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New Skills Workshops enhance the volunteer experience in the National Heritage Corridor

Whitinsville, MA (February 5, 2018)A series of workshops designed to enhance the volunteer experience with Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC), and the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (BRVNHP) is bolstering the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program which the two entities co-manage.  The VIP Skills Workshop Series launched last fall, and already nearly a dozen workshops have provided unique education and skills training for nearly 200 volunteers, with some of the workshops being made available to the general public.

“Our volunteer program continues to grow and is attracting a wide-range of different interests,” explains Megan DiPrete, Executive Director at BHC. “By offering these Skills Workshops, we’re able to give volunteers education and training which will enhance their skill sets and their ability to share their knowledge and passion with others when they lead program activities throughout the year.”

The workshop series launched in October with an Enviroscape™ training, which is a table-top model designed to educate people of all ages about how pollutants affect a watershed. The Enviroscape™ can be used in school settings, libraries, community events, and more. VIPs who attended the workshop are now eligible to sign out the Enviroscape™ model and take it to events to continue to foster stewardship for the environment. America Recycles Day on November 15 was celebrated with a public-offered Skills Workshop at Casella Waste Systems in Auburn, MA. People from all over the National Heritage Corridor were provided a behind-the-scenes experience and now have additional tools to teach others to be better recyclers.

In December, VIPs received a behind-the-scenes tour at the Ladd Observatory in Providence, RI, to learn how to read the night sky and learn the history of the telescopes housed at the centuries-old observatory managed by Brown University. Also in December, BHC offered a free sewing workshop, giving instruction on how to make a repurposed tote bag made from plastic seed and feed bags. The latter skills workshop was open to the public and was held at the new Blackstone Valley Education Hub at the Linwood Mill in Whitinsville, MA.

In January, BRVNHP Ranger Joshua Boles offered an open-to-the-public oral history skills workshop at the Little Red Shop Museum in Hopedale, MA, so participants could learn new skills on how to best interview people to capture important history.

CPR and First Aid training was offered to volunteers of BHC’s Bikeway and Trail Ambassadors, as well as the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club in February, followed by open-to-the-public training on Maple Sugaring at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, MA. These volunteers will put their skills training to immediate use by providing assistance to MA DCR staff at the upcoming Maple Sugar Days event at the Park March 3 and 4.

In March, a Visitor Services Skills Workshop is being provided by BRVNHP Ranger Joshua Boles, and later in the month VIPs will have an opportunity to learn about Cemetery Conservation Skills. This training opportunity is being offered by VIPs Betty and Carlo Mencucci at the Burrillville Historical and Preservation Society. The Mencucci’s are professional gravestone conservators and members of the Association of Gravestone Studies and the Burrillville Historical Society. The workshop will be open-to-the-public and will provide training on the proper method of conserving gravestones. Participants will learn about various stone types as well as different techniques and materials used in the conservation process. The training precedes Cemetery Awareness/Preservation Day in Rhode Island on April 14th and the Mencucci’s and other historical groups will be hosting volunteer cemetery restoration events at which these skills and knowledge can be put to use.

Additional upcoming skills training opportunities include a workshop on accessible cycling. Training will include information on disability etiquette, the types of cycles that are available, adjusting the cycles to individual participants, and learning to ride the variety of adaptive cycles. BHC partnered with All Out Adventures in October, 2017, to present an assisted bicycle ride for VIP Margaret Carroll of Millville, MA, and this skills workshop will prepare the Bikeway Ambassadors for future events in the National Heritage Corridor.

To learn more about the Skills Workshop Series and the Volunteers-In-Parks program, contact Suzanne Buchanan at [email protected] or call (508) 234-4242. In addition, a Volunteer Open House is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6 at BHC’s office at 670 Linwood Ave., Whitinsville, MA.