Volunteer Spotlight: Marcia R.

Marcia R. has dedicated her time volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over four years. Over that time, Marcia has been trained in multiple programs.

“[I] work in the Zoo and Aquatic areas at least twice a month,” she says. Individuals who are interested in volunteering in more than one program must be active Docents who have volunteered with either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months. After that time, they have the opportunity to attend the training class for the opposite program.

Marcia may have been a new volunteer to the GSC in 2014, but she had plenty of experience volunteering at another facility. Marcia explains, “Prior to living in Greensboro, I resided in Maryland and worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (in Washington, DC) in the Entomology Department with numerous types of insects.”

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She may have had to switch gears a bit when she started volunteering at the GSC, but Marcia gained skills at the Smithsonian that have since benefited her here, adding, “While at the museum, I gave lectures on insects to groups of visitors from around the world. I loved working with the animals and visitors!”  

Since public speaking and interaction is such a big part of volunteering at the GSC, we’re especially grateful for the skills Marcia acquired at the Smithsonian.

Beyond public speaking and interaction, education and inspiration are two other key aspects to volunteering at the GSC. Our volunteers, like Marcia, have a strong desire to share knowledge while also instilling a passion for our natural world in our guests.

Marcia says, “While working at [the] GSC, I attempt to seek out visitors’ questions concerning the animal they are viewing, and hopefully [they] will continue searching for additional animal information after their visit.”

In reflecting on her four years at the GSC, Marcia recalls, “I was most fortunate to transfer my interests over to [the] GSC and to be a part of their ‘Outstanding Volunteer Program’!”  

We couldn’t agree more. As for us, we would not be able to do any of this if not for our volunteers, who commit so much of their time to the education of our community and conservation of our world.  Marcia has volunteered almost 450 hours at GSC, and we are proud to have her as part of our volunteer family.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel L.

Rachel L. has been a standout member of the Greensboro Science Center volunteer family since 2016. “I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for about four years, since I was thirteen. I started out as a Teacher’s Assistant for summer camps, which I have done every summer since. Then, I became an Exhibit Guide for a school year. Finally, once I turned fifteen,” she continued, “I became a Zoo Docent, and I am now cross-trained as an Aquarium Docent. I try to volunteer as much as I can, and try to do at least one shift every weekend, resulting in about 20 to 25 hours per month.”

RachelIt may be surprising that a teenager would voluntarily give so much of her free time to educate her community about science and conservation, but Rachel affirms her decision, stating, “I love volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center because working with people and animals is energizing. I finish every shift knowing that I’ve impacted several visitors’ experiences and that I might have told someone a cool fact that he or she wouldn’t have known otherwise. Education is important for conservation, and I thoroughly enjoy being able to spread information and conservation messages. I love seeing peoples’ expressions when I tell them surprising facts, like that Komodo dragons can eat animals as large as water buffaloes. It’s also fun seeing kids’ reactions when they’re finally able to touch a stingray in the touch tank, or when they’re face-to-face with an animal they had never seen before.”

Rachel has advanced into two of our upper level programs for Docents – the Animal Encounter Team and the Tier 2 program. In those roles, she is getting to work alongside our staff to learn how to prepare diets for our animals and to handle our ambassador animals in the zoo. Individuals who are interested in our advanced programs, like the Tier 2 program, must be active Docents who have volunteered in either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months, exceeded the minimum monthly shift requirements, applied for the program, and interviewed with animal staff.

Here at the Greensboro Science Center, we enjoy being able to brag about our amazing volunteers, like Rachel, who dedicate their efforts to make a positive impact, not just within our organization, but in the community. Rachel shares, “I love being a part of an organization that’s so concerned with the welfare of animals and is so involved with research and conservation. I hope to continue to volunteer at the Greensboro Science Center as much as I can!”

We are happy to have Rachel with us again this summer for her fourth year as a Teacher’s Assistant. She is a great role model for our campers and an incredible helper to our teachers. Rachel has already volunteered almost 475 hours with us. We’re excited to present her with her 500-hour pin later this summer and even more excited she’s part of our volunteer family.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Meredith D.

Meredith D. has been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over a decade! When Meredith first became a volunteer in August of 2008, she spent her time in the area of the GSC that focused on enriching the experiences of our youngest guests. Meredith says, “I started out in the Kids’ Alley playroom for 6 months. Then, at the encouragement of our former Volunteer Coordinator, I signed up to cross-train and volunteer as a Docent in the Herp Lab and Zoo.”

