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Youngstown: Old Fort Niagara recognizes volunteers, recruits new ones

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Tue, Apr 3rd 2018 06:50 pm
Old Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson presents Jim and Cheryl Brown with the 2017 Volunteer of the Year plaque. The Browns have been active volunteers at the fort for decades and oversee re-enactor meals at special events, a perk that brings re-enactors back year after year. (Photo by Toby Jewett)
Old Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson presents Jim and Cheryl Brown with the 2017 Volunteer of the Year plaque. The Browns have been active volunteers at the fort for decades and oversee re-enactor meals at special events, a perk that brings re-enactors back year after year. (Photo by Toby Jewett)
James and Cheryl Brown of Lockport are 2017 Volunteers of the Year
Old Fort Niagara recently hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast and recognized James and Cheryl Brown of Lockport as the 2017 Volunteers of the Year.
This annual event pays homage to the hundreds of people who share their time and talents at the fort as re-enactors, docents, special-event helpers, musicians and more. In 2017, volunteers logged 32,950 hours, which the fort values at $494,250.
The fort is also ready to augment its corps of volunteers as the staff prepares for a busy 2018 summer season. Docent training dates are set for April 28-29.
Volunteers of the Year
The Browns were given special recognition at the annual breakfast for their active volunteerism at the fort. For decades, they've supported living-history programming at the historic site through their contributions in the fort's boulangerie and bake house, demonstrating cooking techniques and food for visitors from around the world. They have also assisted by donating historic reproductions that are used in daily programming.
"Thanks to Jim and Cheryl, Old Fort Niagara has gained a reputation in the re-enactment community as an extremely hospitable venue for living history events," Old Fort Niagara Association Executive Director Robert Emerson said. "Through their time and talents, they have made Old Fort Niagara and the Niagara Region a better place to live and visit."
Jim and Cheryl regularly support the site's special events by organizing, supplying, overseeing and serving hundreds of re-enactor breakfasts at Old Fort Niagara's annual French and Indian War and War of 1812 encampments. These well-planned breakfasts help make Old Fort Niagara one of North America's premier re-enactor-friendly historic sites. Months of planning and preparation go into these re-enactor breakfasts and, during the events, the Browns are busy from early mornings into the late evenings.
"People like the Browns make Old Fort Niagara better," Emerson added. "We are so thankful for their generous and humble contributions to this place."
New York State Sen. Rob Ortt, Assembly members Angelo Morinello (District 145) and Mike Norris (District 144), and Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski attended the breakfast and helped to recognize the volunteers' contributions.
Docent Training and Volunteer Opportunities
Old Fort Niagara's staff is preparing for a busy summer season and is looking for new volunteers to help as docents (tour guides), who orient visitors to the fort as guides of the day, student field trip guides, and special event guides. Other volunteer opportunities are available and listed below.
Volunteer benefits include: free admission to the fort and its programs; free meals for those helping during school tours and special events; and discounts at the Museum Shop. There is a minimal time commitment requirement of eight hours per year.
The fort's staff and veteran docents provide engaging and in-depth training, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 28-29. Lunch will be provided. Once training is completed, tour scheduling is flexible based on a person's availability.
The list of volunteer opportunities at Old Fort Niagara includes:
  • Docent: Guide tours through the fort for school children and general visitors.
  • Visitor Center Docent: Welcome visitors to the fort and talk to visitors about Visitor Center exhibits.
  • Military Interpreter: Dress in period attire and demonstrate musket firings and soldier life.
  • Foodways Interpreter: Be a part of the fort's historic cooking program and demonstrate 18th and early 19th century foodways for the public.
  • Admissions: Assist with ticket sales and visitor information.
  • Clerical: Phone reception, word processing and other office duties.
  • Exhibits: Assist with the construction of new exhibits and the maintenance of existing ones.
  • Special Events: Assist with crowd control, food service, sales, re-enactor registration, etc.
  • Fundraising: Help plan and conduct the site's annual fund campaign.
  • Marketing: Assist in promoting the site to both local and tourist markets.
  • Clothing Repair: Help maintain the site's large collection of period clothing.
  • Field Music: Play a fife or drum in the fort's regimental field music.
To register for docent training or to inquire about volunteering at the fort, contact Erika Schrader at 716-745-7611, ext. 221.
Upcoming Events
Old Fort Niagara's season begins with Patriots Day Weekend, April 21-22, featuring interactive demonstrations about the history of the start of the American Revolution. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Old Fort Niagara (www.oldfortniagara.org) 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. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Gates close 30 minutes after the last ticket sale.

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