GSC Volunteer Receives 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award

by Kelli Crawford, Volunteer Coordinator and Curator of Collections

In partnership with The North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, The Volunteer Center of Greensboro has presented the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award to 10 recipients from Guilford County. The Greensboro Science Center is thrilled to announce that longtime volunteer Linda Kendzierski is among those honored. This award recognizes citizens who have shown concern and compassion for their neighbors by making a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service. The award was created in the Office of the Governor in 1979.

Linda has been a volunteer at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) since 2011. When people talk about volunteer impact, they usually are quick to sum it up in terms of the hours they dedicate to their service. While the 3,000 hours Linda has selflessly served at the GSC are no small feat, they pale in comparison to what she has done during that time. Linda is a champion for the GSC, for conservation and for volunteerism.

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The GSC team surprised Linda with news of her award on April 1.

When I first started at the GSC as an intern seven years ago, I referred to Linda as a social butterfly. She had so much enthusiasm and energy when she joined the program, but there wasn’t an outlet for it just yet. Enter me, a young new volunteer coordinator who didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Volunteers like Linda presented an opportunity, because they wanted to do so much (and I wanted to give them the ability to do more), but I knew I couldn’t do it overnight. Through many conversations over the years, Linda has been a sounding board. She has been a source of good ideas and opinions as well as the heartbeat of our volunteer program. If I need to know how a change is being perceived by our volunteers, I always know I can go to her. She has helped shape our program. Along the way, she has helped shape me into the volunteer coordinator I am today.

As our social butterfly, Linda connects people like nobody else can. She is good at breaking down barriers that can sometimes exist between staff and volunteers. She is well-known by her peers and our staff. Part of that is because of how often she volunteers, but it is also because Linda is never afraid to ask a question nor reach out if she needs something. She always introduces herself to her fellow volunteers and isn’t stingy about sharing her email address. When we have events coming up, Linda likes to take the lead to organize them. From National Zoo Keeper Week celebrations to a surprise for our housekeeping staff, holiday social potlucks, birthday parties for staff members… you name it, Linda has planned it. She loves to bring people together.  

Linda is always taking care of someone – a family member, a friend, a foster animal that somehow finds a permanent home with her. She is such a caring person and always wants the best for those around her. It is what makes her such an amazing mentor for volunteers who are new to the GSC – she makes them feel at ease. Linda is a natural educator. Her genuine love for our animals and for the GSC is clear in every interaction she has with our guests. The fact that she has volunteered in almost every volunteer program we offer makes her an asset here. It is truly inspiring to watch Linda “in her element”, and we know our mission is in good hands when Linda is on shift. Linda loves her behind-the-scenes time with our animal staff, but she also values the impact she can make in her daily conversations with our guests. What a wonderful example for new volunteers to follow!

For all of these reasons, when Linda came to us a few years ago and sheepishly asked if the GSC would agree to host a business meeting for about 20 zoo and aquarium volunteers, the answer was an easy one. Within a matter of hours, I was able to let her know that our management team had given us the thumbs up to pursue it. Shortly thereafter, the request morphed into hosting a regional conference for almost 200 people. Again, the answer was “yes.” Our management team would not have agreed had Linda not proven herself to be such a talented and amazingly organized volunteer. We had never hosted a conference of this size before, but we knew Linda could handle this responsibility.

What did the conference entail? During the multi-year planning process, Linda was an absolute rockstar. Amping up her drive, she told me that she had finally found was she was looking for. The experience helped her understand more of the behind-the-scenes business logistics that volunteering with us in an animal capacity hadn’t always given her. She reached out to multiple facilities to arrange pre- and post-conference tours, negotiated tour bus contracts, hotel contracts, vendors agreements, speaker details, volunteer-led sessions, and more. It was a truly impressive undertaking.

The impact of Linda’s efforts was especially impressive. In October of 2017, the GSC hosted the Regional Conference for the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents and Volunteers (AZADV). The seven-day conference was attended by 266 volunteers representing 58 AZA facilities. The conference raised $10,069 for the Silvery Gibbon Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to save gibbons and their habitat. Linda received a standing ovation from her peers at the closing banquet.

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Linda received a standing ovation at the AZADV closing banquet.

Linda has proven that she is an amazing ambassador for the GSC. Beyond that, she is an ambassador for volunteers. She truly believes that no volunteer is “just” a volunteer. Their efforts are to be valued and they have much to share with one another. Through her work with AZADV, Linda is championing this cause. The GSC, our community and Linda’s fellow volunteers are so lucky to have her driving energy and determination behind them. Linda is now the Director of Public Relations for AZADV, and we are excited to see what she does in that role. It is the perfect fit for such a dedicated, accomplished volunteer as she!

