The Imperial County Historical Society's Pioneers Museum is an attraction of which residents can be proud due in large part to its volunteers and contributors, outgoing board president Darrell Gardner said at an annual meeting on April 26.
"I can't say enough about our volunteers. They've done a whole lot of things to renovate," said Gardner. "They work hard and you don't have to ask them twice."
One work in progress bringing greater visibility is new Western-themed signage that is being installed and a new front entrance fence that will be a head turner, stressed Gardner.
"Essentially, we're trying to draw attention to potential visitors who'll notice us and say, ‘We've got to see that’," he said. "As our donations grow so does the museum."
Pioneers will also jettison analogue phones for a computerized system that transmits calls over an Internet provider instead of standard landlines. A savings of $6,000 a year is expected.
Following the trail of last fall 2018's successful Ride of the Century to the East Highline Canal, a time capsule is under production. The Nov. 1-2 event involved 55 riders on horseback, 100 campers and several hundred tri-tip dinner guests at the museum on the concluding day.
Riders wrote down personal perspectives of their lives, packed along with photographs and videos to be opened by descendants in 2118 for a snapshot in time of today's world. The board hopes to order a plaque and schedule a gala event to soon celebrate the sealing.
"It's a matter of selecting a place with lot of foot traffic that doesn't interfere with underground utility lines," said Gardner. "Our annual meeting is a culmination of all the work we achieved the past year and passing the baton on to new leadership.”
Leanne Rutherford is this year's president with Karen Ayala, president elect, Greg Smith, secretary, Don Glud, treasurer. Jurg Heuberger, curator, Deborah Thornburg, historian and Robert Menvielle, gallery representative.
There will also be nine directors. For the years 2018 to 2020, they are Cliff Strahm, Mark Allegranza and Rudy Schaffner. For 2019 to 2021 it is Geneva Davidson, Lauren Layton and Carson Kalin. Meanwhile, years of 2020 to 2022 includes Suzanne Rutherford, Terry Allegranza and Donna Grizzle.
Historian Thornburg praised Pioneers’ efforts for the prior 20 years of providing free museum visits for fifth grade students to the 15 ethnic galleries. According to the California Department of Education, it is the fifth grade that stands to gain the most with museum exposure in accordance with their history curriculum. The idea is focus on settlers' homelands and what motivated them to come to Imperial Valley, and how they managed.
"We've had 477 students since January and we'll have another group in May," said Thornburg. "Kids go through the galleries in groups of 10 to 12 and we get our team of docents to lead them. They're a great bunch of gals, retired school teachers. Students learn about the tools settlers brought with them and how they survived and prospered."
Another point of pride is that Pioneers just completed its mobile kitchen, housed in a trailer donated by Rudy Schaffner Dairy Farms, Inc. The county board of public health inspected the facility the prior week and it is cleared to begin operation.
"The thing is, we can have up to 10 people working in there, where before caterers had to truck in prepared food in hot boxes to keep it warm," said Schaffner. "We'll be able to add events, if the board wants to, which wasn't an option before."
Museum displays were also highlighted at the event.
Mark Allegranza, a director, called Pioneers' Cattlemen, wildlife and farm implement galleries "amazing" and noted a lot of it is agriculture related.
"It was a land of opportunity but everybody worked hard because if they didn't, they wouldn't eat," he said. "It was the American dream, resources to support your family but it was difficult work--a hundred years ago there was no air conditioning."
Allegranza, a controller for Vessey & Company farms, filled in for Don Glud with the treasurer's report. There was income of $184,799 for 2018. Operating expenses were $209,560, yielding a deficit of $24,761. However, in 2017, Pioneers had a surplus of $51,000.
"So if you put the two years together, we had a surplus of $26,440. We still ended up with $268,558 annual operating reserves to cover annual operating expenses, which run about $175,000 to $200,000 a year,” Allegranza said. “But since we had abnormally more maintenance than typical for 2018, we had a deficit."
Pioneers maintains about 18 months of operating reserves on hand and remains a viable concern since its establishment at East Aten Road, across from Imperial Valley College, in 1992.
"We're financially sound, managing our money well with funds going to where they're supposed to go," he said. "What we really want to stress is we’re part of the Imperial County Parks and Recreation Department. We're a park for the entire community: snowbirds, residents and students."