May 7, 2019 – There are approximately 120 volunteers currently working at the Sanibel Historical Village, although those numbers do go down at the end of season. Volunteers’ duties run the gamut all year, from greeting guests at the door, to working in the museum store, to giving tours, and to farming the pioneer garden. “Particularly now, as we say goodbye to many of our volunteers as they head up north for the summer, we’d like to both recognize our volunteers’ contributions and share with the community what it means to be part of the Historical Village family,” said Executive Director Emilie Alfino. “Volunteering at the village is a great opportunity to be part of a committed, dedicated – and fun – group.”
Bill Rahe started volunteering at the village in 2017. He is from Indianapolis, Indiana and Raleigh, North Carolina. Rahe is on the island seven to eight months a year. He got to Sanibel the same way many people did – he visited with friends on Sanibel for several years and liked it. Prior to moving to Sanibel, Rahe worked in management for a large corporation and also did volunteer work as a member of a school board and for Junior Achievement, United Way, and his church. At the village, Rahe serves as a tour guide and as vice-president on the village’s Board of Directors. He said Rutland House is his favorite because it reminds him of his grandparents’ home. He is also intrigued by the story of the lighthouse. Rahe said he chooses to volunteer at the village because he “likes to study history, preserve it, share it, and learn from it.”
Tracey Tenney started volunteering at the Historic Village in January 2017. She attended her first tour as a visitor in 2015 with long-time docent and tour guide Jeri Magg. “Jeri was so passionate and informative that it piqued my interest,” Tenney said. “When living on Sanibel, you want to get involved and give back. Jeri’s enthusiasm made such an impact on me that I decided to volunteer with the village,” Tenney said.
Tenney was born and spent her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. She now owns a home in Andover, Massachusetts, where she lives four months of the year, and eight months at their home on Sanibel. Prior to coming to Sanibel, Tenney worked as an Information Technology professional for General Electric and Sprint. Throughout the years, she was a software developer, project manager, and senior software development manager. After raising two sons, she returned to work to manage the customer service experience for a large salon and day spa.
Tenney said she had never been to Sanibel prior to buying their house. “We were looking to invest in a vacation property after our sons graduated from college,” Tenney explained. “My husband was at a business meeting in Naples in 2015, and a work associate recommended Sanibel to him. We came house hunting in January 2013 and bought in March 2013. We have loved it ever since.”
At the village, Tenney is a docent and prefers to be a tour guide. She likes trying to help people imagine what life was like on a barrier island – the good and the bad – and how difficult the conditions were for the early pioneers with no electricity or plumbing, the mosquitos and the heat and humidity. At the same time, she explains how strong the sense of community was and still is on Sanibel with neighbors helping neighbors.
Tenney doesn’t have a favorite building but loves them all and feels fortunate to be able to share the history of Sanibel with people. “Thank goodness for the Sanibel residents who had the foresight and passion to create the village and preserve Sanibel history to be passed on,” Tenney said. “I love every story I hear, and I have written everything down in a notebook I carry. I attend all of the volunteer lunches and learning events and the evening talks sponsored by the Historical Village. This season’s events and talks have been tremendously informative and provided me with opportunities to hear from people and about topics I never would have been able to had it not been for the village.”
Georgianna Sorensen started volunteering at the village several years ago. “A friend asked me to help her at Luminary Night to take Christmas photographs in the Rutland House,” Sorensen said. Her main house is in Lake Wales, Florida, where she has had a private mental health practice for more than 30 years. Her office building is 100 years old and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Sorensen restored it and is very proud that the Chamber of Commerce made a Christmas ornament duplicating the front of the building. “Thus my interest in historic buildings,” she said. Sorensen still drives the three hours every other week to see patients. “I now volunteer at the village as a tour guide, roaming docent, and Rutland House docent.
Sorensen came to Sanibel as a 10-year-old with her brother and mother. She took her two sons camping in Periwinkle Park when they were toddlers. “My sons played around the Algiers, and my husband and I never missed a show at The Pirate Playhouse,” Sorensen remembered. Her present residence on Sanibel is 18 years old. “We love living on the ‘river,’ watching birds and butterflies while playing weekly Scrabble tournaments.”
Sorensen most enjoys learning from other volunteers and visitors. She names Morning Glories as her favorite building and said she would like to spend one night there. Why does she choose to volunteer at the village? “The camaraderie among the volunteers is so much fun,” she said. “It seems so light-hearted and kind, and so wonderful that we are free to be inspired to share what is special for us and not be ‘scripted.’ The Volunteer Updates are very inspiring.”