All those recognized will soon receive a certificate with an official Governor’s Office seal, an original signature from Governor Roy Cooper, plus a gold pin with the inscription: North Carolina Outstanding Volunteer.

Volunteer Spotlight – Douglas L.

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As a graduate of one of our most recent Aquarium Docent classes, Douglas L. has become one of the Greensboro Science Center’s most frequent volunteers. “I have been a Docent at the Greensboro Science Center since May 2018. I volunteer exclusively in the Wiseman Aquarium, especially as a monitor for the Touch Tank. Generally, I try to work 10 shifts monthly and plan to pursue Tier 2 training in early 2019,” Douglas says. Individuals who are interested in our advanced programs, like the Tier 2 program, must be active Docents who have volunteered with either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months, must exceed their shift minimums, and must apply and interview for a specific program before being chosen.

Although he’s stepped away from his career in the medical field, Douglas’s passion for learning and helping others remains. He says, “As a relatively recently retired physician, I was in search of a meaningful use for my otherwise newly empty hours. The ability to interact with the public in an instructional capacity while broadening my own education in aquatic biology attracted me to the GSC.” From very early on, Volunteer Staff noticed just how insightful and knowledgeable Douglas is and learned that his background has always involved science in one way or another. Douglas adds, “Prior to medical school I had majored in biology during college. Additionally I had just completed a master’s degree in bioethics in 2017, and saw the opportunity to use that newly acquired education via implementation of ethical principles of animal handling and environmental responsibility.”

When asked to name a meaningful memory he has from the GSC, Douglas mentioned, “As a parent of a now young man, observing children’s exuberant reactions to the animals brings back many happy memories of my son’s love for the Science Center. (He once served as a team member, and later coach for First Lego League here.)” This is a wonderfully common trend our Volunteer Staff is noticing with our adult volunteers: those who have children that grew up coming to the GSC want to give back to younger generations. And in many cases their children were, or are currently, volunteers themselves!

Douglas may be one of our newer Aquarium Docents, but he hit the ground running with his ambition and passion. He says “I look forward to the opportunity to further broaden my experience here as a Tier 2 Docent by working behind the scenes more directly with the aquarists and their marine charges. I am very proud of the GSC and grateful to have a small role in the delivery of public education and inspiration through volunteerism.”

Volunteer Spotlight – Megan B.

Megan BMegan B. has been a hard-working and ambitious volunteer with the Greensboro Science Center since June of 2017.  Megan says, “I enjoy science and working around the animals. I also enjoy meeting new people.” She got her start as an Animal Ambassador and later joined our Museum Ambassador Program.

“My favorite station is Friendly Farm, followed closely by Hands-On Harbor and Prehistoric Passages: Realm of Dragons,” Megan said. As a Museum Ambassador, our teen volunteers are given the opportunity to experience our aquarium, museum and zoo – all in just one shift! We’re glad Megan enjoys that variety!

A point of pride for many of our volunteers, including Megan, is all of the information they learn by spending so much time around the animals. Volunteers learn the names and even the behaviors of most of the GSC’s animals. Megan mentions, “When I came back to the GSC with friends during a class trip, I could introduce my friends to all of the animals and could show them cool stuff in the exhibits. I was their tour guide.”

An opportunity within the Museum Ambassador program that Megan jumped into feet first was becoming a mentor. This meant that Megan actually trained incoming Museum Ambassadors on all exhibits covered, tips and tricks to engage with visitors, how to handle sticky situations, and how best to succeed in the program. In all of our programs, volunteers who become mentors are able to take on more responsibilities in their role as well as learn vital leadership skills that can help them in other areas of their lives. Our volunteer program staff members tell us that it has been incredible to see Megan come out of her shell over the past year, not only as a Museum Ambassador, but as a young adult as well. They say the confidence she’s gained is apparent each and every shift.

Although the Museum Ambassador program only requires volunteers to complete two, three-hour shifts per month, Megan can’t seem to get enough of the GSC and completes three shifts per month instead! Megan says that “Volunteering at the GSC has let me meet all kinds of people from around the state and other states. I especially enjoy helping in the farm and talking about the animals. Volunteering at the GSC has encouraged me to major in science in college.”

