bring its mission to reality.
Finding the abandoned 1873 St. Helena Island light station to be in deplorable condition, the group set its sights on adopting and restoring the abandoned relic. The United States Coast Guard had removed the lantern and most of the dwelling roof was missing. Vandals had broken into the structure and had torn out the windows, doors, stairs, interior trim and anything else which could be removed.
Over the ensuing years, the entire lighthouse complex has been lovingly restored, including the installation of a new wood shingle roof, rebuilding of the boat house and assistant keepers dwelling, installation of new lantern and chimney, and the replacement of thousands of bricks in the tower. Perhaps most amazingly, as a result of shallow waters which surround the island, all of the volunteers and materials have to be transferred to the island in small inflatable boat. Over the years, 21 Boy Scouts have successfully undertaken Eagle Scout Service Projects and Girl Scouts have earned 3 Gold and 5 Silver awards for their work on the island.