By Sarah Rafique

Harker Heights Herald

BELTON - Stationed at the Sharecropper's Farmstead exhibit, Juanita Jones transports her audiences to farm life in the 1930s during a 20-minute tour.

Standing in front of a miniature replica of the town at the Bell County Museum, the Temple resident showcases her expertise.

Jones became interested in the museum when, as a teacher at Leon Heights Elementary School in Belton, she brought her fourth-grade social studies class for interactive, educational lessons.

"It's a good fit for me because you have that in the classroom, too," said Jones, who has been volunteering at the museum for 10 years.

"A lot of times, the boys get interested in the farm. They like to know the details. We tell them about the house and how they lived in it and they didn't have electricity."

After retiring in 2002, Jones' interests in Texas history, children and volunteering were put to use when she started giving tours at the expanding museum.

Every tour is different, but children generally are fascinated by life in the 1930s, such as the intricacies of the house, the use of an outhouse and how butchers hung their meat outside.

"I like when they ask good questions because you begin to see what they're interested in," she said.

Although Jones sometimes performs other functions at the museum, program director Troy Gray said he likes having her as a tour guide because she's able to cater her instruction to groups of different shapes and sizes and deal with rowdy children.

"The area that (Jones) works in has more hands-on activities and the kids are all engaged," said Gray. "It's good having a former fourth-grade classroom teacher."

Gray said he likes having stable, energetic and knowledgeable volunteers like Jones, who serve as a role model for newer volunteers.

"When she can't come in, it's kind of hard with new volunteers because you're still kind of trying to break them in," he said. "She's one of our faithful ones, so when she's busy (and can't come in) I'm kind of sad."

Jones also helps eliminate the need for an additional employee at the museum. She is one of about 25 people who volunteer about 1,800 hours a year combined - almost that of a full-time county employee, said Stephanie Turnham, the museum's director.

"We've been really lucky," said Gray. "We could not do the work that we do without the volunteers. You have to make sure you have reliable volunteers who know how to work with children.

"With Juanita, I never have any worries."

Contact Sarah Rafique or (254) 501-7549.

If you go

The Bell County Museum is free and is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 201 N. Main St. in Belton.

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