The bear necessities

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Sidney Museum and Archives, and that’s the bear truth.

Tyler Woolley

If you’ve made it this far from today’s front page, then you’ll have to forgive us for all of the bear puns.

It’s infectious, you see.

A small group of volunteers joined Sidney Museum executive director Peter Garnham on Wednesday morning to brainstorm ideas for displays during the annual Teddy Bear Exhibit, which comes up in November. This year’s exhibit theme is fairy tales and we’ll only drop one hint: you should be able to see Jack and the Bear-stock on display.

There were plenty of laughs, as well as bear-related jokes, as the group of volunteers made their list and ensured each item had someone working to make it come together. It certainly won’t be easy to come up with a beanstalk made of bears.

If anyone can do it, however, it surely must be this group. Garnham says the Museum has 59 active volunteers and a recent appeal for new ones attracted three people to the fold. Dyan is one of the newcomers this year. She says she recently moved to Sidney and, with a background in anthropology, thought the Museum and Archives was a great place to start volunteering in her new community.

“I think this is just great,” she said. “I look forward to it.”

Garnham added many of their volunteers are retirees and came to the fold looking for an outlet, a way to share their interests. Often, they will be volunteering with other organizations, like sisters Barbara and Eleanore. When they aren’t finishing each others’ sentences, they are volunteering at the Museum, B.C. Aviation Museum and in many other parts of the Saanich Peninsula. Today, however, they were looking forward to talking about Teddy Bears.

“I applied to be a volunteer in 2005,” said Eleanore. “I has been a legal secretary and somebody thought I was organized.”

The pair handle a lot of the Museum’s collections.

“It keeps us out of mischief,” Barbara added.

Volunteering in one’s community is important, they all agree. Eleanore added that without volunteers, many programs — even the Museum itself — would not run.

“If we all had to pay for it, a lot of things wouldn’t  be around,” she said.

It’s this pool of dedicated volunteers that make things happen. Take Pam, one of the Museum volunteers who started in 2003. She is a weaver as well and imagine the delight and surprise of the crew when they found out she has a Teddy Bear collection — 150 of them.

“Don’t make eye contact with the bears,” Pam said. “You’ll have to take them home.”

“We always need another bear,” joked Joyce, a volunteer who has been with the Museum since it was located on the waterfront in Sidney.

Volunteering connects them to their community and the Teddy Bear group can’t wait to get going on the new displays.