Each month, Central Penn Parent features a child who is doing great things. They pitch in to make a difference in their schools, places of worship and throughout their communities. They are a blessing to those around them—yet their efforts often go unrecognized. We want to thank them for a job well done! Each child receives a cape and a prize package from our sponsors.
A step back in time to serve others
While most typical 16-year-olds passed away the summer tethered to technology and scanning screens, one Lancaster County teenager did just the opposite: she stepped back in time to help out a good cause.
Gillian Wismer, a junior at Lancaster Mennonite High School, spent her third summer as a docent at Hans Herr House.
“She’s one of our summer students, but she does a bit more than the summer student program,” said Becky Gochnauer, director of Hans Herr House. “She also works in our store as a clerk.”
Established in 1719, The Hans Herr House is the oldest homestead in Lancaster County and the oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in the Americas. The property features buildings and exhibits tracing the formation of the county and early America, including three Pennsylvania German farmhouses, several barns, a blacksmith shop, smokehouse and outdoor bake oven.
Guides offer tours explaining the life and culture of the people who lived in the area prior to the European settlers.
The Summer Student Program trains children 10 and older to be junior guides. Students spend at least one day a week dressed in period attire and share information and skills with visitors.
As part of the summer program, Gillian learned how to weave pine needle baskets and gives demonstrations to tourists. “It’s a win-win for us,” Gochnauer said. “It’s great for the kids and good for our visitors.”
Gillian, the daughter or Michael and Holly Wismer, said it was history that attracted her to the volunteer opportunity.
“I love learning about how people did things without technology and electronics,” she said. “They proved you can have fun without games that are on a device.”
One of the games she learned about is called “graces” and uses two stick and a small hoop with ribbons.
And then there is the basket weaving.
Weaving pine needle baskets isn’t child’s play. “It takes a while to make them,” Gillian said, guessing on average, about five hours. “It’s kind of like knitting—it’s something you don’t need to think about.”
Learning about the baskets and the lifestyle of the people who used them is what most fascinates her. “I think we can learn a lot about the experiences they had, why they made mistakes and avoid some of those conflicts,” she explained.
Gillian, who hopes to attend Millersville and major in English, also volunteers at her church, Grace Church at Willow Valley. “I love to be able to give my time and serve kids,” she said. “I like seeing the joy that comes from serving.”
Andrea Ciccocioppo is editor of Central Penn Parent.