by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In my 29 years at the Homestead (I’m struck by just having typed that–29 years!), I’ve had the great fortune to work with hundreds of volunteers who have helped to make the museum such a remarkable place. In fact, my first full-time role at the institution, from 1989 to 1995, was serving as the museum’s first dedicated volunteer supervisor, a position that was tremendously rewarding.
Among my many responsibilities for several years was the planning and supervision of our annual volunteer appreciation dinner and it was always great fun working with colleagues to come up with locations, themes, activities, menus and, especially, tributes for our volunteers.
Saturday afternoon and evening was this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and it was very pleasant, if breezy and cool on the West Lawn of La Casa Nueva, which was the location of the event.
Guests arrived at 5 p.m. and enjoyed appetizers prepared by our own public programs staff and drinks, while spending time with their fellow volunteers and our paid staff. We then had an excellent buffet dinner by Primal Alchemy, a Long Beach caterer, that included a Southwest caesar salad, a kale and quinoa salad, BBQ chicken chili, sweet corn pudding with grilled corn salsa, roasted and seasoned root vegetables and a Native American butternut squash spice cake.
Stationed around the lawn area were enlargements of photos taken for a spring 1928 costume party hosted by the Temple family for the Altar Society of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in La Puente. Based on an on-the-spot suggestion by volunteer Liliana Barake, it was decided to get everyone to recreate one image (shown above) of guests at that party standing near the fountain in the courtyard of La Casa Nueva. Taken by John Brion, husband of long-time docent Kathy Gunn, the photo came out very nicely, as shown below.
Then came the opportunity to recognize volunteers who have achieved milestones of hours of service or number of years. Those reaching 300 hours of service were Jan Hirakawa, Stanley Oishi, Ellen Peck and Pam Rivera. Larry Lin achieved 1,000 hours. Sherri Salmans reached 1,500 hours, and Cecilia Lombardi had the dual distinction of 25 years and 2,500 hours (nicely divisible into 100 hours per year!). Another 25-year veteran was Mary Lou Maury, while Henry Nodal reached 30 years of service. The two volunteers with the most hours of service in museum history achieved new levels this year, with Phil Trujillo surpassing 6,500 hours and Eldon Dunn topping 7,000 hours.
Of course, every volunteer, no matter their role, number of years served, or total of hours worked, is appreciated and thanked for what they do to make the Homestead the wonderful place that it is. After a quick game of lotería, a game of chance similar to bingo but using, in this case, images related to the museum’s collection on which persons matching four spaces in a row are winners, the evening ended.
Again, many thanks (and the raising of a glass!) to all of the Homestead’s volunteers for the work you do as we present the history of greater Los Angeles from 1830 to 1930 to inspire advocacy for history among our visitors!