Ranche at Fish Creek Restoration Society
Mitzie Wasyliw and her husband, Larry, had a vision to restore the historical Ranche House in Fish Creek Park. It was built by W.R. Hull in 1896 and was slated for demolition due to lack of funding.
“To me, it was as if we found a child in the forest; and if we walked away it felt as if we were abandoning it. Instinctively, I started in motion the idea that someone needs to save it,” said Mitzie Wasyliw. The husband and wife team soon set out to save this piece of history.
To make their vision a reality, they co-founded the Ranche at Fish Creek Restoration Society in 1995, a non-profit organization with a mandate to oversee and restore the Bow Valley Ranche to its original turn of the century grandeur. It is a 100% volunteer-based organization, with wide-ranging volunteer roles for individuals of all ages and from diverse backgrounds. Around 65 volunteers come together at the Ranche to work toward a common goal under the leadership of Wasyliw, who holds the official title of “Fundraising Chairperson” and is also the co-founder and volunteer coordinator.
“Our oldest volunteer is 82, our youngest is our three year old granddaughter who cannot wait to participate again this year- she has the [volunteering] bug!” said Wasyliw.
The Native Gardens opened to the public in 2000 with the help of volunteers from the Olds Horticultural College who submitted preliminary design and drawings for the creation of the gardens. Calgary Horticultural Society volunteers also assisted with the selection of native species plants and trees and the initial caring of the Gardens.
Currently, many dedicated volunteers are part of the Ranche Garden Beautification, which includes volunteers that join from the Calgary Zoo Botanical program. Volunteers help maintain the grounds – from the Historical Walkway and Gazebo to park benches, pathways and fences. They also assist with repairs and maintenance of the Ranche and Forman’s house.
“These dedicated, like-minded people take great pride in caring for the gardens, enjoy learning about the indigenous plants, getting dirt on their hands, feeling the fresh air and enjoy the peace experienced when taking care of this ‘Sanctuary in Nature’,” said Wasyliw.
Over 55 artists have donated their time and effort in creating art to be presented in the “The Artisan Gardens” and “Branded Patio” to open autumn of 2012. Over 173 pieces of original art depicting the history and culture of the Bow Valley Ranche and Fish Creek Valley will be presented in a gallery in nature for the public to enjoy year round. Upon completion, volunteers will be responsible for the care and maintenance of this legacy Art Gallery in nature.
Apart from the volunteers who help out in the garden and the artists who donate their talents, they also have a group of volunteers who contribute by maintaining their website, social media, grant applications, accounting records, administrative duties, legal counsel, fundraising efforts and events.
Because volunteers practically run the Ranche, Wasyliw ensures that they have a meaningful and rewarding experience through various recognition efforts.
“We host an annual dinner at the Ranche Restaurant which is informal and fun. All volunteers receive gift certificates, with special recognition and gifts for long term participants and individuals who go above and beyond with their dedications,” said Wasyliw. “We also communicate and recognize individuals through [our] newsletters.”
On matters of housekeeping, Wasyliw and team are in the process of creating comprehensive manuals and guidelines as well as archival records for future care giving. They also have a central filing system (Google docs) to assure accessibility for volunteer administrators in different areas.
Tips from Mitzie:
• Be clear about your vision statement and guiding principals.
• Outline your program & review your expectations.
• Empower volunteers while having fun.
• Go to Volunteer Calgary!
• Review successes, ask for assistance and guidance from others, and create the formula that suits you.
• Use your intuition and trust yourself.
Wasyliw enjoys the diversity that her role offers, being responsible for all aspects of the Society’s success and working with volunteers who share her passion for the Ranche.
“I am a creative person by nature. Having my vision become a reality while engaging like-minded people is exhilarating and feeds my passion to make a difference!” said Wasyliw.
Check out volunteer opportunities at the Ranche on the Volunteer Calgary website.