Meet Some Historical Village Volunteers

November 8, 2019 – There are approximately 120 volunteers working at the Sanibel Historical Village, and this time of year, many of them return to Sanibel. 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. “As season gets underway, 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.”

Mary Jean Green started volunteering at the village about four years ago, soon after she and her husband were able to spend most of the year in Sanibel. Green has a particular tie to Sanibel Green, Mary Jeanthrough her husband and his family who came to Sanibel with his family when he was a young boy – getting off the ferry and shopping for groceries. Green was a professor of French and Comparative Literature and Associate Dean at Dartmouth College and spent part of her time directing Dartmouth’s foreign study programs in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon, and Blois. “It is because of my contact with the French history professors who walked our students through those historic cities that I realized the importance of understanding the history of the place where you are,” Green explained. During the summer months, Green lives on Cape Cod, where she is a docent for the local Wellfleet Historical Society, which keeps alive a long and interesting history going back to the Pilgrims. Green said she most enjoys volunteering in the Old Bailey Store, where she likes to tell visitors about the history of Sanibel and about the history of general stores like Bailey’s throughout small, isolated towns all over the United States. Why does Green volunteer at the village? “Being a docent is very much like the part of teaching I most love, where you learn together with your students as you walk down a street in Paris or visit a French chateau, understanding a place by learning about its history.”

John Barbieri started volunteering at the Historical Village in January 2019. He lives July to January in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and spends the other six months on John BarbieriSanibel. Barbieri worked for 25 years in the city of London in the foreign exchange market and then practiced law in Wimbledon for 15 years. His parents retired to Sanibel in 1986 and Barbieri visited them on a regular basis. In 2017, he inherited their house and began his six-months-a-year stay on Sanibel. “I try to cause as little trouble as possible for my colleagues,” Barbieri joked, “and provide some help in Shore Haven. I most enjoy working with the other volunteers and meeting the visitors.” Usually stationed in Shore Haven, Barbieri said he loves the reaction when visitors learn it is a Sears & Roebuck kit home. “Sanibel has given me tremendous enjoyment, and I would like to help others enjoy Sanibel more,” he concluded.