Volunteer Opportunities at MHV

MHV is highly dependent on volunteer labour in many areas of its operation. At this time of year we begin to encourage people to consider enrolling in our volunteer labour force for the upcoming season. We will need people who enjoy giving tours and serving as interpreters in our Education Program. Our facilities will require a lot of volunteer labour as well, from cutting grass to painting fences to trimming trees, etc. On festival days we will need people who are willing to staff our admission booths, cook in the short-order booth, tell stories in the Semlin, demonstrate rope-making and other pioneer skills, and the list could go on. We will be hosting an orientation event for volunteers on April 26 where prospective volunteers can learn about current opportunities.

MHV is leaning more and more in the direction of electronic technologies and social media. We are currently having our website redesigned to make it more interactive. We have had a Facebook account for about a year now and no doubt will soon have a Twitter account. It would be useful for us to have a volunteer videographer on the team who would enjoy producing short videos to be posted on our website and Facebook account.

We are fortunate to have a number of vintage cars and trucks in our Transportation Exhibit. While a number of these have been beautifully restored, very few of them are operational. Getting more of them up and running would be a great project for any retired mechanics who want the freedom to work at their own pace and want to make a contribution to a worthy organization. If you know of someone who might be qualified in any of these areas, please prompt them to make contact with someone at MHV by calling 326-9661 or by emailing [email protected]

"Remembering Russia, 1928-1938"

MHV Auxiliary Poster for Film Night

From time to time the MHV Auxiliary plans and delivers a Film Night in the Village Centre Auditorium at Mennonite Heritage Village. While this is typically billed as a fundraising event, it also provides the community with an educational and social opportunity. One such event will take place on Friday, February 17, at 7:00 PM, when Otto Klassen’s film Remembering Russia, 1928-1938 will be shown. Cost of admission is $8.

Klassen’s film explores the hardships experienced by Mennonites in Soviet Russia during a time when the government of the day was introducing drastic reform to agriculture and closing many churches. Both of these actions profoundly impacted the Mennonites, causing many to attempt to flee the country. Not all were successful. This film will offer an interesting lesson on that time in our history.

The MHV Auxiliary is always looking for projects needing fundraising support. In this case, Film Night proceeds will be designated toward floor replacement in the Livery Barn kitchen. Preliminary estimates suggest that a new floor will cost in the neighbourhood of $9,000, including the cost of moving all equipment. Projects of this magnitude obviously require special funding.

Fringe benefits to any Auxiliary Film Night are the food and socializing that invariably are part of the evening. After the film, everyone will be invited to enjoy conversation over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie with ice cream. What better way to share stories of family experiences which have been passed down through the generations.

Detmold Museum, Part 2

The Matching Sock

Last summer Rudy Friesen, a member of our MHV Board of Directors, presented a plaque to Dr. Katherina Neufeld, director of the Museum für Russlanddeutsche Kulturgeschichte (Museum for the Cultural History of Germans from Russia) in Detmold, Germany. (See previous post at http://www.steinbachonline.com/community/mhv/2011/08/22/detmold-museum/ ) This plaque, displaying a child’s sock, is intended to serve as a reminder to their staff and guests of the relationship MHV wishes to maintain with their museum because of the intersection of our stories.

Last week, the other sock from the pair was mounted on a similar plaque in the foyer of our Village Centre. This plaque now also reminds us and our guests of the relationship we continue to have with this German museum.

The socks included in the plaques were knit by Susanna Neufeld, nee Heinrichs, who was born in 1892 in South Russia, which is today Ukraine. In 1912 she married Gerhard Neufeld, who was murdered by rebel forces in 1920. Susanna Heinrichs Neufeld emigrated to Canada in 1924 and was known to be a talented seamstress.

RBC Partners with MHV Auxilliary

Mennonite Heritage Village is fortunate to enjoy many fine partnerships which are key to the success of our museum. One of our very close and present partners is the MHV Auxiliary. This group spends significant amounts of time and energy fundraising for MHV. They make and sell quilts, sell waffles and vanilla sauce at our festival events, organize and deliver the annual fall turkey dinner, and the list goes on. In addition to their significant fundraising activities, they also serve as positive ambassadors for the museum in that many of their activities give them, and therefore MHV, positive public exposure. We are very grateful for their work.

Mennonite Heritage Village also enjoys a fine partnership with RBC Royal Bank, through the Steinbach Branch as well as RBC Royal Bank Foundation. Their support comes to us by way of staff volunteer time as well as sponsorship of MHV events.

