Our first project of the season was at Death Valley this year, and who better to lead the crew than one of our favorites, Kat Weisbecker? Kat has been working for HistoriCorps as a crew leader for just one year now but she quickly became known for her delicious camp cooked meals and her hard work ethic. Volunteers love it when they hear that Kat is on a project, and have been asking what projects she’ll be on this year so they can join her projects! (Hint: she’ll be in Arizona and California this year on at least half a dozen projects this summer!)
We thought we’d ask Kat a few questions so you all can get to know her a bit better. Here are a few things she loves about HistoriCorps:
Meet and Greet
“I think for me, my favorite part about working with HistoriCorps is the diversity of projects and the people you get to meet and get to know. The type of volunteers HistoriCorps attracts to week long projects come from all different backgrounds and walks of life, all coming together for the common interest of preserving our country’s historic buildings. More often than not, group dynamics are pretty great. I love hearing everyone’s unique stories and the path they’ve taken to be here on each project. It’s kind of incredible how quickly in this type of setting you are able to meet and connect and form bonds with your crew mates for the week. At the end of the week it’s kind of bittersweet to see everyone leave.”
One Big Family
“On one of my projects, one of my volunteers remarked, “It’s like we’re one big family” and you know for that particular group it kind of was: this same volunteer had brought a table cloth, candles and woolen blankets to sit on as we shared dinners together after a full days work, at this particular project- it happened that three older dogs were on site after the work day and an unruly kitten running around which provided added entertainment and added to the familiarity as we swapped stories by the fire of our discarded cedar shingles.
We get a lot of repeat volunteers and some who stay on projects for weeks at a time. It’s always great when you have the opportunity to connect again, and there is a certain familiarity that develops-where you get know everyone’s certain quirks and little habits- like the assurance of a martini in the hand of a certain volunteer at the end of the work day, or the endlessly entertaining storytelling prowess of a certain volunteer who claims “All my stories are true, some of them really happened!”, and that volunteer who you know is always happy to lend a hand in the kitchen or the one who brings an upbeat, unwavering energy to the group or the one who doesn’t drink coffee, but bakes a mean pie, or the one you have to warn about a spicy dish, but who you can count on to finish off the fruit plate at the end of the meal, or that volunteer who wakes up yelling “Where’s the damn Coffee!” with a smile and a wink and a mug in his hand.”
Travel for Preservation
“I’m really thankful to have the opportunity to work in the setting that I do. Having come from a background working trails for the forest service and as a crew leader for Habitat for Humanity, this position at HistoriCorps is really an ideal combination of these two fields. Traveling from one beautiful place to the next, working on one amazing and interesting project after another, continuing to gain more knowledge in historic preservation and skills on the building site, meeting incredible individuals along the way. Truly a job that keeps things exciting and interesting! Looking forward to another season!”
A Few Favorite Moments
“At Hebo Lake, we were in the process of beginning to re-roof the kitchen gazebo with cedar shingles. Two volunteers, two women, ended up working on one particular side, and after learning the ropes – how to use a skillsaw, how to lay out the shingles, shave them down to fit, get the overlap/spacing correct, etc, (all brand new skills for them), this particular side became “their side” and they were fiercely protective over it. They claimed that side for the week and if anyone who hadn’t gotten the memo came near their side, or even if someone just happened to look at it, they’d yell “Hey get outta there! Don’t you even think about it! Lay down your hammer! Don’t you dare put that shingle on!” All good heartedly and playfully of course, but at the same time dead serious about being able to finish that roof coursing all themselves. And they actually accomplished it at the end of the week-working late into the afternoon of the last day to lay that final shingle. It always makes me smile thinking about it- I loved that they took such ownership in the task and it was always funny watching them chase off anyone who got to close to their territory.
“At Grouse Ridge, this particular project was on a small fire tower in the Tahoe Forest – eventually to be turned into a rental cabin. One of the tasks was to remove the cedar shingles from the 12/12 pitch square roof. Well, it was a daunting task in many ways: whoever was up there would have to do so off of a roof jack system (standing on planks attached to the roof) and with fall protection on, two sides of this fire tower fell off into about 1000 foot drop-offs below, not to mention the ever present wind with serious gusts of wind adding to the difficulty and vertigo of being up there.
Well, as you might imagine, no one, not a one, wanted to get up on that roof with me except, as it turned out a fearless 77 year old volunteer who couldn’t wait to climb up, with an “I laugh in the face of danger” kind of attitude (roofing is one of his favorites). It was truly one of my favorite moments working on that project. The two of us, working together to clear the roof, his yellow hard hat that followed him from job site to job site standing out in the sun (until a gust of wind forced it off his head to the bottom of the drop-off below), after that his gray hard hat bobbing in and out of view (until yet another gust swept it off his head to join his yellow one below), after that his fishing hat let me know he was still up there with me(this one luckily managed to stay on his head). We worked pulling shingles, attempting to wrestle them into demo bags rather than let the wind claim them, I got to hear stories of his world travels with Habitat for Humanity and a little bit about his family and history.
Finally, faces red with wind burn, chapped lips from the sun and elements we had removed all the shingles and together we pulled the final piece of the old roof off: a slightly melted lightning protection rod that we triumphantly held up above our heads. I will always remember his triumphant smile as we high-fived and took a moment to admire the view from the top.
“At Wild Plum, I remember many little moments over the course of four weeks: the groups of Wild Plum Smugglers, spontaneous songs bursting out around the campfire, the “hussy” parading the campground and dropping firewood off to unsuspecting campers, locals who brought us cheesecake, their company and a portable heater for rainy days, late night scary stories happening in real time “Don’t worry chil’ren, there’s no bears here”, a brilliant and sly question of the day: “what is your question of the day?”, the successful understanding of and repair/replacement/resizing of window frames-which has come in handy on other projects, a successful completion of the project.”
“At Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we had rolling clouds and beautiful sunrise/sunset displays, wake up moos from the cows in fields surrounding camp, a wonderful engaging and hardworking group, the history of the ranch and future goals, window troubleshooting and a successful completion of the project.”
Many thanks to Kat and all the hard work she does on every project! Kat always puts her all into each task at hand, and it shows in the work that gets accomplished at the end of a session! Check online for upcoming projects – you might just get lucky enough to be on a project with Kat as crew leader!