It’s recruiting time for new volunteers, too
The Old Fort Niagara Association recently recognized its corps of volunteers, who collectively contributed 40,858 hours to reenacting, guiding tours and assisting with special events and programs in 2018, at an annual volunteer breakfast ceremony held in the fort’s Officers’ Club.
The association also awarded the 2018 Volunteer of the Year honor to Sharon Wesoloski of West Seneca and a Special Commendation Award to the Murphy family of Niagara Falls for its exceptional contributions during 2018.
“We sincerely appreciate Ms. Wesoloski and the Murphy family’s time and commitment to helping wherever we need it,” said Robert L. Emerson, executive director of the Old Fort Niagara Association. “It is an honor to recognize their contributions to Old Fort Niagara and to thank all of our volunteers for their involvement, which is so valuable to our organization.”
The association values its volunteers’ time and services in 2018 at $612,870.
Wesoloski also received certificates of appreciation from Congressman Chris Collins and New York State Assemblyman Mike Norris. Other dignitaries in attendance at the breakfast included: New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski, a representative from the office of New York State Sen. Rob Ortt, New York State Parks Deputy General Manager Ron Peters, Town of Porter Councilman Tim Adamson, and Old Fort Niagara Association President Bruce Newton, in addition to other board members.
Wesoloski’s interest in volunteering with the Old Fort Niagara Association was inspired by her family history.
“My fourth great-grandfather was brought to Fort Niagara as a prisoner during Pontiac’s Rebellion in the 1760s,” she said. “He was a French fur trader from Montreal and passed through this area on route to Fort Michilimackinac, in what is now Michigan.”
When asked about her favorite part about volunteering, she said: “I just love the kids! Whenever we have school groups visiting, I sign up. I like giving the kids a little bit of history.”
In addition to volunteering at Old Fort Niagara, Wesoloski is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and helps to hand out American flags to new citizens at naturalization ceremonies. She, her husband and brothers own a 34-year-old woodworking business called “Things in Wood” based in West Seneca.
The arrival of spring coincides with training for docents (tour guides), who orient visitors to the fort as guides of the day, student field trip guides, and special event guides. The fort’s staff and veteran docents provide this training, which is scheduled for 8-10:30 a.m. April 27 and 28. Once training is completed, tour scheduling is flexible based on a person’s availability.
“We’d love to add five or more docents to our ranks,” said Erika Schrader, Old Fort Niagara’s volunteer coordinator. “They’d be joining a group of good people who enjoy connecting with visitors and sharing the fort’s history.”
Other volunteer opportunities are available and listed below. Volunteers receive a discount at the Museum Shop and there is a minimal time commitment requirement of eight hours per year.
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, reenactor 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 Schrader at 716-745-7611, ext. 221.
Patriots Day Weekend starts the reenactment season at Old Fort Niagara on April 27 and 28, featuring interactive demonstrations about the history of the American Revolution, from 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 daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ticket sales end at 4:30 p.m.
Sharon Wesoloski was named Old Fort Niagara Association’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year and also received special awards from Congressman Chris Collins and Assemblyman Mike Norris. Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, Porter Town Councilman Tim Adamson and the fort’s volunteer coordinator, Erika Schrader, are also pictured.
Volunteer of the Year Sharon Wesoloski of West Seneca stands with Erika Schrader, the fort’s volunteer coordinator, after receiving her award at the annual breakfast.
The Murphy Family of Niagara Falls received a Special Commendation Award for their dedication to the fort in 2018. Members of the family volunteered at every single special event at the fort last year.