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A volunteer effort

Friends of Beaver Creek State Park look to expand

June 19, 2011
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Township Reporter ( , The Review

ROGERS - If it wasn't for volunteers, Pioneer Village in Beaver Creek State Park would cease to exist, Jim Voorhees said.

Voorhees is a fifth-year volunteer with the Friends of Beaver Creek State Park, a non-profit organization formed for the preservation of Pioneer Village.

He and his family moved to Columbiana County in 1974 and immediately fell in love with the park, he said.

Article Photos

Friends of Beaver Creek State Park volunteers include (from left) Jim Voorhees, Evelyn Koch, Dennis Smith and Keith Sevy hope to see Pioneer Village flourish in the future with additional volunteers. (Photo by Katie Schwendeman)

He started volunteering in 2007, after retiring from FirstEnergy Corp. and has since learned how to operate the Gaston Mill, which is the last of six water powered grist mills that once operated along Beaver Creek.

The mill was built in 1840 and has the capability to ground corn, oats, wheat chop, corn meal and buckwheat into flour.

Long-time volunteer Keith Sevy also learned how to operate the mill in addition to learning much of the park's history.

Sevy said he always thought about volunteering, but it was a single item that really put the plan into motion.

"I had an old empty wooden keg used for shipping ware from one of the potteries and I wondered if (the park) could use it," he said.

When he brought the keg to the park someone asked him to volunteer, and 11 years later he is still volunteering.

He said the park-with approximately 20 active members-has the most active volunteer organization compared to similar parks.

"We do have a high rate of active membership for a small organization," volunteer Dennis Smith said.

Smith started volunteering with the park four years ago after retiring from the city of East Liverpool.

"I just stopped one day and saw Keith working in the mill and that's when I wanted to volunteer. It's the architecture of everything that fascinated me ... the simplistic beauty of it all," he said.

Smith enjoys photography and captures a wide range of images in the park throughout the year.

Long-time volunteer Evelyn Koch said some park visitors actually cry after seeing the park's beauty for the first time.

Koch spent several years volunteering as a teacher in the Paul Dailey School House during events in the village.

She would educate park visitors about how school was taught during 1803-1830, when slate pencils and parchment paper were the basic tools.

"I learned a lot about the very beginning of Ohio teaching and how the emphasis was on total memory for math and recitation for public speaking. When (students) left at 16 or 18 they had so much committed to memory that we don't now," she said.

She and Sevy said they are thrilled to see school-age visitors put away their cell phones or iPods at the park and actually engage in available activities.

"I was really impressed with their attention and interest," Koch said.

She and Sevy and Voorhees all said they hope more young people show an interest in volunteering at the park, and volunteers of all ages are welcome.

"We really need help if we are going to keep this village available," Voorhees said.

Volunteers don't necessarily have to become members of the non-profit organization and can decide how many hours they would like to volunteer.

A variety of skills are needed, including electrical, masonry, wood-working and restoration, general cleaning, sales, marketing, gardening, story-telling, interior decorating and web site maintenance.

The organization is also looking for tour guides, youth program volunteers and artisans and musicians.

The village hosts several events during its season, which runs May through October.

Events include a pancake breakfast fund raiser the third Sunday of each month from 8 a.m. to noon., and "The Village Comes Alive" event on the first Saturday of each month, which depicts pioneer life in action.

Some of the most popular events are a two-day Civil War re-enactment in the summer and two-day Pioneer Days event in October.

The village also participates in a youth educational day camp that coincides with the county Explore the Outdoors event.

If more people decide to volunteer, the organization hopes to offer a winter festival in the future, Voorhees said.

Koch said she would also like to see the historic garden expanded and more educational activities offered.

The village is located on Echo Dell road and is owned and operated entirely by the Friends of Beaver Creek State Park. Although situated in the park, Pioneer Village is not owned by the park and receives no state funding.

The village is supported through volunteer efforts, community donations, and the sale of goods and items at its historic Trading Post.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Voorhees at 330-227-3085 or Sevy at 330-385-8315, or stop by the Trading Post between noon and 4 p.m. May-October.

More information can be found online at



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