Volunteerism

   Our Education Program’s summer staff members, Jaycia Koop and Nia Rogers, have completed their work at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) for the 2016 season. Both are students so are back at school. They served MHV very capably and adapted well to our team and our environment.

   Their work was demanding and sometimes quite intense. It was their responsibility to design the various elements of our Education Program, both for school tours and for our Pioneer Day-Camps. Virtually every day during May and June they were recruiting the volunteers needed to deliver the program. Additionally, they recruited most of the volunteers needed for our six summer festival days.

   Their individual end-of-season reports discuss various aspects of the completed programs, including concerns arising from their observations and experiences throughout the summer. The concern that is noted most frequently is our critical need for an ongoing supply of new volunteers. Our pool of volunteers is constantly changing as new people come onboard and existing volunteers phase out. Those who leave us do so for a variety of reasons: relocation to another community, involvement with a different charity, failing health or energy, loss of interest, etc. These are largely factors that we have no control over.

   Similarly, the new volunteers who join our team do so for a variety of reasons. Some come because they have recently retired and need a new way to contribute to their community. Others come because they have just moved into our community, and volunteering is something they do wherever they live. Many come because a current volunteer or staff member has encouraged them to give it a try. While we were pleased to again add some new volunteers to our team this year, the reports from our Education Program staff indicate that we lost more volunteers than we gained. This is quite concerning, to say the least.

   We recognize that this past summer had some unique elements to it which made our volunteer recruitment more challenging than usual. The Manitoba Summer Games, a great event in and for our community, required a large number of helpers and needed to do their recruitment at the same time that we were recruiting for Pioneer Days. A common response we heard was that Pioneer Days is here every year, but the Summer Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is true and an understandable perspective.

   The Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin always holds its annual Reunion on the last weekend of July. Pioneer Days always takes place on the first weekend of August. Every few years these two festivals actually end up happening on the same weekend, as was the case this year. Additionally this was a very special year for Austin’s museum, as they would be attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for number of threshing machines operating at one time. While this was certainly an admirable venture, it did create some unanticipated challenges for our volunteer recruiters.

   Our volunteer pool is a mixture of demographic groups, particularly on festival days. We are happy to have youth, retired people and even career people on our team for those days. For weekday activities, such as school tours, we need to rely on volunteers who do not have careers. These are mostly retired people and some home-schooled students. We are grateful for these willing people and they do great work. But the supply is seriously limited.

   Volunteer supply is a challenge for most museums and for many other charities whose operations depend on significant numbers of volunteer helpers. Volunteers will most likely join an organization where they are given engaging work in a pleasant work environment. And perhaps most importantly, these people need to see that what they do is significant to the wellbeing of their community and to the cause being supported by that organization.

   We are pleased that the Hanover School Division has developed a program where students can get credit for volunteering a certain number of hours in the community. MHV usually receives one or two of these student volunteers each summer.

   It is commendable that so many people in this community see value in volunteering. The efforts of our current volunteers to actively recruit others to join them at MHV are significant. And we deeply appreciate the ongoing support of the many volunteers who respond to our calls for help again and again.

   Everyone who has volunteered at MHV this year in any capacity is invited to our annual Volunteer Appreciation event on September 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Village Centre Auditorium.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 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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