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Museum honors volunteer, needs new ones

RONAN – Velma Kuntz was honored on Saturday with a celebration for her 17 years of dedication to Ronan’s Garden of the Rockies Museum on Round Butte Road.

“She kept the museum going for many, many years,” said Patti Mocabee, vice president of the museum’s board. “She helped keep the lights on with a shoe-string budget.”

Diane Grant, museum board member, noted that operations and maintenance at the museum is handled by volunteers. During her time at the museum, Kuntz opened the doors and waited for visitors to come in to see historical displays pertaining to Ronan including old photos, a barber chair, medical equipment, an old piano and school items. Volunteers eventually hope to get a tool display put together.

“There is a bit of everything,” she said. 

And it sometimes happens that people visiting the museum ask about local culture and families and other people in the museum are able to answer questions creating a community collaboration of history.

Kuntz said she has enjoyed meeting the people visiting the museum during her volunteer time. “They come in from everywhere including Europe,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve met people from every state in the union.”

In 2003, she said the gym from a school that was torn down at Round Butte Road was brought to the museum and set up. “That was a big project,” she said. Now, the gym is rented out to the public for $50. “People hold reunions, birthday parties, and other things there. There isn’t a kitchen, but it’s a big space.”

She said the museum is struggling to find funding to keep the doors open and volunteers to run it. 

“Last year, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to open,” she said. “The museum is in dire need of money.”

Kuntz said she would like to stick around and continue helping with the museum project but health problems are causing her to move closer to family in Billings. 

The museum needs more volunteers to greet visitors during open hours. Mocabee said the museum opens in the summer after Memorial Day. Volunteers plan to hold flea markets in the summer to raise funds. For more information, call Mocabee at 406-676-3261. “If anyone wants to donate, volunteer or rent the gym, they can call me. We could really use the help.” 

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