Approximately 3,500 visitors walked through the doors of the Bankhead House and Heritage Center last year and received a warm welcome from one of nearly two dozen volunteers who serve as greeters.At …
Approximately 3,500 visitors walked through the doors of the Bankhead House and Heritage Center last year and received a warm welcome from one of nearly two dozen volunteers who serve as greeters.
At least once a month (but usually more often), the smiling face behind the desk was Mary Putman.
Putman, a Shelby County native who spent most of her adult life in Birmingham, moved to Jasper in 2003 to be closer to her family.
Like her son, Jasper Main Street executive director Mike Putman, Mary doesn't sit idle for long.
In addition to being a Bankhead House volunteer, she works part-time as secretary of First Presbyterian Church and serves as secretary of the Alabama Central District of Civitan International.
Putman became a Civitan during her 35-year career in the circulation department of the Birmingham News and was district governor in 1992 and 1993.
She has also been a tutor for the Literacy Council and taught English as a Second Language at First Baptist Church in Pelham before moving to Jasper.
For Putman, service isn't a sacrifice; it's what good citizens do.
"I grew up in an era — and in a pretty low income bracket — where neighbors helped neighbors. Whoever had it, gave it. If you needed it, someone always helped. I don't remember my mother telling, or teaching, me to share or help others. That's what she always did, and that's what I've always done. Every member of a community is responsible for making a contribution to that community in some way or another. No matter how small a contribution, you can make one," Putman said.
Putman began volunteering at the Bankhead House about four years ago.
The House, which hosts permanent exhibits celebrating local Congressmen, members of the military, Tallulah Bankhead and notable Walker Countians as well as a main exhibit that changes several times a year, has received visitors from all over the United States and several countries.
Volunteering has been an ongoing education in Walker County history for Putman. Guests often provide as much information as they receive from her as she walks them through the exhibits.
There is so much to see that Putman takes time to browse each time she has a spare moment.
"I'll go through and even though I've looked at it before, I see something new. If you really went through a whole exhibit, looking at everything and really thinking about what you're seeing, it would take two or three hours," she said.
The Bankhead House and Heritage Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and every third Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
The current "Celebrating Our Communities" exhibit, which highlights the histories of Farmstead, Jasper, Manchester, Thach and Saragossa, runs through June 14.
The next exhibit, "Alabama's History of Native Americans" featuring artifacts from local collector Wheeler Pounds, opens July 9.
The state's "Making Alabama" Bicentennial exhibit with be at the Bankhead House Oct. 8-Oct. 25.
The final exhibit of the year will be "Art on the Inside," presented by Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project at Auburn University.