Volunteer Opportunities

With all the activity coming up in the next months, we need to ensure a good supply of supporting volunteers. In May and June the Education Program will often require a dozen interpreters a day. As the days get warmer and the grass begins to grow, we will need volunteers to ride our lawn mowers to keep the grounds looking neat and tidy. As mentioned in my April 21 post below, we have a new section of corral that needs paint. We would welcome volunteer painters for this project. Anyone contemplating volunteering at MHV is invited to join us for our annual volunteer orientation on Thursday, April 26, at 7:00 PM in the Village Centre Auditorium. Come and learn more about the opportunities available.

Volunteers Bob, Abe and Abe seed oats at MHV

The Village Comes to Life

As we approach our May 1 opening date, Mennonite Heritage Village is showing numerous signs of new life and activity. As usual, the village, including the Livery Barn Restaurant, will open to the public on May 1.

One of the first things that happens as the new season approaches is the hiring of summer staff. Helen Bergen is returning as our Food Services manager and has rehired many of her restaurant staff from last year. Jared Nickel has joined our management team as our Facilities Manager. He has worked at MHV in the past and brings a lot of passion for the work of MHV and energy to develop and maintain the facilities. Kim Plett will return as our Education Coordinator administering the school program for the summer. This is Kim’s third season at MHV.

The early spring weather has made it easier for our volunteers to make progress on a number of outdoor projects. Our corral replacement project has continued with the corral that separates the oxen from the horses having been replaced. We still need some volunteers to paint that section of the corral. Volunteers have also improved the landscaping of our threshing area in an effort to ensure that it is dry for threshing demonstrations. This work has been made possible by donations of gravel from The Clearspring Centre.

New corral. Anyone care to paint this?

Donations from our supportive community have allowed us to initiate some significant facility improvement projects. A new boardwalk replacing the crumbling old one is being installed on our Main Street. The MHV Auxiliary is providing funding for this project. The Livery Barn kitchen has a new ceramic tile floor and a fresh coat of paint. By the end of the week, weather permitting, we expect the building will also have a fresh exterior coat of paint.

The New Boardwalk

The Steinbach and Area Garden Club has again adopted MHV as one of their projects. They have already cleared the flower beds and tilled the vegetable garden. Their energy and commitment make a significant contribution to the beauty of our grounds.

The Vegetable Garden is Ready for Planting

This is also the time of year when we get a lot of bookings for activities at MHV. Our churches and the Village Centre Auditorium have become popular wedding venues. We already have bookings for every weekend in July, August and September. Many teachers have booked a field trip for their students at MHV in May or June. We also provide programming for Daycares in July and August.

The Value of Artifacts

Gemeinde Chortitz Waisen Safe 1902 Olds Replica

Every year at this time we engage a public auditor to examine our bookkeeping, accounting and management procedures to ensure that we are operating in the best possible interest of Mennonite Heritage Village and its donors and supporters. The complexity of the accounting discipline results in some very interesting discussions and issues.

One of the issues we’ve been discussing this year is the valuation of our collection of artifacts. The balance sheet refers to our collection as “Cultural Properties and Antiquities.” By now we have in excess of 15,000 artifacts. Some of them have been here a long time, some are recent arrivals. We have very large artifacts, such as old buildings, and we have very small artifacts, such as reusable needles for medical syringes. The collection includes articles of minimal monetary value as well as articles of significant monetary value. Much of the value in our collection is of a cultural or sentimental nature. Many artifacts are literally irreplaceable.

The balance sheet wants to know the monetary value of our “Cultural Properties and Antiquities” for some good reasons. If our collection ever sustained some serious damages and we needed to file a claim with our insurance underwriter, we would need to have some reasonable sense of the value of the damaged artifacts.

The challenges in maintaining a credible representation of the monetary value of the collection are significant. First we need to establish the value of the item when it arrives at MHV. Since all our artifacts are donated, we don’t have the benefit of a number on a sales receipt. Artifacts may also change in value. An item that was acquired 30 years ago and had little value at that time may have become significantly more valuable by now. Monitoring this kind of unpredictable inflationary activity is hardly practical. This will be an interesting topic of conversation for our staff and our Finance and Audit Committee in the weeks to come.

Family and Local History Day

Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) enjoys close working relationships with many related organizations. One of those organizations is the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society (MMHS). In fact, the MMHS is our parent organization. It was the MMHS that developed and pursued a vision to build a museum that would preserve and exhibit the stories of the Russian Mennonites and their migrations to Canada.

Our relationship continues to be strong, and we collaborate on activities from time to time. Annually at this time of year, we combine forces to stage Family and Local History Day. This is a day when people interested in genealogy and other local and family histories get together to share stories and other information on these topics. This year the event will take place on April 14, 2012, beginning at 10:00 AM in the Village Centre Auditorium.