As time went by and the GSC continued to expand, Meredith wanted to get more involved. She says, “After the SciQuarium (now Wiseman Aquarium) opened, I was cross-trained and worked in there, the Zoo and Herp Lab on alternate weekends. Now, I just volunteer in the Wiseman Aquarium, which has worked out really great.” As one of our most inquisitive Docents, Meredith has a passion for learning about the various animals and exhibits at the GSC so she can help educate the public.

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When thinking back on what drew her to the GSC, Meredith recalls, “I have always wanted to volunteer at the GSC, and I have always loved rocks and animals and kids.” Meredith found the transition from visitor to volunteer to be a smooth one, adding, “[The GSC] is a socially inviting place to work, which for me is important because I have autism and require accommodations and understanding from co-workers, which is very difficult to obtain in many ‘traditional’ work settings.”

Meredith’s success as an Aquarium Docent is a point of pride for both Meredith and the GSC’s Volunteer Department, as she took on the responsibilities of a volunteer knowing she would have to advocate for her needs and adapt to a constantly evolving organization. In turn, our staff have taken cues from Meredith to learn her needs and support her growth. We’ve been thrilled to see her journey at the GSC.

In the 10 years she has been volunteering, Meredith has been able to witness and be part of the changes at the GSC. In reminiscing on some of those changes, Meredith says, “I miss the rock and mineral gallery and some of the staff who have left.” Although not an exhibit at this time, the GSC is currently exploring options to exhibit rocks and minerals again! And, in thinking further back, Meredith remembers one of the funniest moments she’s encountered as a Docent. “A guest once told me that she thought the fur on the golden lion tamarins looked like Donald Trump’s hair.”

Although Meredith has faced some obstacles in her life that others have not, she has always committed to doing the best possible job at the GSC. She takes every shift seriously and strives to learn from each experience. Meredith still finds volunteering as fun and as rewarding as she did ten years ago: “I enjoy the people, the kids and the exhibits. And, having autism, it gives me the ability to have a set routine to benefit other people’s lives.”

We couldn’t be more grateful for Docents like Meredith, who strive every shift to not only enrich their own lives, but the lives of our guests. Meredith is nearing the 2,000-hour milestone as a volunteer at the GSC. Our team can’t wait to give her the button she’ll wear proudly when that day comes!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ken T.

An experienced and passionate educator, Ken T. has been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for over five years. In that time, he has contributed almost 600 hours of service.

“I volunteer in the Wiseman Aquarium a minimum of five times per month. Two of those times are in the food preparation section, and the other times are spent with visitors in the aquarium section – primarily at the stingray touch tank,” Ken says.

The diet preparation area Ken is referring to is an assignment volunteers in our Tier 2 program can help with. Individuals who are interested in our advanced programs, such as the Tier 2 program, must be active Docents who have volunteered in either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months, exceeded the minimum monthly shift requirements, applied for the program, and interviewed with animal staff.

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No stranger to volunteering, Ken has spent numerous hours benefiting his community through helping other organizations. Ken mentions, “Since moving to Greensboro almost 14 years ago, I have volunteered at The North Carolina Zoo’s polar bear exhibit, the Civil Rights Museum, the Greensboro History Museum, and Reading Connections.”  

One thing guests will pick up on about Ken when speaking with him is his passion for education; his desire to share what he knows with others extends far beyond his volunteer experience.

When asked what drew him to volunteering at the GSC, Ken explains, “As a retired high school social studies teacher of thirty-six years, volunteering at the GSC provides many positive rewards. I’m still teaching in a field other than what I had taught in high school. This presents a mental challenge and I learn new things every time I volunteer.”

Apart from the specific area he is educating guests about, Ken says the people he interacts with often present a strong contrast to his teaching experience, adding, “I am working with all age groups – both in terms of fellow volunteers and visitors. That is also new and different from what I had done before. Interacting with people of different ages, diverse personal histories and experiences is both interesting and rewarding.”

Although Ken is retired, he knew his job wasn’t done when he hung up his teaching hat.

He says, “I believe that we all have a duty to give back to our communities in a positive way. I am fortunate to be able to do so in my retirement. That’s what makes volunteering fun and rewarding. I am giving back, which is rewarding, but I also have fun and continue learning while doing so.”

Here at the GSC, we are so proud of our volunteers, like Ken, who are determined to make a difference in the lives of our guests. Ken adds, “Having visitors, especially the ‘little guys,’ excitedly enjoy what they’re observing or partaking in is rewarding in and of itself as a volunteer.”

