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A Tale of Two Volunteers

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August 30, 2017 | By Dorothy Tecklenburg


Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Volunteers Arthur Ellis and Stephen Semerod. Photo by Jim Herron.

Twenty-five thousand five hundred hours.

That's one thousand, sixty-two and a half days, twenty four hours a day.

That's thirty-five months. That's nearly three years.

That's how much time one hundred-fifty volunteers log each year at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

The Museum's oldest volunteer has been on earth for more than thirty-five thousand days. Its youngest has experienced a little over four thousand.

Ninety-seven year-old Arthur Ellis can be found at the museum several days a week, greeting visitors and imparting knowledge and wisdom. Has he been here long? While the museum has had tens of thousands of volunteers since its opening in 1954, he was (and still is) volunteer number five.

"I really enjoy volunteering and wanted to preserve what was then (in the 1950s) a disappearing technology. I had an interest in trolleys. My first trolley ride was in 1923 with my favorite Aunt Laura. It helps me retain some purpose in my life."

The Ellis family has been involved with the museum for years and are multi-generation volunteers.

"Giving back time and money to the world makes a difference," Ellis said. "It is a very pleasant working environment. There are opportunities to utilize your skills and learn new ones while you accomplish something useful."

And then there's 12-year old Stephen, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. He and his mother, Cheryl first went to the Trolley Museum as a reward for Stephen's good behavior. When Cheryl found that riding the trolleys and just being at the museum calmed her son, they became regulars and then volunteers. Cheryl says volunteering at the Museum changed their lives.

"We are there on the weekends, and in the summer time, nearly every day," Cheryl said. She enjoys volunteering side by side with her son.

"I really love being with the volunteers," Stephen said. "I am proud to have made a lot of new friends there."

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Executive Director Scott Becker reinforced the importance of his one hundred fifty volunteers.

"Volunteers are really important to our organization," Becker said. "Without them the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum would simply not exist."

Two volunteers, born in the same month eighty-five years apart. Two very different stories but with one common passion: a love for everything Trolley.