In the morning, exhibitors will have their family-tree research on display. Anyone contemplating writing a family story or doing serious work on a family tree should make this event a priority. Many of the exhibitors have done extensive work on their family trees or have written a family-history book. The exhibitors are there to share tips with aspiring researchers and writers, and to provide a resource for those who are in the middle of creating that same family tree but are missing some significant information. Chances are someone at the event will have the missing information or at least have new ideas as to where to search.

Some of the exhibitors will still be available in the afternoon, but the main activity for that period will be presentations by local historians. Because MHV’s theme for 2012 is A Child’s World: From Slate to Tablet, all three speakers will in some way focus on children in their presentations. Glen Klassen will give a presentation on “The Survival of Children in the East Reserve Before Vaccines and Antibiotics.” Henry Fast will speak about “Growing Up in a Kleine Gemeinde Village.” (This is particularly appropriate in light of the fact that the Kleine Gemeinde, also known as the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2012.) To conclude this part of the program, Dr. Roland Sawatzky will give a presentation on “Using Artifacts to tell a Family Story.”

Following these presentations, the MMHS will convene its Annual General Meeting. Members and interested guests are welcome.

Admission to the entire event is by donation. The MHV Auxiliary will offer lunch to attendees for $8.00.

MHV Annual General Meeting

Rudy Friesen recognizes retiring board member Elsie Janzen's contributions to MHV.

Rudy Friesen recognizes retiring board member Veronica Klassen's contributions to MHV.

Approximately 50 members braved somewhat blustery weather on March 27 to participate in the Annual General Meeting of MHV. Attendees heard reports from President John Rempel, Executive Director Barry Dyck, MHV Auxiliary President Linda Schroeder, public auditor Victor Bergmann (Deloitte & Touche Llp), Finance and Audit Committee Chair John Klippenstein and Nominating Committee Chair Al Hamm.

The Nominating Committee presented a slate of two nominees. Anne Friesen from Steinbach was reelected for another term and Harold Dyck from Winnipeg was elected as a new director of the MHV Board. Board member Rudy Friesen recognized the services of two retiring board members, Elsie Janzen and Veronica Klassen. Daryl Braun, well known news reporter with AM1250 and Mix 96 gave a brief and entertaining overview of his own experiences growing up and living in predominantly Mennonite communities.

When all these meeting formalities were completed guests enjoyed coffee and pastries provided by Anna Falk, the baker in the Livery Barn Restaurant. It was good to see people socializing and making new acquaintances.

Immediately following the meeting the Board of Directors met to select an Executive Committee. John Klippenstein from Steinbach was elected as President and Chair of the Board. Anne Friesen as re-elected as Vice President and Gilbert Brandt from Winnipeg was elected as Secretary. These officers assume their respective responsibilities immediately.

Guest speaker Daryl Braun and retiring President John Rempel share a story.

Book Shop News

A set of books in the Village Book Store that deserves another mention is The Molly Stories. Marlene Reimer is both author and illustrator of these books. She has used miniature toys and the old craft of clay modeling to create sets for her stories and then used modern photographic technology to provide great background scenes. The stories are geared toward younger children, telling five stories based on Marlene’s vivid childhood memories, including the demise of a housebarn here in Steinbach. These stories come in a set of five books, which sells for only $20. Not only are they entertaining; they offer some education in local history as well.

- By Marigold Peters

Education Program at MHV

We are about to begin a new season of the Education Program at Mennonite Heritage Village. Each year we host 4,000-5,000 students for a day of exposure to various historical aspects of our museum. This program is designed to support the school’s Social Studies curriculum. From February to mid-April we deliver an indoor winter program, which offers two slightly different formats of the program for Grades K-3 and Grades 4-6.

On March 13 we welcomed our first group, comprised of 23 Grade 4 students from Winnipeg accompanied by teachers and parent volunteers. MHV interpreters greeted them in period costume at various stations in the galleries and other locations in the Village Centre. Each station taught them something about the history of the Mennonites. Students heard about the migration from Russia to Canada; watched demonstrations of sock darning, wool blanket-making, spinning, and woodworking with antique tools; received lessons on the structure and functionality of the windmill; listened to the story of Sush, a little girl who lived in a semlin; and got a chance to write on a slate, bake schnetje, and wash clothes on an old washboard. This hands-on experience is always an exciting time for the children and therefore makes the four-hour program go by very quickly.

There are several more bookings for this program during March and April. We look forward to hearing the excited chatter and laughter of the children as it echoes through the hallways of the Village Centre.

- By Anne Toews

Donations to MHV

Donations to MHV can be made in a variety of ways. One of the most common is simply to send a cheque, either for use where needed in our general operations or designated to a particular project. While we typically send a general appeal letter to our constituents once a year, we welcome donations of all sizes at any time of the year. In fact, between now and the end of May, when the museum will again start generating significant revenue, we often find our purse strings need to be managed most carefully.

