Founders and Builders

Last winter, as part of our 50th anniversary celebration, we organized and hosted an evening to celebrate the Founders and Builders of MHV. This event was planned and chaired by Dr. John J. Friesen, a longtime supporter of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

One of our first challenges in preparing for this celebration was to define our Founders and Builders. It was determined that our Founders were those individuals who had signed the incorporation documents in 1963. The builders were defined as those who served on the board of directors for at least five years in the first decade, and the first president of the MHV Auxiliary, which was then known as the Ladies Auxiliary.

The next challenge was to reconnect with the families of these individuals. We succeeded in finding contact information for one or more individuals from most of the families and were delighted to have many of them attend this event. Dr. Friesen’s research allowed him to provide a brief snippet of information about each Founder and each Builder as part of the program.

Along with a fine inspirational talk by Eric Friesen and nostalgic music by the Eastman Male Choir, we invited attendees to make modest donations toward a plaque that would enable future visitors to MHV to remember these early and visionary leaders and celebrate their rich contributions. Donations totaled over $2000.

Thanks to the skillful work of Ralph Toews and his crew at RT Signs, we now have that plaque mounted in our foyer in The Village Centre. We hope this plaque will serve to inspire our staff, our board and our constituency to ongoing courageous and inspired leadership that will enable the museum to carry out its mission for many years.

Founders Plaque

This is the time of year when, in preparation for the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Nominating Committee does its work of recruiting new board members. At a recent meeting of this committee there was discussion of the kind of talent and skills we needed to be focusing on in our recruitment efforts. What does it take to not only keep a museum operational, but also to cause it to be a vital entity in the community and the constituency?

It didn’t take long to realize that this board needs historians; People who know and understand the history of the Mennonites and know how to interpret that history in light of who and where we are today.

We need people with financial skill and expertise. The museum functions with an operating budget of just under one million dollars. This money is generated through a number of business units that we operate at MHV, grant writing from various levels of government and foundations, and fundraising in our constituency. Keeping track of all these elements and ensuring that we manage our limited funds with accuracy and integrity is very important.

Another critical competency we need to recruit for is a basic understanding of what it means to be a director on a governance board. This is not a board that manages but one that casts vision for the organization and provides staff with a framework within which to pursue and accomplish that vision.

Perhaps most important is the need for board members who are leaders and are passionate about its mission. These are the people who will ensure that the institution that our Founders and Builders established will continue to succeed.

Calendar of Events

  • February 19 – MHV Auxiliary Film Night - 7:00 PM
  • March 1 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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