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Old Fort Niagara honors volunteers, looks to recruit tour guides

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Thu, Apr 6th 2017 03:20 pm
Volunteer of the year, Jeffery Dzialak, and his wife, Pam, also a volunteer, at the annual volunteer breakfast inside the Fort Niagara Officers Club.
Volunteer of the year, Jeffery Dzialak, and his wife, Pam, also a volunteer, at the annual volunteer breakfast inside the Fort Niagara Officers Club.

Jeffery Dzialak recognized as Volunteer of the Year

Old Fort Niagara's volunteers contributed 38,305 hours to the historic site in 2016, and 371 of them were courtesy of Jeffery Dzialak of the Town of Niagara, who was recently honored as the fort's 2016 Volunteer of the Year. The fort's directors recognized Dzialak and about 100 other volunteers for their generosity and staff, two state lawmakers and a state parks manager, at an annual volunteer breakfast held at the fort.

"Old Fort Niagara's events are a success, because of our volunteers," said Robert Emerson, executive director of the Old Fort Niagara Association. "Their dedication, interest, time and reliability are not only impressive, but critical to our site's ability to offer quality programming. I am very grateful to Mr. Dzialak and our hundreds of volunteers who help in so many ways."

New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Mike Norris offered words of gratitude and support of the fort, and they, along with State Parks Deputy General Manager Ron Peters and Old Fort Niagara Association President Bruce Newton, helped present certificates to the volunteers in attendance.

Dzialak started volunteering at Old Fort Niagara in 2014 after working for 35 years as a chief engineer in facilities for various companies around the state and country. He joined as a volunteer tour guide to orient visitors and students to the fort, and, additionally, he has helped assist with crowd control, parking and cooking during special events, and teaching students about the Great Lakes shipping trade. His name will be added to the Volunteer of the Year plaque that is displayed in the fort's visitor center.

"I've always had an interest in history," Dzialak said. "After I retired, I saw the tour guide ad in the paper and signed up. I enjoy everything about volunteering at the fort, especially taking the fourth-graders and home-school groups around. They're a lot of fun and it's a good challenge to keep them all interested."

Dzialak has already signed up for about 50 tours for the upcoming season. His wife, Pam, also volunteers at the fort.

Old Fort Niagara's volunteer coordinator, Genevieve Montante, stands with volunteer of the year, Jeffery Dzialak, who contributed 371 hours to the fort in 2016. 

Old Fort Niagara's volunteer coordinator, Genevieve Montante, stands with volunteer of the year, Jeffery Dzialak, who contributed 371 hours to the fort in 2016.

Jeffery Dzialak shakes hands with New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Mike Norris, who helped recognize the fort's volunteers at the annual breakfast. 

Jeffery Dzialak shakes hands with New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Mike Norris, who helped recognize the fort's volunteers at the annual breakfast.

Other Volunteerism Awards

Niagara Artillery and Jim and Cheryl Brown were also recognized at the breakfast for their special contributions as volunteers at the fort.

Niagara Artillery is the group that fires cannons at the fort's special events, including the French and Indian War Encampment, French Day, War of 1812 Encampment and "Castle by Candlelight." It consists of about 20 volunteers who contributed 3,084 hours of volunteer service in 2016.

Jim and Cheryl Brown, who assist with planning and preparing meals for special events, including "Twelfth Night Ball," French and Indian War Encampment, War of 1812 Encampment and "Castle by Candlelight," have been volunteering at the fort for more than 20 years and, together, donated 90 hours in 2016.

Fort Seeks New Tour Guides for Upcoming Season

Old Fort Niagara is recruiting paid and volunteer tour guides to help during the upcoming busy season. The fort's staff provides thorough training, and tour scheduling is flexible based on a guide's availability. Tour guides orient visitors to the fort as guides of the day, student field trip guides, and special event guides.

"I would like to encourage other people to become tour guides and volunteers," Dzialak said. "It's a joy and privilege to share your knowledge with other people about the great history of Old Fort Niagara and our region. There are always new things to learn. Every guide and employee has a favorite part of the fort's history and is really excited to share it."

Applications are available by calling 716-745-7611, ext. 221. Tour guide training is set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 22.

"Certainly we are biased, but helping out at the fort is a unique and enriching experience," Emerson said. "We are rich with history, busy with visitors, and flexible with your participation. And we could really use local, dedicated and interested people to help share the history of this national treasure."

Upcoming Events

Old Fort Niagara's season begins with Patriots Day Weekend, April 22-23, featuring interactive demonstrations about the history of the start of the American Revolution, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

At 11 a.m. Friday, April 28, the fort invites the public to the bicentennial commemoration of the Rush-Bagot Treaty, which limited weaponry on the Great Lakes between the U.S. and Britain (Canada). Admission will be free for those attending the ceremony.

Old Fort Niagara (www.oldfortniagara.org) is located in Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown. The fort is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (admissions end at 4:30 p.m.). Old Fort Niagara is a Registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association (a not-for-profit organization) in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Niagara Artillery was recognized for its  

Niagara Artillery was recognized for its "booming" contributions to the fort, a collective 3,084 hours in 2016 as re-enactors who fire the cannons. The group, left, was recognized by Ortt, Norris, Old Fort Niagara Association President Bruce Newton, and State Parks Deputy General Manager Ron Peters.

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