Reach for the stars

Margie Stateler’s latest project involves raising funds for a portable star lab that can be taken to area schools and events. As the Visitors’ Services Manager for Hancock Park District (HPD), Stateler wants students and park visitors to learn about all aspects of their environment.

“That includes the stars and planets,” Stateler adds.  “A star lab that we could move from school to school would be a great teaching resource.”

In her 21 years with HPD, Stateler has always looked “skyward.”  Her philosophy: “We’re only limited by our imaginations and enthusiasm.”

Margie’s imagination and enthusiasm have taken her through several positions and titles in the past two decades. She started as Program Coordinator, working with naturalist Ron Bowerman, designing programs for school-age and pre-school children. At that time, the district planned programs for the entire year and stuck to that schedule. Now planning is more seasonal, focusing on what is happening in nature and in the community as seasons change.

New dimensions

Stateler has seen significant expansion of The Hancock Park District during her tenure, both in acreage and in programming. The development of Litzenberg Memorial Woods and the McKinnis homestead in 1995 added a whole new dimension to the district’s educational offerings. With volunteers portraying members of the McKinnis family, Hancock County history truly comes alive for Litzenberg visitors. This past November, area residents learned how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner over an open fire. Nearly every weekend members of the McKinnis family invite guests to learn about life in the nineteenth century, including woodworking, gardening, canning, and traditional holiday celebrations.

Just recently, the National Association for Interpretation Region 4 awarded a grant  to HPD to fund new living history school programs for the 2011-2012 school year. According to Margie, the grant will help fund the “What Freedom Means to Me” program for fourth-sixth graders. Program content will include an interpreter who portrays an Irish immigrant in the 1840s and grant funds will be used to purchase personal items that would be brought by a typical Irish family to the U.S.

“What we do at the parks is for everyone,” Margie emphasizes. “I think we’ve been pretty smart in connecting with experts on certain topics and letting them provide the programming.”

Stateler’s “experts” include the Millstream Astronomy Club, which offers educational programs under the night sky; the area Disc Golfers Association, whose members teach the game and organize tournaments, and a relatively new Geo-cachers group. She’s always eager to hear from other individuals and organizations who want to help bring people into the parks.

Discovering the parks

What started as a part-time position has evolved into a full-time career for Margie. The mother of two sons and grandmother of three children, she’s always balanced family and job responsibilities. No stranger to the outdoors, she and husband Duane own a major hog and grain operation just outside of McComb in Hancock County. 

In her current role as Visitors’ Services Manager, Stateler oversees the programming department and continues to devote time to cultivating the relationship with Friends of the Parks and other groups within the community.

The past year has been an eventful one, even for Stateler who’s used to change and challenges. HPD named Gary Pruitt as the new executive director last spring, the Park District celebrated its 40th anniversary, and demand continued to grow for children’s programming.  She takes it all in stride.

“One thing you can say about my job—it’s never boring!”

For more information on Hancock Park District events and programs, visit  HPD Administrative Offices are located at 1424 East Main Cross Street, Findlay.  419-425-7275.

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