Recently Audrey Toews, one of our regular volunteers, learned of a grant opportunity through the RBC Royal Bank Foundation. The Foundation has a program whereby current and past employees who do volunteer work in their community are eligible to apply for a grant on behalf of the organization for which they volunteer.

Audrey was an employee at the Royal Bank for three and a half years concluding her employment there 53 years ago. Mr. T. G. Smith was the branch manager at that time. Being the resourceful person that she is, upon learning of this grant opportunity she contacted Stan Franz, our Fundraising Manager, and together they wrote a grant application on behalf of MHV. We’re pleased to report that the result was a $500 donation to MHV from the RBC Royal Bank Foundation. Given that much of Audrey’s volunteer time is spent on MHV Auxiliary projects, the Auxiliary decided to match that donation, netting the museum $1,000 in donations from this joint effort.

RBC’s Employee Volunteer Grants Program recognizes employees and retirees for the good works they do in their personal time, by volunteering in their communities. Employees and retirees who donate more than 40 hours per year to a charitable organization can apply for a grant of up to $500 for their organization. Since 1999, RBC has made over 17,000 grants and donated more than $8.5 million in celebration of our employees' volunteer efforts.

It is not uncommon for employers to match employees’ donations to their favourite charities. As employers often set a ceiling on the amount they will donate in a given year, it’s good to apply for these matching grants early in the year if one wishes to donate in this way.

Dwayne Doroshuk, RBC Royal Bank; Linda Schroeder, MHV Auxiliary President; Audrey Toews, MHV Auxiliary Volunteer; Barry Dyck, MHV Executive Director

New Artifacts at MHV

Artifacts are a critical element in the preservation and interpretation of our history. Because Mennonite Heritage Village does not have a budget to purchase artifacts, we are entirely dependent on donations from our constituency. A significant donation consisting of a number of items arrived at MHV recently. I asked Jocelyn Lehotsky, our Assistant Curator, to share some information on this particular donation.

“It is always exciting when new donations arrive at the Museum. The initial opening of a box of new donations can bring forth strong feelings of curiosity and anticipation. One may revel in the thought of discovering historical materials that are steeped in interesting stories. The first donation received in this New Year was a prime example of this kind of experience.

“The first donation of 2012 includes a rich assortment of items: Baby shoes, a pear-shaped butter dish, a small pitcher, a little teapot made in Russia, a silver spoon, an embroidered wall hanging, a couple of cloth napkins, a table runner, a pair of crocheted gloves, an embroidered hand towel, lace, a 25th wedding anniversary painting, and a leather case or pocket book.

“All of these items belonged to Nettie Rogalsky (Nov. 28, 1922 - Sept. 27, 2011), the donor’s aunt. Nettie’s story is that of the Russian Mennonites who migrated to Canada. Nettie arrived in Canada with her family in 1924. I will highlight only a few of the items that have been generously donated to and accepted by MHV.

“A pair of adorable, velvet baby shoes originally belonged to Nettie Rogalsky. They were made specifically for Nettie by her uncle, Abram J. Rogalsky. Nettie’s mother, Marie Rogalsky (nee Peters-Enns), told her that the sides and heels of the shoes are worn because Nettie kicked and wore the material down. The colour of the shoes has faded significantly, but the soles reveal the deep, majestic purple velvet they once were.

“The pitcher is considered an antique and belonged to Nettie’s mother, Marie. It was a wedding gift for her first marriage in 1911 to Mr. Heinrich Enns, who passed away in 1919 in Hospital 'Muntau' at the age of 31 years from blood poisoning. Nettie’s mother told her he was infected by sick horses. This pitcher may actually be a beer stein as it is designed to look like a miniature barrel and has a vine spiraling up the pitcher handle. The vine extends onto the barrel and hops hang from it. There are three heads of barley growing, on each side of the handle, out from the base of the vine.

“The wall hanging is about 0.6 m x 1.07 m (2 ft x 3.5 ft) with a red border and is delicately embroidered with red thread. The embroidery depicts a young girl standing on the left side, reaching up with a bowl. A young child is kneeling above the girl, filling the bowl from a small jug that has been filled with water from a fountain featured at the top central part of the hanging. Embroidered across the middle is 'Frisches Wasser Giebt Frischen Muth' or 'Fresh Water Gives Fresh Spirit.' According to Nettie Rogalsky, the wall hanging was used to protect the wall behind the washstand. There was usually a large basin and pitcher with fresh water on the stand. However, Nettie does not remember the wall hanging being used in their household here in Canada.

