Thursday, November 20, 2014

AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 1

Volume 2, Issue 1 - November, 2014
brought to you by Joe Harold, Appalachian Trail Museum Manager

The season is complete and this issue starts Volume 2 of the AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter.  One year ago, I started this job as manager of the museum and also started this newsletter as a way to let all of our volunteers (and anyone who was interested) know what was going on at the museum.  I have had a wonderful year and look forward to what next season will bring through our door.  I hope you all will continue to come along with me.


Fall Furnace Fest

On October 18th and 19th, the local community converged onto the park and gathered for the annual Fall Furnace Fest.  This festival is the biggest event of the year at the park and is put on by the Friends of Pine Grove Furnace.  Many volunteers come together to provide the visitors with a large number of things to do and see, including pumpkin carving, scarecrow making, hay rides, mansion tours, music, vendors, food... Well, you get the idea.  The whole park is involved and it is a real good time.  

A perfect autumn morning awaits festival visitors
Last year, I recall a good number of visitors coming through the museum that day, but I was pleasantly surprised when those two days accounted for our highest visitor counts of the season, pushing us up over my goal of 8300 visitors by a good margin.  

Rough Edges String Band setting up
I'm pretty sure one of the reasons a lot of Festival visitors came through the museum was the excellent music that was emanating from the Rampatheater area.  The Rough Edges String Band had set up at the ramp and provided some very good music in the early afternoon.  It was very pleasant hearing the excellent folk music coming through the front door and quite a few visitors mentioned how nice it was.

A nice crowd gathering to listen to the great music

Drag'n Fly and Freckles

I like to follow hikers who publicly track their journey as they make their way along the trail striving to complete a Thru hike.  This year I was especially interested in following two local Gals.  Carolyn "Freckles" Banjak and Nan "Drag'n Fly" Reisinger, who completed what the ATC describes as an Alternate style Thru Hike.  Starting at Springer and making their way north, they eventually "saved" a little of PA, jumped up north to beat the weather and summiting Katahdin, then coming back down and filling in the gaps.  This left the wonderful situation of actually finishing their 5 millionth step at the Museum.  

The Museum awaits the Hikers
Freckles and Drag'n Fly heading for the last white blaze
We all gathered around and waited for the two hikers to show up and it was a pleasure to applaud their finish of the 2185.3 miles of the trail.  

Nan also walked herself into the AT record books by being the oldest female to complete a Thru Hike.  Congrats to both.

Here is a link to their story written by BJ Small, for The Sentinel

Museum Receives $18K Grant

Gwen Loose, one of our Museum Board Members and a dedicated Docent worked long and hard to submit an application for a grant from the Cumberland Valley Visitor's Bureau and her tremendous effort paid off with an $18,000 grant that will be applied to the renovations taking place in the basement.  On November 12th, Gwen and I headed to the Catering Barn in Mechanicsburg and had a nice breakfast before receiving our grant check.

The funds will go a long way to making the best children's exhibits that we can for the basement space.  You can read about all of the grants CVVB awarded here.

If you haven't seen the progress that Ron Bungay and crew have made in the basement, here are a few pictures to bring you up to date.  

Utility area, wall removed
Snake central (old well) gets a new lid 
New wooden pillars were placed along the walls
Work is proceeding
Jeff Seal works on the stone wall

Work around the door
Pouring the new floor
Nice and smooth
The new wall between the exhibit space and the utility space
I guess I haven't taken a most recent picture.  I will remedy that for next month's Issue.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but the bulk if it is complete.

Much thanks goes to Gwen for her work with the grant and alto to Ron and his crew, Carol Bungay, Mike Wingeart, Martha Wingeart, Jeff Seal, Bill Dickinson, Sam Vinch and Maureen Vinch for the amazing transformation that has taken place in the basement of the Old Mill.  

Highlights and Milestones of the Season

As the season went on, I started keeping track of the little milestones and highlight that happen as visitors come to the museum and our Docents greet them and show them the way.  Here are some I would like to share: 

Total Attendance: 9166
Total Docent Hours: 1886.7
Other Volunteer Hours: 1748 and counting
First 100+ visitor day: 4/26/14 - Mikki Williams and Howard Davis on duty
Total 100+ visitor days:20
Total 200+ visitor days: 2, Fall Furnace Fest weekend.
Highest Visitor Day: 273, 10/18/14 - Barb Culton and Joe Harold on duty
Our other busy days were Memorial Day weekend and Hall of Fame weekend.

According to my records, the following volunteers have been helping out at the museum for all five seasons.  They were recognized at the dinner.  There are probably more people who have been contributing, but I was using the spreadsheet I inherited that mainly tracked Docent hours.

