Mennonite Heritage Village

The Value of Volunteering – Al Hamm & Willie Peters

By Gary Dyck

Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is open to the public! Pioneer demonstration skills and classes are being developed for this summer, which means we need volunteers of all kinds of interests and ages to help out. If interested in volunteering and learning a pioneer trade give us a call or email us at This is a great year to try something new or perhaps something ‘old’.

Today I have the honour of two past MHV Presidents sharing their thoughts on volunteering. An interview with Al Hamm who became interested in helping out when he saw the new windmill at its dedication in 2001. Then a beautiful speech given by Willie Peters at our recent virtual AGM. These two have done a lot for MHV and we thank you for your caring hearts.

Good morning Al, what was your first real connection to MHV?

My really first serious connection came about as a result of when the windmill burned in Oct 2000.  The new mill was finished October 2001 and the next spring (2002) I started volunteering at the windmill.

Was this where you first became interested in Mennonites or history?

I have had a mild interest in Mennonite history for many years because of my interest in researching family history (genealogy). That is what got me involved in Mennonite history. And when I started at the windmill in 2002, it really took off.

What made volunteering at MHV a good fit for you?

It’s a good fit for me because I am interested in where we came from, what years were we there and what were the circumstances at the time. It’s interesting to me how our ancestors pioneered, the implements they used, the buildings they lived in, the furniture they had, the methods they used to survive. Also, I get to meet a lot of people from all over the world, which is very interesting.

What’s one of your favourite memories volunteering?

One of my favorite memories that relate to MHV is when we moved the Peters barn from Mitchell to MHV in 2006. I was President at MHV at the time.

What would you tell others who are considering volunteering?

Give it a try. You will learn how things used to be, learn old trades and meet different people. And the food is terrific at the restaurant.

Now for Willie Peters beautiful farewell address from our first-ever virtual AGM:

It’s time for Closing Remarks.  How can I summarise nine years of MHV involvement in a few sentences?

My position as Vice-President began in April 2014. Little did I know that it would expand to Acting Chair in early 2015 when John Klippenstein’s health failed. My adventure as President officially began in March 2016. The journey has included wide, smooth highways and narrow, washboard roads. We celebrated MHV’s jubilee and struggled with the burden of debt. Through it all, I developed a deep appreciation for the board members I worked with and our dedicated staff. The staff has been great! I really enjoyed my time in the staffroom and coffeetime with them. It has been an incredible opportunity for me to share my passion for Mennonite history, hopefully contributing a tiny bit to this world-class museum.

Today I was thinking about a joke I heard. How many Mennonites does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is “None – we can’t possibly change the original bulb!” That may seem funny, but I want to leave you with a thought to consider.  Boris Becker once said, “I can’t change history, I don’t want to change history. I can only change the future. I’m working on that.” Now it is time to hand the light bulb to Doris Penner.  Danke schön!