“Several of these treasures will soon be on display in the main lobby of The Village Centre at Mennonite Heritage Village. I invite you to come and see them for yourself.”

The "Birthday" of Anabaptism

Last Saturday, January 21, was the 487thanniversary of the first adult baptism, one of the events marking the beginning of the Anabaptist movement. I asked Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein, MHV board member and well-known Mennonite historian, to provide a brief overview of the circumstances surrounding this event. Following is his narrative:

“The jelling of a ‘reformation’ in Switzerland focused on leadership given by a Catholic priest, Ulrich Zwingli, beginning around 1520. After he began to read the New Testament in Greek, he concluded that there were beliefs and practices in his church which he could no longer agree with or support. He challenged the city council to consider changes, but there was reluctance and resistance there.

“Among followers of Zwingli were persons like Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz, as well as some university students, who soon saw that discussions of reform in the Zwingli circle were being checked by city council views, and that Zwingli was beginning to waver in his views for needed changes as a result of this resistance. He would, these radicals realized, stop short of what in their view was really needed to ‘reform’ the Catholic Church.

“One of the issues on which a major controversy emerged was that of baptism. Practice had always been to administer baptism to all infants soon after birth to ensure that membership in the Catholic Church would be firmly in place. The radicals did not find infant baptism supported in the Bible and instead concluded from their study of the original Greek that baptism was meant exclusively for believers who chose voluntarily to join the Christian community on the basis of their expressed faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

“A crisis point in this debate was reached when the city council formally declared itself as in support of infant baptism and decreed that this form must be retained for all new-born children. At the same time, it forbade the meeting of groups supporting believers’ baptism which the radicals had continued to call for. Opponents of infant baptism who did not reside in Zurich were expelled from the city. It was now illegal to refuse baptism of infants in the area.

“In this context, it was therefore illegal for the radicals still residing in Zurich to meet to consider anything other than infant baptism. It happened nevertheless. On January 21, 1525 (generally believed), a group gathered in the house of Anna Manz, the mother of Felix, in the Neustadtgasse to discuss what course of action was called for as the appropriate response to the city’s anti-believers’ baptism decree.

“During this gathering George Blaurock, a co-leader of the movement, asked for baptism from Conrad Grebel, who was heading up the group. Grebel agreed to do so. Blaurock then baptized others in the group who requested it. The size of the group is not known, hence it is not clear how many persons accepted baptism on this occasion. It has come to be seen as the formal beginning of a distinctive new group of believers, soon to be referred to as the Anabaptist Movement. Members of the group at that time originally identified themselves simply as Swiss Brethren.

"Conrad Grebel moved on quickly to baptize other believers (the majority of adults, in fact) who sought the new (but held to be biblical) form of baptism, notably in the nearby town of Zollikon. In fact, this town then became the location of the first Anabaptist congregation, started already in 1525. Manz, Blaurock, Grebel and others spent the months after January, 1525, preaching in the regions outside the boundaries of Zurich, baptizing believers as they went. The movement spread quickly beyond Zurich and Zollikon to become a mass phenomenon which would arouse the authorities and lead to persecution in short order.”

Remembering the Past

If you are an historian, you would very likely be able to give a strong defense for the value of preserving and interpreting history. If you are not an historian, I congratulate you for reading this blog anyway. And I also suspect that you are less concerned about the preservation and interpretation of things historical. Regardless, I trust both groups will find the following personal reflections somewhat interesting and maybe just a little bit helpful in understanding the importance of preserving stories from the past.

On January 13, 2012, my aunt Susie Klassen went to her eternal rest at the age of 101 years. At this week’s funeral service we celebrated her Home going and her contributions to our lives. She had obviously lived to please her Maker.

Those who knew Aunt Susie knew her as a kind, gentle and gracious person. She spent her life serving God by serving others. Her career as a housekeeper and cook took her to private homes, a children’s camp, a Bible school and a hospital. I have memories of her coming to our farm to help us pick strawberries and raspberries, preserve fruit and vegetables for the winter, slaughter chickens, and other similar chores. She was never afraid of either dirty or backbreaking labour if it was of service to someone.

I remember Aunt Susie as a person who always showed an exceptional level of respect for others. She lived with her older sister, my aunt Margaret, who in her later years needed considerable care due to failing health. Aunt Susie was there to support her. Aunt Susie tended to speak about people using their surnames. Her stories would mention Miss Wiebe, Mr. Loewen or Mrs. Klassen even when the person was much younger than she was. This was also how she tended to address people in face-to-face conversations.

