The Saint Albans Museum hosted their annual volunteer awards ceremony with a reception and dinner in the Bliss Room on Thursday, October 10. Enjoying a social meal of sandwiches and homemade desserts, the group reflected on their progress during the past several months. While the Museum exhibits are open seasonally from June through early October, a full schedule of activities as well as work behind the scenes continues throughout the year. In 2019, volunteers at SAM logged over 3,800 hours of service. Their efforts involved both new projects and existing programs – all with the primary goal of documenting and sharing local history.
The Collections Committee is a group of volunteers responsible for maintaining and updating the exhibits and displays with new content each year. They also process donations or loans of artifacts, images, documents, or other ephemera – taking pictures, writing/researching about each item, and cataloging them into a digital database. In addition, they respond to research requests from students, scholars, and the general public and manage collections storage areas.
Docents serve as museum guides, and are known as “ambassadors” for our organization. They greet visitors, answer questions, and provide tours of the exhibits – sharing a wealth of knowledge about our community with guests of all ages and backgrounds.
Additional volunteers assist with special projects, such as fundraising or event planning. Others utilize their professional or avocational skills, offering their time and talents to help maintain our historic building or through administrative support. The Museum’s educational programs and other special events are only possible because of the continued dedication and engagement of their volunteers.
With only a single full-time staff member, SAM’s volunteer team is invaluable, noted the Museum’s Executive Director, Alex Lehning. “Our volunteers are at the heart of our mission to serve the community, by preserving the past for the benefit of future generations. I simply couldn’t imagine my work without the support of those amazing colleagues.” He also recognized the unique friendships and shared enthusiasm for the Museum that makes their work fun as well as productive.
Two volunteers were honored for their “above and beyond” commitment to the Museum’s volunteer program: Janet Bailey and Richard Stahl were recognized as the 2019 Volunteers of the Year.
Stahl was born in Plattsburgh, NY but has lived in St. Albans for 60 years. As a clock collector with a strong interest in history and a family connection to Austria, his favorite exhibit is the ‘Band of Brothers’ display in the Military Room. When asked why he volunteers, he said: “I have always enjoyed history and I am a people person. There isn’t a better group of volunteers then the ones I work side by side with and they make the Museum.” Stahl is married to Sheree, and they have one daughter, Jordan.
Bailey was raised in Woburn, MA ; a long-time visitor to St. Albans, she moved here permanently in 2017. “The Museum is the one place in St. Albans where everyone can find something they are interested in. We get many out of town visitors who are excited to learn about the St. Albans Raid and local people who are thrilled when they find a relative in an old photograph,” she said. Her favorite exhibit is the model of the local doctor’s office that served as the inspiration for a Norman Rockwell painting in the Medical Room: “My parents were diehard Rockwell fans. The house I grew up in was full of his illustrations.” Bailey lives with her husband Dave as well as 2 dogs and a cat – with a daughter in South Burlington.
Janet & Richard are both members of the Collections Committee, and remain involved in a variety of programs such as the annual membership drive. Previous winners of the SAM “Volunteer of the Year” award include Patricia Rainville, Charlotte Pedersen, Larry & Carol Dugan, and Rae Laitres.
The Saint Albans Museum, founded in 1966, is a member-supported nonprofit with a mission to preserve and share the history of St. Albans, Franklin County, and northwestern Vermont through historical exhibitions, educational programs, arts performances, and special events for all ages and interests.