Heart Mountain’s Amazing Volunteers
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is blessed with amazing, diligent volunteers. Without their dedication and hard work, the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center would not be what it is today and we thank each and every volunteer who has given up their time to help tell the Heart Mountain story.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life and have a variety of skills they share with HMWF. We were curious why they donate their time when they have several other activities they could be involved with. We would like to share the responses from a few of our dedicated volunteers.
Often referred to as Mr. Heart Mountain, Bacon has been volunteering with HMWF since 1998, but has been involved with Heart Mountain since 1986 with the dedication of the Heart Mountain Memorial. He was on the HMWF Board of Directors, then the advisory council. He has been very active in organizing Heart Mountain Camp reunions. When asked why he volunteers he replied, “Why I volunteer is that the internees’ side should be present in the decision-making and work of HMWF, and to help in the history of the camp as we experienced it.”
Bob Prchal is a master gardener. In 2009, Bob was approached about creating some kind of a Japanese Garden once the Center was built. Since that time, Bob has continued to work with the HMWF to develop a garden that will address the Foundation’s interpretive, historic, and education goals. When asked why he volunteers, Bob simply stated, “I made a commitment early on and I try to honor all of my commitments.”
When asked how long they have been volunteering with HMWF, they will reply “only two years.” Those two years have been very productive ones. Doug is an amazing carpenter and has constructed a table for the Heart Mountain census and a beautiful lectern for the auditorium.
Shelia promotes Heart Mountain wherever she goes bringing visitors and teachers into the Center. They have also inspired family members and friends to become HMWF volunteers. Both gave different reasons for their volunteer service. Doug, who was unaware of the history until marrying Shelia, started going to reunions and meeting people. He started to learn the history and met many interesting people. Over the years, he was inspired to become part of HMWF. He explained that, “I want to be a part of making things right.
Injustice always raises its head, but for now I want to be part of righting the wrongs.” He also shared that the HMWF experience has “enhanced our family bonds between the generations, Shelia’s mom with our kids.” Shelia’s aunt was at Heart Mountain and her father was in the 442nd. She feels that, “through my volunteer work, I have been able to learn more about both sides of my family. How our families have a shared background with other families. I have learned that these experiences must be shared, not hidden from others.”
Joyce has been a volunteer with the HMWF since she retired from teaching in 2000. Joyce regularly volunteers to prepare for events, help with school programs, and almost anything else that is needed. She also takes great care of the HMWF staff. When asked why she volunteers she explained, “I am interested in history, feel everyone should know about what happened here and make sure it never happens again.” Joyce added that it has been fun for her to see the progress HMWF has made and is grateful for the people that she has met and become friends with over the years.
Laurel Vredenburg has been with HMWF for decades. She originally gave her time as a member of the Board of Directors and was active in discussions leading up to the creation of the historic garden. Lately you will find her in the archives with LaDonna Zall. Laurel shares the reason she became a volunteer. “I am motivated to be involved in telling the story, or finding a way to keep the story alive because I am disappointed to have grown up in Powell and not have been taught in the public school system about this significant event in our history and our community.” She goes on to say that, “people who can work with the archives are the luckiest volunteers in the world. What an honor.”
LaDonna has been involved with HMWF for approximately 15 years. Her dedication and commitment is obvious as visitors walk through the Center and notice all the artifacts carefully preserved to help tell the Heart Mountain story. LaDonna was ten when she witnessed the last train leave Heart Mountain. This is what has inspired her to volunteer her time. A woman of few words, LaDonna simply states, “I volunteer because I want answers. Why were they here?”