We are pretty lucky, here at the Heyward House. We feel blessed to have the help of some amazing and talented volunteers. There are people who have been volunteering here for many more years than I’ve been a staff member here– dedicated, hard-working, generous people that make us smile on a daily basis.
The Master Gardeners come every month to help keep our grounds presentable. They toil away without fail, whether it’s in the heat of the summer or freeze of the winter, and this helps us keep our landscaping costs down. Some of our volunteers live in the area for a few months at a time, coming in to help while they’re in town– they volunteer to work while they are on vacation. We also have docents that come every week to greet visitors and give tours of the house, freeing up staff to work on other projects– we couldn’t accomplish nearly as much without their assistance.
When people donate their time and talents to helping their community it often goes unrecognized, but it is never unappreciated. I wish I had enough time right now to properly thank each person by name, but I only have a minute and I’ve got to get this out before the door opens with the next round of visitors.
I was inspired to write this when I came in to open up the house this morning. As I was going through each room turning on the lights, I noticed the doll houses in the ladies parlor had changed a bit. They were a bit more…festive.
And what does this have to do with volunteers? Well, Bob and Jean Allen have been volunteering at the Heyward House for longer than I’ve been a staff member. They started as docents, but they’ve since moved to Hilton Head, and it’s not as easy for Bob to get around as it used to be, so they volunteer in a different way now: they maintain the doll houses in the ladies parlor. They usually arrive early in the morning, before I arrive at work, so I often miss them. Most of the time I don’t know they’ve even been here until I’m giving a tour and happen to notice little changes in the doll houses.
In addition to furnishing the doll houses with the tiniest furniture you’ve ever seen, they decorate each house for every single holiday. At Easter, there are mini-eggs hidden around the houses, with little stuffed bunnies and baskets of candies. Bob and Jean go all out for Christmas, with teeny decorated trees and wreaths that would fit around your pinkie finger, micro-sized gingerbread men that appear to be fresh from the oven. And this morning I came to work and saw that the Allens had been at it again. Both doll houses had been hit by Cupid. There were Valentines Day decorations on the exteriors as well as in the rooms, detailed down to the microscopic sprinkles on the cookies on the kitchen table. There are roses, and greeting cards, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate specks. Even the minuscule bar of soap in the bathroom is red for the holiday.
(See photos below; Apologies for the quality– I only had a camera phone with me.)
These decorations touch me in a way that is hard to describe, but here goes: to me, they represent “giving for giving’s sake.” They signify a kind of generosity of spirit that all of our volunteers share. When I see that Bob and Jean have been here, I feel buoyed in our mission to preserve, promote and protect history in this small town.
Bob and Jean Allen don’t get much thanks or praise or recognition for doing what they do. They don’t get to hear the excited exclamations from kids on tours, or see how eyes light up when visitors see the doll houses. I get to experience that almost every day, and let me tell you– people notice, and they delight in it. It’s too bad that Bob and Jean miss some of the rewarding parts of their labors.
But still, month after month, they quietly come in for a few minutes, do their thing, and come back before the next holiday. Just because. Just because it’s something that they can do to make a difference in their community, even without the instant gratification of seeing immediate results. And although it’s not a front page story, they are serving the greater good– and for the record, Bob and Jean Allen, people notice. People do recognize these little things, how you attend to the tiniest of details, and they are appreciated.
Putting holiday decorations up in doll houses is not something that we can list on a grant application. It’s not something that has a quantifiable, measurable affect on our statistics or funding. It is not a flashy donation that brings prestige or recognition. But it is steady. It is constant. It is an act of service and kindness. It is truly valued and appreciated, and it does make a difference. So, Bob and Jean Allen, and all of the volunteers that help us year round– THANK YOU!
Special thanks to Carolyn Coppola and Jean Allen for donating the doll houses!
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