Aunt Susie enjoyed a simple faith. She consistently read the scriptures, attended church, taught Sunday School and spoke with God through prayer. I suspect her life of faith and her prayers were significant in helping many of her nieces and nephews with their faith struggles.

As we know, one’s life experiences have the potential to shape who we are and how we respond to the hand we are dealt. So I’ve been pondering what earlier elements in Aunt Susie’s life may have contributed to the development of the gracious character and response to life that she exhibited in the years I knew her. Here are some clues:

Aunt Susie was born in 1910, the ninth in a family of twelve children. Two of the twelve children died as infants, leaving a household of two busy parents and ten siblings. It’s unlikely that she suffered from too much attention from her parents or anyone else in the home. She, like all the rest of them, had to learn to cooperate, to negotiate, to encourage, to protect boundaries, and all sorts of other fundamental life skills.

Although she was just a small child during the First World War, Aunt Susie was certainly aware of what was happening during the Second World War. Perhaps more significantly, she experienced firsthand the impact of the depression of the 1930s. When the family couldn’t afford butter or meat, the children’s school lunches consisted of lard sandwiches. When coffee was not an option, they roasted barley to make “prips.” Even fairly recently, Aunt Susie recalled and told us stories of experiences during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Over the years a number of her siblings lost children in infancy.

As mentioned earlier, she spent many years living with one or more of her sisters. Her parents became infirm before there were nursing homes, so she and her sisters cared for their parents in their family home as they aged and eventually passed away.

Obviously hardship and death were no strangers to Aunt Susie. But how did this difficult life ultimately create such a gracious and giving character? I believe Aunt Susie understood what it means to be thankful for small mercies and small pleasures in life because she was familiar with hardship. I think Aunt Susie understood what it means to care for one another because that’s how they survived in the absence of social services. I think she developed a strong faith because she understood that the alternative was despair.

Surely we all do well to remember and repeat the stories of the past and learn as much as we can from them. That is our mandate here at MHV. Please join us in that effort by becoming involved in what we do, or perhaps by preserving your own stories for your own future generations.

City of Steinbach Grant

What impacted me most about City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, January 3, was the fact that I missed it! I had been given to understand that the grant distribution meeting would be held on January 17 and failed to confirm that information, leaving me comfortably at home on the evening of January 3. My presence would not likely have affected the outcome of Council’s granting decisions, but I had wanted to be present to hear the comments of councilors regarding the significance of MHV to the community.

It is important to me that City Council and the public know that the board and staff at Mennonite Heritage Village are very grateful for the grant awarded to us. It is a significant amount of undesignated money which we are able to use at our discretion. Many granting organizations prefer to fund only specific projects such as buildings, educational initiatives, new exhibits and the like. It’s not uncommon for us to hear that grantors will not provide funds for operations. But we have energy bills, property taxes, building maintenance costs, salaries and a host of other operational expenses that still need to be met if we are to continue functioning. We appreciate the confidence Council has expressed in us by awarding this grant.

At MHV we are well aware of the importance of establishing relationships with many partners in the local community and beyond in order to maintain financial health and stability. While the lion’s share of our support comes from the local community, we do have donors in a number of other provinces. This past year we raised well over $200,000 in donations over and above government grants. We believe people and organizations donate money to us because they believe in our mission and in our ability to deliver that mission.

When our City Council considers how to award grants, it is appropriate that among other things, they consider the contribution the organization makes to the community as a whole. MHV offers the local community a number of specific things.

MHV preserves and interprets the pioneer history of this community. While our stories and exhibits by and large relate to the coming to the Mennonite people, the pioneer history of other people groups who arrived in this area about the same time is not unlike that of the Mennonites. A good knowledge and understanding of why we came, what we experienced when we arrived, and how we responded to those experiences will enhance our quality of life today.

A good museum is, in many respects, a teaching institution. Our exhibits and programs are designed to teach this pioneer history to our visitors. Our education program for school children hosts between 4000 and 5000 children, together with their teachers and parent supervisors, every year. These particular teaching experiences are not available elsewhere in this community.

A lesson in doing laundry

Every year MHV hosts more than 40,000 visitors. They come from more than 50 countries, from more than half of the American states, and from all Canadian provinces. This museum is undoubtedly the premier tourist attraction of Southeast Manitoba. We don’t know how much money these tourists spend in our community apart from what they spend at MHV, but it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t buy gas for their motor-homes, spend a night in a local hotel or eat in a local restaurant. Tourists bring a significant economic benefit to this community.

