For May 1-8, 2017
These questions are asked of both Carl and I several times each week and depending on who the person is, depends on how we answer.
Generally speaking if you want to volunteer for a position, you go to the website, www.volunteer.gov. and start looking. The opportunities are broken down by state, agency and position. You’ll find a job description and how to apply. It’s that simple. That takes care of the first question.
The second question is answered by the agency involved. For us, the camp host position in Nebo required the use of a rake, shovel, cleaning supplies and the ability to drive a pickup truck. We were also required to do a small amount of paperwork and handle money to sell firewood and rent campsites to guests without a reservation. There was no schedule to adhere to, no minimum amount of hours one had to work and no one looking over your shoulder at all hours to make sure the work was completed. Our responsibilities at Sherando Lake were similar in nature without the use of the pickup truck or the need to handle money. This was substituted by a lawn which badly needed mowing. Have I ever told you how much fun a zero turn riding mower is to operate? The camp ground at Assateague is similar although you are provided with a schedule. The work week is four five hour shifts with two days off and you get a golf cart to complete your rounds which include traveling to the ranger station to advise them of checkouts, squatters and problems.
It’s that 3rd question that can give one some pause to think. “What do I get out of it?” Volunteerism is nothing new. Citizens have been signing up for two hundred years to protect family and home along with the ideals of democracy we hold dear. As early ( or late ) as the Sixties, President Kennedy and his family created the Peace Corps. The list goes on and on but the key premise is still the same. What you get out of a volunteer position is knowing that you have, in some small way, helped. For those of you out there thinking I’m taking someone’s livelihood from them, it isn‘t the case. Every hour I have given to the state of North Carolina, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and Assateague Island National Seashore off the coast of Maryland is time doing jobs that otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t get done because of budget restrictions, cutbacks and layoffs. There is no monetary benefit to me for providing this service. In fact, Carl tells me it costs us more for these three months because we still have expenses at home. True, we are provided a camp site for each month with water, electric and sewerage which is worth several hundred dollars. But, it’s that feeling I get at the end of the day when the supervisor tells us what a great job we’ve been doing or the camper who remarks on how clean everything is in the park. Even when I’m speaking to people who have not been paying attention to the rules, it’s the education of that individual who asks the intelligent questions afterwards and will have a much more enjoyable experience because we are there to explain why that particular rule is so important.
On our volunteer “time sheet”, there is a category for how many visitor interactions you have every day. The higher the number, the better I feel, the more I’ve helped. I think it was said best like this, “Volunteerism is not what you get out of it, it’s what you put into it.”