We couldn’t agree more. And we love seeing Ken pass that joy for teaching on to the new volunteers he mentors in the program. Ken’s got a great sense of humor and brings his trademark energy and enthusiasm to every shift. It’s contagious, and the GSC is so lucky to have him as part of our volunteer family.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy and Paul S.

Here at the Greensboro Science Center, we love to celebrate the stories of the individuals who are part of our volunteer family. This spotlight is a little different because it’s about one of our dynamic couples – Paul and Nancy S.

Nancy explains, “I have been volunteering since early 2015. After I retired, I ran into a former student who told me about volunteering for the BODIES REVEALED exhibit. I thought it’d be interesting and would be a nice way to start volunteering. Then I trained to become an Aquarium Docent.”

Her husband, Paul, on the other hand, became involved in early 2018. “My wife had shown me how rewarding and interesting volunteering at the GSC could be, so after I retired, I volunteered to be a Zoo Docent.”

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It might be striking to many that a couple would volunteer in two separate areas, one in the aquarium and the other in the zoo, but this tag team is happy with the arrangement and, unarguably, covers more ground by doing so! Both say that they have found fulfillment in their respective roles. Nancy explained, “My reward and fun come from the kids, their comments and joy, and what they share with me about the exhibits. Many have amazing insights or thoughtful, curious questions. I learn something new every time I volunteer.”

“I agree with what Nancy said,” Paul replied, adding, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know our animals as individuals with distinctive personalities and relationships.”

When asked about their meaningful or funny experiences while volunteering, Paul said, “One morning in the Herpetarium, the larger snakes seemed especially active, and after looking around, a little girl about 4 years old took her mom’s hand and said, very calmly, politely, and firmly, ‘Mommy, may we PLEASE leave this room NOW?’ Her mother agreed, and they left to enjoy other areas of the Greensboro Science Center.”

Nancy has her own memorable experience. “One of my most meaningful memories is the moment when I was watching the octopus and suddenly became so aware of what a fantastic creature he was. My interest was piqued, and I soon began to acquire a small library of books on octopuses.”

Since 2015, Nancy and Paul have dedicated almost 400 hours of their time to this organization. We love seeing their love for one another and for the GSC!

 

Volunteer Spotlight – Linda W.

Linda W. has been a dedicated volunteer with the Greensboro Science Center since October of 2016. She got her start in the Zoo Docent program, and by the fall of 2017, Linda was adding to her range of experiences. “In addition to being a Zoo Docent, I am also a Tier 2 Docent. This allows me to work with Keeper Carolyn in the Discovery House in animal husbandry, as well as to participate on two socialization teams. I also mentor new members and am a current Animal Encounter Team member,” Linda says.

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With a wide variety of roles to choose from, Linda is quite the regular at the GSC. “Depending on my schedule, I try to volunteer twice a week — sometimes more.” With that additional time, Linda has pursued advanced programs with us. Individuals who are interested in our advanced programs must be active Docents who have volunteered with either our Aquarium or Zoo Docent programs for at least six months and have exceeded their shift minimums. Linda applied and interviewed for each program before being chosen.

A native of Lubbock, Texas, Linda recalls how she became so involved at the GSC. “A few years ago, when I worked in Greensboro, I discovered the GSC and would visit during my lunch hour, just to ‘de-stress’ and enjoy all of the exhibits and animals. I was so impressed with the passion and knowledge of the Docents and their enthusiasm about the Greensboro Science Center that I knew at some point, I wanted to become a volunteer.” Since then, Linda has accrued over 340 volunteer hours at the GSC.

When asked what Linda appreciates about our volunteer program, she stated, “It is amazing and geared to all individuals, regardless of age or background. The flexibility to create your own schedule allows each volunteer to commit to just the basic requirement or to take it to the next level and beyond, depending on the areas that excite and interest you.”

Although Linda has progressed to where she gets to spend time behind the scenes of the GSC, she still finds the core reasons for volunteering satisfying and fun. She says, “Engaging with the public during my Docent shift is especially rewarding. I have met people from several different states and countries and even got to try out my limited Norwegian vocabulary with some children from Oslo.”

In reflecting on her time in the Volunteer Program, Linda mentions, “I can honestly say that I have never encountered such a ‘welcoming’ facility and group of people where all staff members are eager to make you a success in your volunteer endeavor.”

For us here at the GSC, we are proud of and grateful for our volunteers, like Linda, who dedicate so much of their personal time to the education of our community and conservation of our world. Linda adds, “Looking back on the short two years I have been volunteering at the GSC, it is a certainty that I have benefited much more in relation to the time I give each month.”

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.