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Volunteer Spotlight on Jana Brey

Published on 03/22/2019 under Volunteering
Volunteer Spotlight on Jana Brey

Jana has been volunteering with ECHO for about 4 years. The below is some of what Jana took the time to share:

” My story of how I came to first visit the Zimmerman House is a common one…I had been driving by for years and finally drove by on a day when the house was open for tours and stopped in. I was completely surprised at how many original artifacts were still in the house, how little the 1874 house had been changed since the remodel in 1899, and that only the Zimmerman family had lived there until the last Zimmerman, Isobel, passed away in 1992. I fell in love with the house and the Zimmerman family story instantly and quickly asked how I could be a volunteer.

I started as a clothing re-folder. The clothing and other textiles are very old and cannot be folded or hung in the same way for long periods of time; periodically they need to be refolded or most recently we are rolling them to avoid creases completely. Doing this task with other volunteers, I got to learn many stories about the house and family and soon wanted to share what I had learned by becoming a docent (aka tour guide). The stories exceed the house and I found myself going outside with visitors and telling them what I knew about the grounds. This led me to be a volunteer in the gardens, the second Saturday of every month. Eventually, I adopted a flower bed in the front of the house which I’m proud to point out to visitors. One of my favorite stories is the poems Jessie (the oldest daughter) wrote for her sister Olive’s wedding, the day before – day of – day after her wedding. A friend helped to erect a sign in front of the arbor where Olive and Paul were married that includes those poems. The sign has weathered and I’m in the process of getting a new sign for the arbor. In April 2016, The Buttery, a small brick building next to the house collapsed. Shortly afterwards, I met two archeologists who live/work in the area who were interested in excavating the remains of the building. I am currently working with them to see what can be recovered from The Buttery and also the garage that will be demoed this year. The Zimmerman house has a lot of ways for dust and bugs to come in and it is an ongoing chore to keep it clean. I’ve adopted the parent’s bedroom on the main floor and clean it quarterly. This has also given me more insight to the artifacts in that room but also inspired me to be on the team to work on changing the displays in the house on a more regular basis. I also for a period of time was the editor for the quarterly newsletter which I really enjoyed and I was the secretary on ECHO’s Board. I am still working full-time in my job otherwise I would be even more involved with ECHO and in particular the Zimmerman house that has captured my heart.

In our world of everything being so disposable, to find a treasure like the Zimmerman House, still standing after 145 years with many of its original contents still intact, I am compelled to do everything I possibly can to care for and share it with others. Isobel, knowing her immediate line of the Zimmerman family was dying out, she deeded the house and its contents to the historical organization. In addition, she spent time handwriting notes to those who would come after her explaining what some of the things are and what they meant to her. I get a lot of joy and satisfaction helping to continue to preserve Isobel’s family story and house as I believe she intended. I also love history and I continue to learn and research many interesting things about the family and how people lived in the 19th and early 20th century in and around the Portland area. I also enjoy getting to know the other volunteers and their interests and getting to talk with the visitors who come to the house.

There are many diverse ways that people with different talents and interests can volunteer and I see so many things that need/could/should be done. I often ask visitors if they would be willing to volunteer and the response generally is “I don’t have time”. There is no minimum volunteer time requirement and I find it amazing what can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Weeding a flower bed, vacuuming a floor in the house, researching a story for the quarterly newsletter, helping to decorate for the holidays, refolding or rolling a box of clothing, helping to set up a new display…all of those tasks require only an hour of your time. What you will get back from being an ECHO volunteer will far exceed the time and energy you put in. I encourage everyone to give it a shot. If it turns out to not be your thing, you don’t have to continue but how will you know what you are missing unless you give it a try.”

For more information on how to become an ECHO volunteer please visit this link: