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Ripon museum seeking volunteers

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POSTED March 15, 2009 5:11 a.m.
RIPON – John Mangelos knew that when the Veterans Museum project would eventually transform what was a blighted area into a place that people would enjoy visiting.

And ever since the project wrapped up – featuring the renovated Old City Hall complex that was  Ripon’s first church as well as a Veteran’s Wall that pays tribute to all of those residents who served and even died for their country – it has become quite the popular spot.

“I think that because of its close location to downtown, people like walking over and enjoying the park,” said Mangelos – the local restaurateur and President of the Ripon Historical Society that spearheaded the effort. “It’s fitting because that building was Ripon’s first church and a gathering place, and now it has started to become that once again.”

But the success of the new addition has had somewhat of a negative impact on the original building that houses Ripon’s history – the riverfront Clarence Smit Museum in Stouffer Park that was also built and maintained by the Ripon Historical Society.

Currently only docent Helen Whitmore is available to oversee the Saturday operations of the Stouffer Park building that at one time combined the artifacts of Ripon’s long and agriculturally-centered history with the military displays that have since been moved across town.

With docents from the American Legion handling all of the duties associated with operating the Veteran’s Museum – which already has a massive collection of uniforms ranging from those worn in Iraq to those worn in the Spanish-American War – there is anything but a shortage of assistants willing to help Riponites learn about locals who served in the military.

But Whitmore is often all alone on the Saturdays that she opens up from 10 a.m. to roughly 3 p.m. depending on the traffic.

“It’s in such a beautiful location, and there is so much history about a town like Ripon that still has the descendents of its original settlers right here in town,” Mangelos said. “We’d like to keep that tradition alive, and it starts with having volunteers who are willing to spend just a few hours one day a week.

“You don’t need to know a lot about Ripon to be a docent – everything you need to know  you’ll learn there. It’s a rewarding experience, and it’ll help keep Ripon’s traditions alive.”

Anyone interested in becoming a docent at the Clarence Smit Museum can get more information by contacting Mangelos at 599-4324, or Helen Whitmore at 599-2084.
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