Monday, December 28, 2015

Volunteers are Worth Their Weight in Gold

As a nonprofit organization, we understand that our volunteers are the backbone of everything we do at the Museum. Their help does not go unnoticed, which is why we held a night just for them! On December 16, 2015, the Museum Staff held a dinner to celebrate the work that our volunteers do. We were fortunate enough to hear from some of our volunteers on what they love most about donating their time to the Museum: 
"Spending time at the Museum not only gives me the opportunity to spend time with the various groups that come in, but also a chance to cultivate my love of history." 
"I volunteer because I love history, am passionate about inspiring people to love history, and love the environment here at MOWT."
"I've always loved museums growing, up and it feels good to give back. I love working with all of the different people too; it's like a large family." 
During the recognition night, some impressive statistics were shared to shed some light on the amount of time and effort volunteers put into the Museum. There were 3,377 Volunteer hours logged during 2015 and 946 Intern hours. Events which volunteers and interns helped with included the Rotating Gallery exhibit opening, Week of Heroes (over 1,000 hours during this week alone!), tour season, summer camps, Through the Lens: Conflict in Vietnam exhibit opening, annual fundraiser STOMP!, Customer Appreciation Day, Smithsonian Day Live!, Pirates on the Patio, Tour Industry Association of Kansas costumed docents event, Penny for Your Thoughts, and more.

Emily Simon, Intern of the Year,
at the Transcribing History exhibit opening. 
We also felt it was important to recognize certain individuals for going above and beyond, such as our Volunteer of the Year and  Intern of the Year.

When deciding on Intern of the Year, we took into consideration a myriad of factors. Not only did we look at hours, but we also looked at who had taken the educational culture of MOWT to heart and had shown a continual interest in learning and expanding their work in the Museum. For the 2014-2015 academic year, this award went to Emily Simon, not only for her work on the Rotating Gallery exhibit “Transcribing History: Pictographs, Parchment, and the Printing Press,” but also for her continued dedication to the Museum.  Emily started volunteering at the Museum by assisting with the Apulian Pottery research project in Fall 2014. After being chosen for the Student Curator internship for 2015, Emily  did an excellent job on planning and executing the exhibit, and she even set the record for the earliest finish time on a Rotating Gallery. In addition to these accomplishments, Emily had demonstrated a lasting commitment to the Museum.  Even after her internship concluded, Emily continued helping with research as a volunteer.

Julie Tew, Volunteer of the Year
The Volunteer of the Year award went to an individual who has shown exceptional dedication to MOWT in the capacity of volunteer.  When considering candidates for this award, we not only considered the amount of hours logged. We also looked for a volunteer who had helped the Museum in multiple capacities and had shown a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. This year, our Volunteer of the Year Award went to Julie Tew. Julie came on board in April of 2015 and began working in exhibits. In June, she helped immensely in the Education Department by stepping in last minute to lend a hand with summer camps, some of which were sold out. Julie has an eagerness to continue trying new things here at the Museum and, this year, applied and was chosen to be our next Student Curator. 

Joe Condrill docenting at the Museum's
annual fundraiser, A Night of Treasures.
While most of our volunteers work to help educate others, whether through tours, research, marketing etc., we all know that our visitors are not the only ones who benefit. We all learn so much from being involved here at the Museum and from interacting with each other. In honor of those volunteers among us who have been active learners with us (putting in forty hours or more) for five or more continuous years, we put together the Lifelong Learning Award. This year’s Lifelong Learner Award recipients were Larry Riedlinger, Joe Condrill, and Max Stuever.

In addition to the awards we mentioned, at the end of 2016 one volunteer will be the recipient of the Recruiting Awardwhich will be based on the number of new volunteers a current volunteer recruits and how many hours those new volunteers work.  

Crystal Neihoff,
Development Director
Also on the agenda for the evening was notifying volunteers about a change in roles at the Museum.  Previously, volunteer coordination had fallen to Kristin Martin, our Education Director. We recognized, however, that the Education Director did not have the time to treat volunteers as they truly were--donors of time. Based on this, we decided to make a switch and place volunteer coordinator responsibilities with the Development Director. "One of my responsibilities here at the Museum is to develop relationships with the community. Who better to develop a relationship with than volunteers who are routinely giving back to the Museum," said Development Director, Crystal Neihoff. Crystal joined the staff in October, so changing the responsibility on January 1, 2016 made the transition easier for both staff and volunteers.

Want to earn one of these prestigious awards? Or maybe you just want to experience the Museum behind-the-scenes. There are several volunteer opportunities at MOWT! Please check out the volunteer openings list at the bottom of this page, and then send us an email at to make the Development Department aware of your interests, and we will find a volunteer position for you.


Education/Exhibits/Collections Departments   
- Docenting: Interact with visitors for the purpose of enhancing the Museum experience, usually on specific floors or in specific exhibits.
- Guiding tours: Provide specific information and help with field trips.

Building maintenance and janitorial support: This is a 100+ year-old building, and while the city takes care of our larger maintenance issues, there is always work to be done.
- Event preparation and support: Our banquet space is booked out almost every weekend of the year, plus at various times during the weekday: Transforming the banquet space into a wedding wonderland or corporate meeting space takes many hands.

Graphic design: Creation of postcards, posters, and digital media for marketing purposes. 
Must be familiar with Adobe Design.
Donor support: From database entry to hand-written thank yous, volunteers can help with maintaining and growing all those who support the Museum as a nonprofit while learning the ins and outs of development.
Volunteer coordination: From weekly emails listing volunteer opportunities to database entry, this individual ensures communication channels remain open and active with volunteers.

- Internship opportunities exist in every department. We can work with universities to provide college credit for volunteer time with the proper paperwork.  

Please visit our website to learn more about becoming a volunteer and being a part of history! 

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