Local volunteer wins top National Award

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The Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre is pleased to announce that long-time volunteer, Mike Sterling of Southampton, has won the Canadian Museums' Association & Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums' Award for 2012. The award was handed out last week in Ottawa.

Barb Ribey Director of the Bruce County Museum and Mike Sterling on the deck of the HMS General Hunter an exhibit to open this summer directed by Archaeologist Ken Cassavoy.

“Mike Sterling has made outstanding contributions and achievements to the community of Saugeen Shores, the Lake Huron Shoreline, the County of Bruce and to the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre in the areas of marine heritage and its preservation and promoting and supporting local culture and performers of all ages," says Barbara Ribey, Director/Curator of BCM&CC. 

"With his vision, steadfast dedication and Herculean efforts, he has made The Town of Saugeen Shores a wonderful place to live, learn and play, but also a must-see destination for visitors of all ages coming to Bruce County.”

Marine Archaelogist, Ken Cassavoy, adds that,  “Mike Sterling, for me and everyone I know in this community, is the Ultimate Volunteer. He is someone whose tremendous effort over decades, on a wide variety of projects, has made a lasting difference in this community.”

Sterling's Contributions and Achievements

Chantry Island Lighthouse Restoration Project

Mike Sterling, a Southampton, ON resident, knew about Chantry Island and its lighthouse from his boyhood holidays spent in Southampton. Mike worked with town staff and Council on setting up the various projects involved in restoring the Chantry Island lighthouse.

 He also met with community organizations and groups that were tourism based to inform them of the projects he wanted to accomplish with the lighthouse, as well as to market and promote the island and the lighthouse, and increase its potential impact on the local economy and tourism marketplace.

He and the Southampton Marine Heritage Society and the Propeller Club raised approximately $1 million through fundraising for the Chantry Lighthouse Restoration Project, and all without any government funding.

One of the founders of the Southampton Marine Heritage Society (SMHS)

Mike Sterling was one of the creators of this dynamic volunteer organization and headed it up for four years during the restoration of the Chantry Island lighthouse. He continues to support and be a member of the Propeller Club.

Chantry Island Lighthouse Tour & Tour Base

SMHS participated in and started the Lighthouse Tours of Bruce County, one of the most successful tourist packages in the area in cooperation with Ontario Tourism. With the restoration of Chantry Island lighthouse came the opening of the Chantry Island Tours and Tour Base/Gift Shop. More than 15,000 visitors have visited during the summer months.

Bird Sanctuary – Chantry Island

The Marine Heritage Society is responsible for preserving the island as a bird sanctuary by helping to keep visitors in the designated area. Because of the needs of the thousands of nesting birds on the island, only 25 persons a day can legally visit the sanctuary until August 1 each year.

Creator of the Chantry Island Website (www.chantryisland.com webmaster now redone by Gail Douglas)

2006 International Lighthouse Conference

In 2006, over two hundred & thirty lighthouse enthusiasts from across North America and Italy travelled to Southampton for a three-day lighthouse-based conference. Mike Sterling marketed and promoted this conference across the globe, and the result was that over 60% of attendees were from outside Ontario.

Bruce Coast Lighthouse Partners

This organization is made up of representatives from Bruce Coast Lighthouses, and markets the Bruce Coast Lighthouse Tour. Mike Sterling was one of the first members of this organization, and was instrumental on soliciting other lighthouse groups to be part of this marine heritage marketing and lobbying organization.

Guest Speaker/Presenter

Sterling has been a guest speaker on many occasions for the Museum and other groups, talking about marine heritage, the preservation of lighthouses, the Fresnel lens, and the technical aspects of lighthouses.

Helix Sculpture at the BCM&CC

A giant 17-foot-high helix made from the anchor chain of an 1866 schooner rises majestically on an outdoor alcove at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre. This unique double-helix sculpture is the brainchild of Mike Sterling. The chain was originally salvaged along the lakeshore near MacGregor Point. It came from the 120-foot schooner, AZOV, which capsized on October 12, 1911. The captain and crew abandoned ship and the schooner drifted across Lake Huron as a ghost ship, finally coming aground at MacGregor Point in close proximity to where she was built.

The HMS General Hunter Shipwreck

Marine Heritage Society members and the Propeller Club have been involved in two digs on Southampton’s beach for this shipwreck connected to the War of 1812. Volunteers, including Mike Sterling, worked with marine archeologists and, specifically, with internationally known archaeologist Ken Cassavoy. The General Hunter is arguably the most important discovery ever made on the upper Great Lakes.

Stokes Bay Light

Sterling also restored the Stokes Bay Lighthouse that was given to the Bruce County Museum by the Coast Guard. This lighthouse/range light joins the three other range lights and the majestic Imperial Tower on Chantry Island making Southampton and Saugeen Shores the lighthouse capital of the Great Lakes

Other Community Involvement:

Sterling also promotes community theatre & musical concerts, supports educating community youth on area heritage, and is a mentor to gifted children.

It is due to Mike Sterling’s passion, enthusiasm and dedication to his community and the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre that the Museum nominated him for the Museum Volunteer Award for 2012.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012