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The trouble with museum volunteers

Features Editor

When all is said and done at Pike Pioneer Museum,

everything comes back to volunteers.

The museum opened in 1971, and from the beginning, volunteers have been its lifeblood.

"The basis of the museum was volunteers and volunteers have been the building blocks and the stepping stones to our success," said Charlotte Gibson, museum director. "Their interest and enthusiasm have carried us far beyond where we had thought we would be at this point in time. They have been so generous with their time, talents, skills and money. It is remarkable what can be accomplished with a group of dedicated volunteers."

The volunteers at Pike Pioneer Museum are a mixed bag. They come with a variety of interests and offerings.

"We have volunteers who serve as tour guides, instructors, coaches and demonstrators," Gibson said. "We have those who are workmen such as carpenters, plumbers, gardeners, school marms and masters and millers. We have those who share their talents as musicians, cooks, quilters, spinners and blacksmiths."

Then there are those who volunteer to work in the gift shop and give rides on the horse and wagon and the miniature train.

"Some share their knowledge about chickens and corn and that’s no minor thing," Gibson said. "All of our volunteers share their knowledge and experience and everyone benefits – from visitors to the museum to other volunteers and employees."

One thing the volunteers have in common, no matter how varied their contributions, is their willingness to go the extra mile.

"Once we get involved in a project, no one is eager to go home," Gibson said. "Time is not a factor. We all get caught up in what we are doing and we want to see it through. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our volunteers."

Although there is no way to adequately repay the volunteers for their many contributions to the growth and success of the museum, Gibson said she wanted to bring them all together and say thank you for a job well done.

So, she organized a volunteer appreciation luncheon at the

Weed-Metcalf Reunion Cabin and, true to form, one of the volunteers, Alma Bodiford, volunteered to prepare the meal. And, it was one tailor-made for the museum folks – fried chicken, potato salad, friend okra, tomatoes, corn, peas, cornbread, banana pudding and apple cake. Gibson and Bodiford had found the perfect way to say "thank you" in a good old-fashioned way.

"We are so proud of our volunteers and so appreciative of them" Gibson said. "There is only one thing wrong with them. There just aren’t enough of them."

As word spreads about the museum and the many educational opportunities there, more school groups clamor for the time slots available. And the more school groups that visit the museum, the greater the need for volunteers.

"The month of November is already completely booked and about half of October," Gibson said. "We have signed up four schools that have never been here before and they are coming from greater distances. This is good for the museum and we are excited that we are reaching other areas, but at the same time, we have to have volunteers to lead these groups and work in the gift shop during their visits because they really like to shop."

Gibson said volunteers work at their leisure and at their pleasure.

"Some of our volunteers work one or two days a week and some a few hours," she said. "Others don’t have set schedules. They just come in when we need extra help. Anyone who is looking for a way to be involved in the community and to do something very worthwhile and rewarding is encouraged to look into the opportunities that await them at Pike Pioneer Museum.