Mennonite Heritage Village

The Value of Volunteering – Interview with Evelyn

by Gary Dyck

If there ever was a year to enjoy a 12-month membership at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), this would be it! Membership includes free or discounted admission to six other Manitoba Signature Museums, two free MHV admission day passe, 10% discount on MHV services (some restrictions apply), plus a private guided tour (by appointment only). An amazing deal for individuals at $30 and an even more amazing deal for families at $50!

This week I’ve interviewed Evelyn Friesen who was our first ever paid Volunteer Coordinator decades ago! She is no longer getting paid to do so, but Evelyn continues to volunteer at our front desk every week and always loves to recruit others to join her at MHV.

Hello Evelyn, what was your first real connection to MHV?

Much before the huge addition to the present Auditorium, upon the recommendation of a friend, I was hired as the first Volunteer Coordinator at the Museum. I spent 13 years in that position…managing events and several dozen volunteers. 

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

I had previously become interested in genealogy and my family history, particularly after having attended evening classes at the SRSS which encouraged me to research and write papers on my own personal family history. I soon became a member of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society which furthered my interest in Mennonite history. Of course, my learning hasn’t stopped since and certainly, my time at Mennonite Heritage Village has been a perfect place to keep adding to that knowledge.

What made volunteering at MHV a good fit for you?

My time on staff at the museum afforded me the opportunity to build relationships with the many, many volunteers there …. it only seemed natural that, after my formal retirement, I would continue to maintain the relationships that I had come to value. Becoming a volunteer then continued to be most enjoyable especially with an understanding of the museum’s important mandate. As a retired senior now, I appreciate the opportunity to work alongside staff and share my time and talents.

What’s one of your favourite memories volunteering?

I have memories of countless good and special times at the museum. Perhaps what has thrilled me most is to keep telling the story of our forefathers through our exhibits. Whether that be by guiding a group through the village or interpreting at the immigration station or by satisfying the curiosity of visitors at the front desk who want to know “who are the Mennonites?”, etc.

What would you tell others who are considering volunteering?

I wholeheartedly recommend volunteering…especially at MHV.  Depending on your own interests, I would tell others, there are so many interesting stations to get involved with at the museum. I would suggest to anyone that it is an opportunity for continued learning, the time spent is fulfilling, new friendships are rewarding, the hours are flexible and besides countless other benefits, the coffee is always free for volunteers!

Thanks Evelyn for being part of MHV’s backbone these past decades. Staff come and go, and so it has been wonderful to constant wisdom and enthusiasm you offer!