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Oracle Institute project proceeds, fundraiser planned

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

INDEPENDENCE — In between the unpredictable bouts of rain over the past several weeks, Oracle Institute founder Laura George is excited to see the dramatic changes at the site of the organization’s Peace Pentagon.
The 7,500-square-foot building will finally put a roof over the interfaith organization in Grayson County. The pentagon’s five points are symbolic for the five major world religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
“[The design] has two pentacles, an interior and an exterior,” George explained. “The interior pentagon will be for the chapel, and will be very dramatic.”

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Steven Grief of Highland Builders is heading the construction for the pentagon. Construction of the basement framing, floor trusses and subfloor was recently completed, and the crew is now busy laying the framework, which will create the skeleton of the building.
On the week of July 8, George invited the community to an “Oracle Staining Party” to help stain the timbers before they were erected.
Once the Pentagon is complete, George plans to open it to people who come from all beliefs, and foster a peace among these groups.
In 2010, George took her request to build the pentagon to the Grayson County Board of Supervisors. Her request for a special use permit was met with refusal, but after George filed a lawsuit against the county claiming religious discrimination, the supervisors in 2012 re-heard George’s case. The county granted her request and the lawsuit was dropped.
Last year, the group held a ground-breaking ceremony, which began construction of the Peace Pentagon.
During the long process of claiming a permanent fixture in the community, the group has continued with their classes and meetings in Independence, gathering in places like the old Grayson National Bank Building, the Grayson County Public Library, the Historic 1908 Courthouse and on the institute grounds.

Benefit picnic and Mickey Finn concert will raise money for Peace Pentagon

INDEPENDENCE — The Oracle Institute and the Unitarian Universalist Community of Independence (UUCI) are co-sponsoring a fundraiser for the Peace Pentagon this Saturday, featuring Fred “Mickey” Finn, the former owner of the Oracle property.
Finn became internationally famous operating his night club, “Mickey Finn’s, h which in its time hosted more than 3 million people. This success led him to many accomplishments, including “The Mickey Finn Show” on NBC, the longest-running Dixieland show in Las Vegas history, and a performance for Ronald Reagan, according to a press release for the event.
In 1988, Finn left his career to seek a more quiet life. He moved to Independence “to enjoy the serenity of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” the release said. He built a house on the New River, where he lived with his wife, Brenda Chappell, and his daughter, Christie.
When he left in 2007, he sold the house to Oracle Institute founder Laura George, who would later use the property as a site for the organization’s Peace Pentagon.
Recently, Finn contacted George to find out how construction on the property was going. He then offered to help with a benefit show to help raise funds for the project.
“Folks wanna see what’s going on up there, and I like that Oracle is promoting interfaith harmony in the community,” he explained.
Not a stranger to concert benefits in this area, Finn also played to raise funds for community projects like the 1908 Old Courthouse restoration project.
“I was overjoyed by Mickey’s offer,” said George. She explained that the benefit will include a return performance by Finn, and a chance to get a signed copy of his autobiography, which includes chapters from his years in Independence.
Guests will also get a sneak peek at the Peace Pentagon, and a tour of the property, “which abuts the local Boy Scout camp and is bound by the New River and Saddle Creek,” the release said. The concert will also feature performances from local musicians, hot dogs and refreshments.  
Proceeds from the concert will be put towards construction of the Peace Pentagon, which will serve as an interfaith and social justice center, the release said.
The non-profit educational charity promotes unity among the five primary religions, and UUCI is the first multi-faith church in Grayson County.
“UUCI will utilize the chapel in the Peace Pentagon when completed, and George also hopes the space will be utilized by other charities and non-profit groups in the county, such as Grayson LandCare, Blue Ridge Discovery Center and the national Committee for the New River,” said the release.
The picnic and benefit concert will be held on Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Peace Pentagon site at 1990 Battlefield Drive in Independence.
The suggested minimum donation for attendance is $10. Children are admitted free and donations are tax-deductible.
Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chair and a side dish or dessert to share.
For more information, call (276) 773-3308, or visit www.theoracleinstitute.org.