July 13, 2015

Checking In: One Year After HOPE Crew

Shelby Reflects on Experience and Skills Learned with HOPE Crew

photo by: Kevin Summers

Shelby put her new masonry skills to use as a volunteer at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park this year.


Last year, right around this time, corpsmembers from the Michigan-based SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps were in the midst of rehabilitating the historic Goffar Barn at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, alongside Lake Michigan.

One corpsmember, Shelby, was not only able to learn while on the job, she was able to take the preservation masonry and repointing skills she had picked up at the Goffar Barn to volunteer her time, and expertise, to another nearby preservation project.

We caught up with Shelby, one year out from her training experience in HOPE Crew, and learned about her new opportunities, including a volunteer masonry project for the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City, Michigan.


How did you first get involved with the HOPE Crew project at this site?

I was looking for a summer job, and I had heard a lot of really good things about SEEDs. They sounded really cool, and everything they stood for, I stood for as well. So, I applied, got the job, and ended up on Kevin Summers’ crew. I had no idea what I would be doing, but I had a good feeling about it!

I was born in Saginaw [Michigan] and moved to Traverse City when I was four and have lived here ever since, so I’m a local, pretty much. I’d been out to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore growing up, going on the Dune Climb and exploring different pieces of the park. We’ve got a real gem here with this park, and it’s something to preserve, and a place that was important to me even before this project got started. I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of the preservation of some of the many historic properties we have within this park.


photo by: Kevin Summers

The Goffar Barn at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the HOPE Crew project Shelby worked on.

What do you remember best from this project?

Most of us went into the project not having any idea how to do any of the historic building methods that we would end up learning. There was a lot of learning at first: how to cut glass, how to build new windows, and restoring the existing windows. We did masonry work on the foundation -- mixing mortar (in hopefully the right ratios!) and fixing up the stonework. We used a Schnitzbank to replace wooden pegs that had rotted out, replaced a beam in the barn, and we actually jacked up the barn to lift it out of the soil so we could get at the foundation. There was really a lot to this project!

My favorite thing that we did there was definitely the pointing work. Steve [Stier], our instructor, taught us all the historic preservation methods, like repointing the foundation for the Goffar Barn…and that’s something, honestly, I could do all day long, it’s so much fun to me! Even on a hot, sweaty day like we were experiencing all summer, it was just beautiful, for me, to be working outside and working with the mortar.


What were some of your goals coming into the project?

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into at first, but I knew that I wanted to make a difference. It seemed like that’s what SEEDs was all about was making a difference for the environment and for at-risk youth. I don’t know that I am as “at-risk” as some of the kids that are there, but I’m glad they are there. Definitely working in a National Park and preserving that property of generations to come -- allowing other people in the future to see what it was like is very meaningful to me. I think if I would have known, that would have been my main goal -- but my main goal was probably learning how to use a saw and learning to do things that girls aren’t supposed to know how to do!

photo by: Kevin Summers

Shelby (back, right) and other members of SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps last summer on their HOPE Crew project.

I really didn’t know anything about preservation before coming to work on this project -- I didn’t even know that it was a thing. Now, I think it’s something that more people should get involved in. I don’t see it all over the place, and I wish I did. I don’t like seeing historic properties fall into shambles because people don’t know these skills anymore. I think if more people got involved, that would really be awesome. Like the work they’re doing at the State Hospital Grounds, I think what they’re doing to restore it is great and I think we can keep going with that. It would be great to see the community get involved and we can teach even more people how to do that kind of stuff.


What have you been working on since the project ended?

Before the project, I had never even touched a saw, and I was too afraid to even go near one, but now I’m using a saw all the time. So, I was able to use that new skill to build my own chicken coop, which I think is pretty awesome!

Beyond that, I have been working with the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park [in Traverse City] to help preserve the horse barn, which they’re turning into a walled garden. It’s a stone masonry structure in need of a lot of repointing. This is a nonprofit that’s been working for a while to put a botanic garden on the State Hospital grounds. Finally, things are starting to come together, and they managed to preserve the building they are headquartered out of, and I was just around it all the time. I had a plot in the community garden, and then I worked for SEEDS, which is all in the same area. So it was really serendipitous that I ended up with them.

I ended up needing a few more hours to put toward a scholarship I’m working on, so I went over there and asked them if they had any opportunities. They told me they needed some help with this building, and when I told them that I had that little bit of pointing and stone masonry experience, they were just thrilled to hear that. I was so excited to be able to practice that skill that I had learned at the Goffar Barn!


photo by: Kevin Summers

Shelby (back) learned masonry techniques such as repointing by repairing the Goffar Barn’s foundation.

[Ed. Note] Shelby is currently working for SEEDS in their after-school program as a VISTA: A Volunteer in Service to America. VISTAs commit one year of service to a nonprofit such as SEEDS that works to end poverty in their local area through summer camps and after-school programming for low-income districts.

The involvement of SEEDS in the HOPE Crew program comes as a result of our partnership with The Corps Network, and their direct connection to 100+ youth and conservation corps across the country. You can learn more about SEEDS and their various programs here, and learn more about the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park here.

Tom Wall is the associate manager of Community Outreach. His background includes television production, journalism, nonprofit communications, and marketing. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tom is a graduate of the George Washington University, with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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