Get to know Dominic Ruffalo, who has been helping restore historic buildings with HistoriCorps since last year. Dominic is one of the younger members of our teams, having recently graduated college. He has high aspirations and hopes that his time spent on projects will help him land a job in the restoration field. His work is invaluable to us and we love having him!
"I started volunteering with HistoriCorps last summer. My first project was the restoration of the Mather Lodge on Grand Island in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The crew leaders were Denis Moran and Jon Williams. I really enjoyed myself on that project. Denis and Jon are good guys and we had a lot of fun. I was only supposed to stay for a week but I accidentally lost my keys in Lake Superior and had to stay a bit longer awaiting the arrival of a spare set in the mail!" Dominic also volunteered last October on Rickenbaugh House - a cool, 19th-century sandstone estate house located in Indiana. This summer, he helped out at both Black River Harbor and Forest Lodge.
"When I am not volunteering at home I do handyman work and odd jobs throughout my area. This past spring I graduated from Purdue with my Bachelors Degree and I have been contemplating going for a Masters in Historic Preservation. I have learned so far on these projects that you can expect the unexpected when dealing with older structures. Each one is different and at times may require creativity to fix."
Dominic loved working at Mather Lodge last year (it's location right on Lake Superior was of course a major draw for volunteers) because he got to put that creativity to work.
"My favorite tools to work with are hand tools. When working on these structures working with hand tools you get an increased appreciation of the craftsmanship that originally went into creating many of these places. At the Mather Lodge I really enjoyed using the log tools in the replacement of damaged sill logs on the structure."
At Black River Harbor this year, Dominic was looking forward to learning masonry. He volunteered during session 4 in August, the final week of the project. Besides helping out with construction jobs on site, Dominic brought his guitar along and treated his fellow volunteers to a few songs around the campfire. His crew leader, Mary Bindas, mentioned how much the volunteers appreciated his musical talent, saying "We had a campfire one night and all the volunteers were there. Dominic played guitar and everyone sang songs and had a lot of fun." What better way to make friends with your co-volunteers than by starting up a singing session around a cozy campfire and guitar?
Dominic even got to bring home a few pieces of scrap wood from Black River Harbor that would have otherwise been tossed out. With that nice red pine, he was able to craft a number of beautiful items, including a frame for his Purdue degree, a bench, toolbox, and wooden sign. Is there anything the 23 year old can't do?
"At this point I don't know what next year will bring but if I still can I will for sure volunteer through HistoriCorps again. I enjoy the work and think it is very similar to the work of the CCC in the 1930s."
One of the best parts of any HistoriCorps project, besides getting to meet new people and bring back a historic structure, is oftentimes the views that volunteers get to experience from either the project site or the campsite. We've been on the top of mountains, in the desert, and everywhere in between: "Each project I have been on has had their share of beautiful views, especially at night when you can see all of the stars above the camp fire.
"I check the website periodically for new projects to be posted. I would love to do one out west but unfortunately my schedule hasn't allowed me to do this yet. I have ran into some of the same people on each of these projects. It is always nice to see familiar faces."
What's next for Dominic? Fingers crossed - you might get to see him as a crew leader next year! Dominic is hoping to try out for the position when it's advertised early next year. Wish him luck!