Annemarie Balfe is a HistoriCorps newbie. Her very first HistoriCorps volunteer project was at Forest Lodge this past summer. After showing exceptional skill and patience at her second project, Black River Harbor, we gave her a call and asked her to be a crew leader for the remainder of the season. Annemarie accepted, and she quickly became one of the volunteer favorites from among the field staff! We thought you’d like to get to know her a little better, so we asked her a few questions. Here are her responses:
How did you find out about HistoriCorps?
“I had just finished up a M.S. degree in Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago back in August and I heard about HistoriCorps through a post on my graduate program’s Facebook page. I looked up the website and signed up for the closest project to where I live, Forest Lodge. I was so happy when I got the phone call that I would be able to participate in the project.”
What’s it like being a first time volunteer?
“My experience as a volunteer was a lot of fun. I was a little lost at first, coming in during the third week when many others had been there from the start. Though, I was able to quickly get into the groove with everyone else once I was assigned a job. Everyone I worked with was great and came from so many different backgrounds across the country. I felt I was learning something new every day that I was there.
Being pretty shy in general, I had been a little worried at first about spending so much time with people I didn’t know. By the end of the second day, those fears had completely vanished. Fond memories from the two projects I volunteered on include nights sitting around a bonfire swapping stories, going on a sunset boat ride, swimming in the lake, and visiting multiple waterfalls. What I learned most from being a volunteer was how to restore and do maintenance on a building. I found being able to use techniques and tools on an active project much more valuable than simply reading about how it can be done.”
We want to know – what’s the difference between being a volunteer and being a crew leader? How did you handle the change?
“Shortly after I came home from working at Black River Harbor, I received a phone call from Jonas. He told me that HistoriCorps was looking for a Crew Leader for two upcoming projects. The person they had been planning to send on them had dislocated his shoulder, so Jonas was calling up people that had volunteered a lot to see if they would be interesting in filling the position on such short notice. After looking over the projects, I told Jonas that I would like help out with both.
“Being a Crew Leader was really cool. At first, I had been a bit nervous, especially about cooking meals and hauling a trailer. Both turned out well, and I even really surprised my dad when I told him I had done the second. During the projects, I continued to meet a lot of nice and interesting people just as I had when I was a volunteer. My day to day experiences were much the same as they had been as a volunteer, just with a few additional responsibilities that I needed to take care of. “
A few volunteers have already mentioned they’d love to try being a crew leader. What tips would you have for new crew leaders?
“My advice to others that are going to be crew leaders:
-make a bit more than you think you need to for dinner the first couple nights you cook until you get a feel for how much is the right amount
-don’t feel afraid to talk to your project supervisor about anything
-make sure everyone feels included
– triple check that you got all the supplies you need, especially if the store is a fairly good distance away from the job site.”
Did you hit any road blocks?
“Sometimes, communication was an issue as cell service was not always the most reliable. Not much could be done about it in most cases, though I did my best to work around it.
“There was another point during the second project when we had to quickly move the location of our campsite. It was all very unexpected, but the new site ended up being a lot cooler than the first. Remaining calm and sticking together were key to getting through that experience.”
What aspects of a project do you appreciate the most?
“When you work with a bunch of people that share your love of history and nature, it makes every moment memorable. Having everyone camp together was definitely great, letting everyone connect more than if they just left at the end of the work day. There was never a chance to be bored and each week was completely different.”
What’s next for you?
“I am currently working on finding a job in the field. I would like to be a crew leader again next year. I’m not sure what I want to do for the next year or two, though I hope to be doing something in conservation and restoration.”
Thanks Annemarie, and good luck!