For more information about the Greensboro Science Center’s award-winning volunteer program, visit our website: http://greensboroscience.org/get-involved/volunteer/

Volunteer Spotlight: Trey T.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Trey T., check out his story below!

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“My name is Trey Thurman and I am a high school freshman. I have been volunteering at the GSC since June 2016 and I absolutely love it. There are 4 rotations in a typical volunteer shift: the Herpetarium Cart, the Friendly Farm, the Aquarium Cart, and the Touch Tank. The Herpetarium Cart is one of my favorite stations because I love reptiles and amphibians. I enjoy sharing new facts that the visitors didn’t know before or answering any questions they may have. Also, since I have a Russian Tortoise, a Blue tongue skink, and a chubby frog at my house, I can give them firsthand experience on what it’s like to have these animals as pets as well as helpful tips for keeping one at home.

The Friendly Farm is the only station that is outside and I enjoy seeing families interact with the goats and sheep. The aquarium cart is fun because the people can touch the shark and the stingray teeth. I end my day with the Touch Tank and would like to share a tip for when you visit:  if you leave your hand still and calm in the water the stingrays are more likely to come up to you rather than if you were to poke your hand in whenever a stingray is coming!

During the time that I have been a part of the Animal Ambassador Program, I have learned so many different things. I love how organized the program is and how fun it is working with the volunteer staff. I enjoy interacting and talking with different people during my shift. Every conversation is different; one person might be a five-year-old  while the other one may be an adult, but either way I am still able to share different facts with them and that is something I truly enjoy.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom and Linda A.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Tom and Linda A.

 

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We moved to Greensboro a little over a year ago. Once we had mostly moved in, we began thinking about where to volunteer. We both love animals and nature so we thought of the Greensboro Science Center and the NC Zoo. We started in the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Zoo.

In February, we started working as Zoo Docents at the Greensboro Science Center. Tom has also been working as a Docent in the Aquarium since August. We both enjoy the hands-on approach, especially in the Herp Lab. Linda has also fallen in love with the goats.  

A special memory for Linda happened while watching the Gibbons last spring. “I asked whether they Gibbons were apes or monkeys and got the kids to figure out that monkeys had tails and apes didn’t. One little girl looked up at me and said ‘Oh, that means we are apes!’”

At both the GSC, we hope to inspire visitors with our love of animals and instill in them a desire to work toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

Tom and Linda are currently our only couple that participate in the Volunteer Program at the Greensboro Science Center.

Tom and Linda are currently our only couple that participate in the Volunteer Program at the Greensboro Science Center.

Volunteer Spotlight: Bernie G.

We’d like to introduce you to Bernie G. , for this week’s volunteer spotlight. Check out his story below!

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I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over 12 years.  I work in many areas including the Aquarium, Zoo and Special Events. As a Tier 2, I help to prepare diets for the Aquarium and usually volunteer 2-3 times a week. 

I chose the Greensboro Science Center for many reasons.  I wanted to use my experience in science and enjoyment working with children and animals, as well as the flexible schedule. 

Some of my favorite memories come from meeting all the visitors both young and old, especially those from other states or around the world.  When I finish volunteering (not too soon I hope), these memories will last forever.  

 
What I find most rewarding is when a child is hesitant to touch an animal (ray, goat, reptile) for the first time. After I tell them about the animal and assure them that it won’t bite, I enjoy seeing the smile on their face while the parents take pictures. Another thing that’s rewarding is knowing that I am helping Greensboro and all of North Carolina by volunteering in such a great facility, and getting greater, as the Greensboro Science Center.

Bernie currently has the most hours served of any active volunteer at the Greensboro Science Center.  His hourly total since 2004 is 3,293 hours!!!

Volunteer Spotlight: Parker E.

In this week’s Volunteer Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to Parker E. , check out his volunteer story below!

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I have been volunteering for just over a year as a Zoo Docent.  If possible, I try to volunteer once a week, sometimes more during the summertime. The Greensboro Science Center has always been a place that I loved coming to and seeing the animals, so that’s what drew me to apply for the program.

I love working with the public and the other volunteers at GSC. It’s exciting when people tell me that they have learned something or they enjoyed me telling them about the animals. The other volunteers are always great to work with and it makes my time here even better.

One of the funniest moments that happens at least once a shift is when you run into the same group of visitors at every point in our Zoo rotation and someone will make the comment, “are you following us”?
I’ve made many friends in the Volunteer Program and they can make my day when I see that I’m working in the Zoo with them.