Mountain folks making a difference

Community CorrespondentOctober 1, 2013 

Second of a two-part series by Debbie Sebastian, former Yosemite High School journalism instructor:

Due to budget cuts and fluctuating donations in a weakened economy the past few years, education and non-profits continue to struggle financially. The result is fewer staff and programs and an increased need for volunteers to insure programs and services continue.

Making a personal contribution of time and talent to the community at large can be achieved through volunteerism and the Mountain Area provides a variety of opportunities to those who would like to help, including the following:

Sierra Historic Sites Association

Volunteers replaced a tire on the Fresno Flats jail, trimmed trees, discussed plans for the upcoming Mountain Heritage Days celebration, and spruced up the Laramore-Lyman house gardens on a recent Sierra Historic Sites Association (SHSA) workday at the Fresno Flats Historical Village.

Fresno Flats, as the Oakhurst area was once known, is located at 49777 School Road (427) near Oak Creek Intermediate School and Yosemite High School.

With a mission to preserve the past for the future through self-guided or docent led tours, SHSA is seeking volunteers to:

Learn the history of Fresno Flats to become docents to show and tell school groups and other visitors about 19th century life in the Sierra foothills.

Assist other members in organizing events held at Fresno Flats such as dinners, tours, parades, and guest speakers.

Repair and maintain the historic buildings and grounds — carpenters, electricians, plumbers, landscapers, gardeners and roofers always welcome.

There are two historic homes on the site designated as Points of Historical Interest by the State of California, two jails, and two schools. Volunteers might work with museum artifacts or exhibits. Another building on the site, the Dupzyk barn, originally housed livestock and later the owner went into the business of making cedar shakes, according Dick Killingsworth, an eight-year volunteer.

There are also working print and blacksmith shops on the site.

The SHSA is looking for donations of old cedar shakes from barns and buildings no longer used by area residents to make some repairs on shake roofs on the barn and on the Taylor house.

"We want to make it (the village) a living museum not just a gathering place for those things donated to us," said Dwayne Turpin, SHSA president. "Having enough docents to keep the site open for tours Tuesday through Sunday (seasonally) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the goal with docents serving a minimum of four hours a month."

Details: Dwayne Turpin, (559) 642-2312,

Mountain Area Ski School

Manna House of Oakhurst

"There are many opportunities for every person, whether it be greeting new clients, sorting donations, stocking shelves, or sharing your knowledge and kindness," said Bruce Bartlett, food department manager at Manna House of Oakhurst.

Volunteers are asked to commit to a set day and a four-hour shift. "Being on time is most important," Bartlett said.

There is a facebook page where potential volunteers may get additional information.

Details: Bruce Bartlett or Pat Sebring, clothing department manager, (559) 683-6262,, in person at 40390 Junction Dr., Oakhurst.

Children's Museum of the Sierra

Volunteer opportunities at the Children's Museum of the Sierra (CMOS) range from museum assistants working with the staff to provide guests and members with assistance and information; to maintenance, event, and exhibit support; to someone with expertise in an area who can offer a class or program for patrons of the museum.

"One of the key skills, I would say, is a love of kids, a love of sharing, and a love of play," said Steve Montalto, Executive Director of CMOS.

"Adding classes and programs can add a whole new level to the richness of the experience. We have offered a few different classes and programs over the last couple of years and have found those that are the most successful are led by someone who is passionate about the subject. We currently only have one running, Music & Movement, which is run on an volunteer basis by Tamara Dent."

Maintenance and exhibit support needs range from general cleaning, painting to simple mechanical repairs to reconfiguring/updating exhibits. Event support is needed for the special events such as the Summer Carnival, Fall Festival, and Breakfast With Santa. Volunteers may devote as much time as they wish to the museum.

Additional information may be found at, (559) 658-5656, or by visiting the museum located at 49269 Golden Oak Drive, Ste. 104, Oakhurst.

Potential volunteers should stop by the museum, talk to the staff, fill out a volunteer form and then a follow-up discussion with the museum director will be arranged.

Yosemite Sierra Visitor's Bureau

A couple from Germany planning to spend two days visiting Yosemite National Park came through the doors of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau on a September afternoon. They were followed by four men planning to backpack into Lillian Lake, a couple from Pennsylvania who were planning to spend six days in Yosemite, and another couple seeking directions to the nearest health clinic.

Volunteer Susan Boyer and former volunteer and now Yosemite park ranger Ron Morton provided maps, suggested park itineraries, and answered questions helping tourists plan their visits to the area.

"I get to tell people about my backyard and the fun they will have," said Morton who has been involved with the bureau for five years.

For some 75% of those who come through the doors of the bureau's visitor center on Highway 41, across the street from Denny's, English is not their primary language, said Judi Hussain, volunteer visitor center coordinator.

"So a second, third or fourth language is always a plus to volunteer here," Hussain said. "As a way of keeping our staff and volunteers knowledgeable about area activities and features, we provide FAM(iliarization) tours to various locations several times a year. Previous FAM tours have included trips to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Tenaya Lodge, the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, the campgrounds and facilities along Tioga Road, and tours of our local hotels and B&B's," Hussain said.

She said what is especially necessary is the ability to listen to what a visitor asks and to answer those questions in a concise, accurate manner.

"Being passionate and knowledgeable about the area we represent is a huge plus, so that the volunteer transfers his own enthusiasm to every guest he assists," Hussain said.

Potential volunteers are asked to make an appointment to observe a shift to get to know the facilities and staff. Volunteers must commit to a minimum of eight hours per month. Volunteers should:

Complete a volunteer application and meet with the volunteer coordinator, Judi Hussain: (559) 683-4636;

Complete an orientation session.

Schedule dates to volunteer. There are morning and afternoon shifts: 4.5 hours morning / 4 hours afternoon (spring / summer), 4 hours morning / 3.5 hours afternoon (winter).

The bureau is located at 40637 Highway 41.

Mountain Area Ski School

The Mountain Area Ski School is a volunteer program that provides basic instruction in skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing to about 250 Mountain Area elementary school students. The organization has served Mountain Area children for more than 35 years and is always seeking volunteers for the program.

Interested instructors are required to attend an orientation meeting and a clinic at the start of each ski season.

The program for the students usually begin in Januaryand ends in March. Since instructor insurance costs about $70 per person, the program requires a commitment of at least nine sessions during the season.

For each day of instruction, the volunteer will be eligible for a free Badger Pass lift ticket to be used before the next teaching day.

Ski instructor applications are available at Miller's Mountain Sports, Sierra Tel Business Center and True Value Hardware in Yosemite Lakes Park. Applications may also be downloaded at

Applications can be mailed to MASS, P.O. Box 1062, Oakhurst, CA. 93644.

Details: Calvin Lyster (559) 683-5186, Matt Casey (559) 658-8794,

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