Ellen joined the Homestead Museum’s Volunteer Staff in early 2012, after a long career as an educator. Since then, she has contributed nearly 170 hours to the museum, while she and her husband Craig have continued to travel the world. Because teaching is in her blood, along with her duties as a docent, Ellen is also a museum teacher and leads A Journey Through Time tours for visiting fourth–grade students. Ellen is comfortable interacting with the public, and relates well to children, making her a great fit for the Homestead.
Please tell us about your first visit to the Homestead.
I have lived in Whittier for many years and saw the sign for the Homestead Museum on the freeway, but never stopped to visit. Three years ago I read an article about the Christmas Living History tours at the Homestead. My husband and I made reservations and went. We were completely surprised! The first thing we noticed was the landscaping. The trees and flower beds are immaculate and planted with seasonal flowers and the pond and walkways encouraged a leisurely stroll. When we arrived at dusk the pathways were aglow with Christmas lights, everything was enchanting. Although I would not know them until later, we met many staff members on our tour. Karen greeted us at the Workman house and explained that the family was planning a big Christmas party and we were some of the guests! As we toured the Workman House with Karen, we learned about many Christmas customs and traditions in the 1870s. Craig met us in front La Case Nueva dressed in a 1920s suit and explained that last minute preparations for the party were underway in the house. In the Living Room Paul was finishing up with the Christmas lights. The other rooms in La Casa Nueva were beautifully decorated for Christmas. Then in the Gallery there were refreshments, music, games and toys. What a joyous way to begin the holiday season.
What caused you to begin volunteering here?
I have been a teacher for 37 years. I love retirement, but I still wanted to stay connected with kids. The Journey Through Time program for fourth grade students was a perfect match. I give three to four tours a month and I love it.
What are your favorite programs at the Homestead and why do they appeal to you?
My favorite programs at the Homestead have all been special hands-on activities. My husband and I built a gingerbread house last year and it was great fun. I helped students and adults make Christmas stocking with hand crank sewing machines. I enjoyed assisting with vintage food preparation classes. I’ve helped with paper folding and greeting card sessions. The fashion show which began with all the undergarments ladies wore through the decades was educational and interesting. The Homestead offers something for everyone.
How would you describe the Homestead to someone who had never visited the site?
The Homestead is an unexpected gem. It was the Bicentennial project of the City of Industry. It is supported and maintained by the city. Come and visit.
What keeps you volunteering at the Homestead?
Everyone on staff makes me feel valued. I enjoy staying connected with kids doing the Journey Through Time tours. The public tours, scheduled tours, festivals, and special events tours are really interesting to work. The Homestead even makes the mandatory training sessions fun.
Thank you, Public Programs Assistant Craig Chyrchel for contributing this post!