Recently a number of donors have chosen to initiate monthly donations by way of automatic withdrawals from their chequing accounts, directly deposited into the chequing account of MHV. This is a wonderful solution, as it provides MHV with assured regular income and also simplifies the giving process for the donor. Anyone interested in setting up such a monthly donation should contact Stan Franz at [email protected].

Another simple method of donating is to “gift” invested shares to MHV. This can be done through a financial institution such as the Mennonite Foundation of Canada. Shares designated in that way for Mennonite Heritage Village will then be sold by the financial institution, and the cash proceeds will be forwarded to MHV.

Donating shares is one form of in-kind donation. An in-kind donation involves giving an asset rather than giving cash. Other forms of in-kind donations are also welcomed. All of the artifacts donated to MHV are in-kind donations. Vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, tools, and other functional items have also been donated at various times.

Another donation option is sponsorship of a variety of events and activities at MHV. Our festival event days, golf tournament and education program are examples of activities which typically receive designated funding from businesses and interested individuals. These sponsorships allow donors to direct funds to an area of their particular interest.

MHV is grateful for all donations we receive from our supporting constituency.

MHV Finances

This column doesn’t often get into detailed discussion about the finances of Mennonite Heritage Village. Perhaps it’s time we more fully inform our readers about our funding sources and special funding arrangements.

MHV has three basic sources of funding. In the past year 52 % of our income was earned from our various museum operations. These would include admissions, food sales, gift-shop sales and rental revenue. Admission sales are the membership and admission fees we generate from members and guests. Food sales include income from the Livery Barn Restaurant, Short Order Booth and catering. Rental revenue comes from individuals and organizations renting our facilities for meetings, banquets, wedding receptions, family gatherings and the like.

In the same time period 19% of our income came to us through government grants. We applied for and received various grants from both the federal and provincial governments for things like restoration projects, museum expansion and summer staffing. As a provincially appointed Signature Museum, we annually receive a program grant from the Government of Manitoba to support new initiatives at MHV. We were also fortunate to receive a number of municipal grants from the City of Steinbach and surrounding municipalities.

The remaining income, which last year amounted to 29% of the total, came to us through the generous donations of our friends and other supporters. This group of donors includes the MHV Auxiliary as well as charitable individuals and businesses who endorse our mission of preserving and telling the story of the Russian Mennonites. We are deeply grateful for all the generous donations we receive annually.

Book Shop News

New in the Book Store

The Book Shop at Mennonite Heritage Village seeks to offer books that have a Mennonite flavour to them, are written by local or Mennonite authors, and/or tell a local story. This week Marigold Peters, our Office Manager, offers some information about new publications that have recently arrived in the store.

“The latest Preservings magazine, a journal of the D.F. Plett Historical Research Foundation Inc., is on our shelves!! A fabulous picture on the front cover draws one to open the journal. Inside, a theme is immediately evident. Journal entries have been built around the fascination ‘modern’ people have with those individuals and people groups who prefer to use tractors with steel wheels or horses and buggies, who wear distinctively conservative dress, as well as those who prefer limited use of technology, particularly the telephone. Articles cover Amish sensibilities such as the importance of face-to-face interaction, Hutterite practices and struggles with modernity, as well as conservative impulses of the Russian Mennonites living south of the Rio Grande as described in Dr. Royden Loewen’s article. There is more! The EMC conference is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2012, and appropriately there is an article about the move away from traditional conservatism towards a more evangelical approach to their faith. That is just the beginning. Included as well are numerous photos, old and new. This 94-page journal, a yearly edition, is selling in our Book Shop for $20.

“We would also like to announce the arrival of Dr. Dennis Giesbrecht’s new book, Pete & Tillie. The back cover reads: ‘Someone once said that the art of medicine is to amuse the patient while nature heals the disease. A few believe that doctors are able to restore a scrambled egg to its shell. A doctor’s task is to distinguish between the small proportion of ailments that are serious or life-threatening and the vast majority that are benign, self-limiting, or easily put right. His task is blending science with the art of medicine – a listening ear, patience, and compassion. The episodes recounted here are based on a medical practice that has spanned four decades, although most take place in the 80s and early 90s. During these years there have been many advances in medicine, some of which are chronicled in this book. The tales are about actual patients, but the particulars have been combined, shuffled like a deck of cards, embellished, and modified. There is comedy and heartbreak, conditions familiar and obscure, even a little research interspersed with tales of the unbelievable and creative ways in which people abuse their bodies, and then demand that doctors reverse the damage. The characters in this book are sophisticated and knowledgeable, naïve and ignorant, wretched, sweet, and sometimes infuriating, but always fascinating.’

“This 400-page book, which is getting very positive reviews from both staff and volunteers of MHV, is available in our Book Shop for $24.95!”

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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.