Five Season Volunteers (Docent): Linda Bierly, Ron Bungay, Robert Croyle, Robert Freeman, Jim Foster, Georgia Freet, Janice Gibson, Bill Leslie, Gwen Loose, Larry Luxenberg, Joan McKean, Mary Parry, Lorrie Preston, Margy Schmidt, Jay Sexton, Dan Taylor, Mikki Williams, Kent Wilson, Jennifer Wright, Tom Wright.  

We also applauded those who served 10 or more shifts as a Docent during the season.

10+ Shifts: Joanne Firman - 41, Bill Quinn - 26, Ed Riggs - 25, Michele Burton - 22, Georgia Freet - 14, Gwen Loose - 14, Joan McKean - 13, Jay Sexton - 12, Jack Harbaugh - 11 and Rayne Debski - 10.

Thanks to all for your dedicated service.  It is truly appreciated.

Volunteer Recognition Dinner

November 16th marked the Fifth Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner, held at the Ironmasters Mansion in the Park.  Close to forty guests came together to celebrate the season and join us in recognizing all of the volunteers that make the Museum possible.  

There was plenty of food and even some drink and lots of good stories passed around.  The good feelings I feel as we acknowledge the accomplishments of the museum and the people who give their time is amazing.  I thank all who did what they could during the season to make this one of the most successful years of the Museum's existence.  

The day had started out with some warm cider and cookies over at the museum in the new basement space.  Ron and Carol set up some chairs and heaters and were showing some pictures of the work of the summer.

A nice social hour started at four with light snacks and drinks.  I passed out a little quiz for all to play with where we could also gather some ideas for retail items and what to do with the new exhibits that will be going into the Children's Area of the basement.  

Next a LOT of food was put out buffet style for all to enjoy.  We had to put the desserts in the kitchen as there was not enough table space out in the dining area.  I'm pretty sure everyone had their fill and I know I was pretty stuffed when I was done.  

After dinner we started the recognition phase of the night.  I started out with the facts and milestones of the year, so that the attendees could see how their hard work had paid off for the museum.  I also announced the Five Season Recognition and 10+ Shift Volunteers and awarded each with a special AT Museum Gift Certificate of $20 and $10 respectively.  We also shared stories of working at the museum during the season and there were some very interesting and funny stories to tell.  

Next Larry Luxenberg (President of the AT Museum Society) spoke on the great things that we did this year and gave us a little preview of what was to come.  Larry also mentioned our need of some special people.  We still need someone to lead the Sunday Programs and we are looking for someone with HVAC skills to help install a heating/cooling system in the museum.  We also need to get a committee for logging all of the wonderful artifacts that keep coming into the museum.  

Each volunteer received a complimentary one year membership in the AT Museum Society, a nice card from Red Wolf the membership secretary, a Museum support sticker and a special 2014 Volunteer Patch.  (Those of you who couldn't attend the dinner will be receiving these things in the mail shortly.)  

Special Thanks was given to: Roger and Kathy Stone (caretakers of the mansion and our hosts).  Robert Freeman, Barry Flicker and Jack Harbaugh (lawncare).  Georgia Freet (gardening, landscape). Jim Foster (Computers and Hall of Fame Banquet). Red Wolf (for all he does). Michele Burton, Steve Dodd, Robert Freeman, Howard Davis, Vern Graham, Carolyn Banjak, Nan Reisinger and Chris Firme (Road Scholar Hikes).  Ron Bungay, Carol Bungay, Mike Wingeart, Martha Wingeart, Jeff Seal, Bill Dickinson, Sam Vinch and Maureen Vinch (Basement Renovation). Jack Adams, Ed Riggs and crew (Second Floor Ramp).  And Sean Benson and the Pine Grove Furnace State Park Staff.  

We created a new award this year called The President's Award.  This award recognized outstanding contribution and extended service which exemplifies the true spirit of volunteerism and the Appalachian Trail.  This award went to Alan "Gonzo" StrackelJahn.

Lastly, we honored our Volunteer of the Year.  The winner of this award was Joanne Firman.  Joanne only started volunteering at the museum last season, but she quickly became one of my most dependable Docents.  Her 41 shifts helped ensure we were open all the days we advertised and the trials and tribulations she had to endure were a testament to her dedication.  Her warm welcome to all the visitors helped make them feel comfortable and she proved her fortitude by mastering the credit card machine and was responsible for the highest cash and credit card sales days throughout the season.  We are lucky to have Joanne on board and hope she continues to help us out with her magnificent Docent skills.  

Joanne Firman, 2014 AT Museum Volunteer of the Year
It was a very good night that marked a wonderful season and I thank all who helped out with the setup, cleanup and all the wonderful food that was provided.  

Things Coming Down the Trail

November 24th, 2014 - Exhibit items removed, Museum put to bed for the winter.  
December (date TBD), 2014 - Move artifacts from second floor to Carlisle storage facility.
March 28th, 2015 - Museum opens for its Sixth season.

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