By Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator
2015 marks ten years since the Oshawa Community Museum has been honouring the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year. All volunteers of the Oshawa Community Museum are eligible for this annual award. The volunteer must have contributed hours between January 1st and December 31st of that calendar year and effectively assist the Museum in accomplishing its mandate. Selected volunteers contribute to the Museum in meaningful ways that demonstrate his/her various abilities and backgrounds. Volunteers are recognized the following year during or just after National Volunteer Week at the Oshawa Historical Society’s Annual General Meeting.
Throughout the years we have recognized volunteers in many facets of work, from archives assistants, bakers, gardeners, programmers and curatorial assistants. Most of our volunteers have stayed on with the Museum and continue to volunteer for us today.
The first recipient of the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award was Kay Murray, in 2004. Kay is a long time member of the Oshawa Historical Society and worked tirelessly to bring our Victorian teas to fruition. Kay took the lead on food preparation and organization of the teas. She also found the time to work in the garden and with our children’s programs. Kay has been involved with the OCM since 2001.
2005 recognized Mary Ellen Cole. Mary Ellen has been volunteering at the Museum since 2003. She, along with Kay Murray, spearheaded our Victorian Tea efforts. Some of you might also know what an amazing baker Mary Ellen is. She has been baking for the Victorian teas for almost as long as I have been working at the OCM! Tea guests and staff are always grateful for her efforts, especially when they include gingerbread! On top of this, Mary Ellen was one of the Museum’s first at-home volunteers. After the teas, Mary Ellen would wash, dry and starch all of the linens used at the teas. This was quite an undertaking, particularly when our teas were being held weekly. Mary Ellen continues to bake and support the museum today.
In 2006, the Museum chose to recognize Kathryn Holden as the volunteer of the Year. Kathryn began volunteering in 2005 and was also the top hour earner that year, with 160 hours of her time being donated. Kathryn spent enormous amounts of time helping me with kids programs and was a key member of the growing Victorian tea team. Kathryn has also spent the last 10 years delivering tours to the public and for numerous school and group tours. In fact, as of August 2014, Kathryn has ceased volunteering for the Museum and is now an employed Visitor Host!
Another longtime Oshawa Historical Society member was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year in 2007. Doris Spencer joined the OHS in 1981 – before Guy House was restored! Doris was part of the OHS Social Committee. She and a small group of ladies provided tea, coffee, sandwiches and snacks for years at the Historical Society meetings, until this was phased out in the mid-2000s. Afterwards Doris would help out at Museum special events serving refreshments. She always had a smile on her face and loved chatting with visitors. Sadly Doris passed away in August of 2014, but we will always be grateful for the time she donated to the Museum.
Throughout 2008, Jacquie Frank spent many hours in Henry House meticulously documenting every item that was on display in each room. After this, with great care she hand-washed each piece of ceramic and glass dishware. Jacquie also spent one day a week in the Henry House gardens helping to weed and identify numerous species of flora. She even generously donated a number of cuttings from her own plants. Jacquie Frank had all of the qualities that organizations look for in volunteers, including commitment and dedication and interest in our cause and it was for this that she was the 2008 recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award.
In 2009, we honoured Melanie Abrey. Melanie volunteered at the Museum since late 2008. She was very dedicated and frequently came in 2 – 3 times a week. Melanie was a great help to our Curator, Melissa; helping her clean, catalogue and photograph artifacts. She has assisted Jennifer and Tara in the archives and even tried out kids programming! Along with being our Volunteer of the Year award recipient, Melanie was also our 2009 top hour earner with 179 hours.
2010’s recipient for the Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award was Uwe Schneider. Uwe came to know the Museum and its staff a few years ago when he brought his grandsons to our kids summer programs. After a few years his grandsons were too old to participate, but Uwe still wanted to continue his relationship with the Museum in terms of volunteering. He spent many hours working outside if Guy House to help us keep the gardens in tip top shape. He has brought his grandsons back to help and show them the value of volunteering and always had a wonderful spirit while here. Unfortunately Uwe had to stop volunteering because his health was deteriorating, but he was our most enthusiastic and loyal volunteer in 2010!
Pat has been a loyal and enthusiastic volunteer for the Oshawa Community Archives since starting with the museum in 2010. She was familiar with the Oshawa Museum, having been a member of the Historical Society since 1997, and her interest in history has made her the ideal volunteer in the archives. Pat has been very helpful to Jennifer, assisting with scrapbook organization, digitization, transcriptions of documents, and filing various archival sources; she even accompanied Jennifer on a road trip to the Archives of Ontario when Jenn was researching the history of Henry House. Her enthusiasm, congenial nature, and sheer dedication, contributing 103 and a quarter hours in 2010 and 92 and a half hours in 2011, is why Pat was awarded the 2011 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year Award.
When it comes to a dedicated museum volunteer, many people think about someone who is often seen around the houses, out in the garden, at meetings and training sessions. But the 2012 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year was most comfortable out of the spotlight, often helping from where we needed it the most – at home. Erika Suchan helped to officially launch our “at-home” volunteer sector 7 years ago. In four years she amassed 162 hours of service, averaging 40.5 hours per year and 3.4 hours per month. Erika supports us by laundering tablecloths, napkins and children’s costumes after teas, birthday parties and special events. This was especially helpful when we didn’t have a washer or dryer at the museum.
Karen Albrecht has been a volunteer at the Museum since 2011 helping with Museum programming, and she has consistently donated her time since then. By early 2014, she had donated 133.5 hours to the Museum, stopping only because she was attending Trent University and became an occasional Visitor Host at the Museum! Through the years, she has donned a costume for our Victorian Teas, wielded glue guns helping with crafts, provided an extra set of hands and eyes for our children’s birthday parties, and other programming in between. Always with a smile on her face, she has been a dedicated programming volunteer and was awarded the 2013 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award.
Finally, over the past year, Donna Martino has been a valuable asset to the volunteer program here at the Oshawa Community Museum. She has donated in total 165.5 hours, since beginning in 2012 and while she only has been volunteering with us for three years, in that time Donna has demonstrated a true passion for the Museum, through her continual support of our programs and her dedication to her role as a volunteer. The choice for Donna as a recipient for the 2014 Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year award is in large part due to Donna’s work with Melissa Cole, Curator at the Museum. Donna has great attention to detail when working with the collection; this in combination with her reliable and consistency for hours has been a wonderful help throughout 2014. In addition, to her work with the collection, Donna has also been one of our “go-to” volunteer bakers, by donating baked goods for our teas and offering to bake whatever is needed, whether it be scones or sweets.
Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.
Thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers for your hard work and enthusiasm for preserving and promoting Oshawa’s heritage!