Volunteers are a key element in our work. Each year we are supported by hundreds of volunteers whose skills and knowledge add to the richness of our visitors’ experiences. Active volunteers are a benefit to any community. We have volunteers who are still in their teens, and we have volunteers who are in their 80s. Their work is important and greatly appreciated.

MHV, like most other significant museums, will be healthiest if its support comes from multiple sources: all levels of government, supportive businesses, interested individuals and a community of volunteers.

2012 Promises New Initiatives at MHV

Now that 2011 is behind us and we’ve reviewed some of the highlights of the year, it’s time to look forward into 2012. Here are some of the new year’s activities and developments we’re excited about at Mennonite Heritage Village.

Our Auditorium Gallery will soon be exhibiting a new and locally oriented photography display. This exhibit will be done by Kyle McIntosh’s photography class and some additional local photographers. It will feature photographs taken at the Mennonite Heritage Village. Samples of Kyle’s photography can be seen on our Facebook site.

2012 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the beginnings of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, formerly known as the “Kleine Gemeinde,” in Russia. Today Steinbach is the home of the main offices of the EMC. This year MHV and the EMC will collaborate on a new exhibit for the Gerhard Ens Gallery. This exhibit will be on display during the summer months.

Visitors to MHV will likely see more than the usual amount of facility repairs happening this summer, especially painting. Through the generosity of a number of local individuals and businesses, a significant amount of money has been pledged for the repair and maintenance of our facilities. In an effort to leverage this money, we have applied for a Community Places grant to bring the total funding to slightly over $100,000. We will see a new boardwalk on our main street, new siding and paint on the General Store and the Livery Barn Restaurant, and new paint on a number of other buildings including the Village Centre and the windmill.

It’s been suggested that some local people have been choosing not to have lunch at the Livery Barn Restaurant on a work day because the debit machine is too slow. We have taken this seriously and have installed a high speed line to both the restaurant and the General Store. This new technology has been funded by a donation from the MHV Auxiliary. We look forward to providing faster and better customer service in 2012.

We have also been told that since there is nothing new at MHV, one need only visit once every 7 to 10 years. This is a misconception. Several times a year we install new exhibits in our various temporary galleries. In the last several years we have expanded the level of children’s entertainment provided on our festival events. Each year these events offer new and different entertainment options.

In 2012 we will take another significant step in providing new things for visitors to see and experience each year. An annual theme will guide our program plans. This year the theme will be “Child’s Play? From Slate to Tablet.” Our exhibits, our education program and our festival events programs will seek to help our guests get a glimpse into the lives and activities of children 100 or more years ago.

One of our strategic priorities is education. We seek to educate our guests about the experiences of Mennonite immigrants from Russia. The effectiveness of teaching programs can be enhanced through hands-on and emotional experiences. In 2012 we will continue our pursuit of interactive teaching methods throughout the organization. One of our first objectives is to develop and provide an interactive, touch-screen world map designed to exhibit Mennonite population clusters around the world. We anticipate collaborating with the Mennonite World Conference on this project. It will be a springboard to other interactive projects over the next years.

Every year Steam Club ’71 fires up their steamer and does threshing and log sawing demonstrations on some of our festival event days. Back in its day, these were some of the main functions of the steamer. The steamer was also used to pull a plow. Through the generosity of and interested donor, we are having a platform plow restored and weather permitting, will demonstrate steam powered plowing on several of our festival event days in 2012.

So for those who believe nothing changes at MHV, come and visit us again in 2012 and give us feedback on all the new things you see.

Funding for Repairs

For those who visit MHV from time to time, it will have become obvious that there is much to do in the village to repair and rejuvenate facilities. Buildings need to be painted, window sash needs to be replaced, boardwalks need repair and so on. Every task requires labour and materials adding up to a considerable cost.

Earlier this fall several supporters pledged a total of $40,000 to MHV specifically for the purpose of maintaining and repairing our facilities. Their challenge to us was to find an equal amount to match theirs. Recently we learned that the Steinbach Credit Union has responded to our grant application with a matching grant of $40,000 for this project. We are very grateful for this kind of generous community support.

While the total amount granted will go a long way toward refurbishing facilities, it will not complete all the jobs that need to be done. So early in 2012 we will challenge our constituency to again match the original $40,000 grant. We look forward with enthusiasm to the well being and growth of MHV.

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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.