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.

DSC_9514

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.

IMG_4846

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 – 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: Evan E.

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.

Meet Evan E. Evan has been volunteering with us for about three years now:

Evan E Picture

I started volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center in 2013 as a junior curator, and transitioned into the Docent Program the next year. During my first year as a docent, I worked in the Aquarium, Zoo, and Herp Lab until I decided to primarily stay with the Zoo as my main location.

I was introduced to the volunteer program by a neighbor, and my passion for animal life motivated me to join. I have been coming to GSC my whole life, and it is a thrill to be a part of the community that continues to educate more of the public as it grows.

A specific memory I have from the science center is from the herp lab. A little girl walked in with her family, and she wanted to pet the cornsnake, Cornflake. After I let her pet Cornflake, she proceeded to ask if she could take all of the animals back to her home as pets. I laughed and told her that she could go to a pet shop if she wanted to get some animals. Moments with the public like this make volunteering a rewarding experience, and I look forward to many more memories in the future.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Michaela 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.

Meet Michaela T. Michaela says volunteering at the GSC combines the things she loves most – talking to people and being around animals!

Michaela T.

I have been a volunteer at the Science Center since the summer of 2015. I started out as an Animal Ambassador and loved it, so I then became a Zoo Docent in the fall of 2015. Ever since I was a kid, I was in love with the Science Center. I remember coming with my school group and crowding around the old Touch Tank with my other classmates and visiting the Herp Lab to look at the snakes, turtles and lizards.  I thought it would be the best to volunteer here and was so thrilled when I was accepted last spring.  This has been a great experience since I hope to one day work as a zookeeper. It also allows me to be around all the animals that my mom won’t let me keep at home!

My favorite stations in the Zoo rotation are the Discovery House and the Herp Lab.  I love to tell visitors about our incredible animals and to show them how special they are.  Most people that are fearful of animals like snakes are excited to have the opportunity to touch a snake and see how gentle they really are.

Volunteering at the Science Center combines the things that I love the most—talking to people, especially children, and being around animals.  Once, when I was working at Friendly Farm, a woman in a wheelchair came up with her husband and sat looking into the farm. I remember the huge smile she wore after I asked if she wanted to come inside.  I helped her through the gate and she sat in her chair and laughed as the goats and the children played around her.  I was just so happy she could enjoy the farm with everyone else.

Volunteer Spotlight: Bill L.

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.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Bill L:

Bill L.

I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center for 1.5 years.  I typically volunteer on weekends, special events and whenever the Volunteer Department sends out an SOS call.  When I retire, I plan on spending more time at the Science Center.  I currently volunteer as a Docent in the aquarium.

I have worked with animals most of my life and it has brought me great joy, especially turtles and birds.  I also enjoy public speaking.  Working in the aquarium has allowed me to do both at the same time.

I have three goals each time I volunteer:  To engage, to enlighten, and to entertain.  I want our guests to enjoy their experience and to walk away with a new appreciation of animals.  I believe that increasing people’s interest in animals is the key to successful animal conservation.

At the end of a shift, I go home tired and happy!

Volunteer Spotlight: Wayne Y.

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.

Meet Wayne Y, a volunteer who has been with the GSC for four years!

Wayne Y.

I have been a volunteer for four years, beginning with the Titanic Exhibit and as a Zoo Docent.  I currently volunteer once or twice a week as an aquarium docent and nearly every Friday as a diver in Shark Reef.

 

My first degree was in Marine Biology and I was a teacher for 21 years, before going into real estate, so science and especially marine science, is in my blood.  I love sharing my love of these creatures with the public, particularly kids.

 

On my birthday this year, the aquarists invited me to help them feed the octopus.  It was one of the most exciting moments in my time at GSC. When I think back to a funny event that has happened during my time volunteering has to be on April 1st, April Fool’s Day, of this year, which also happened to be one of my first aquarium dives.  Since I was fairly new to the tank, there was another diver with me.  Just prior to the dive, I slipped a tooth from a huge prehistoric shark called a Megalodon (much larger than anything living today) into my wetsuit sleeve.  As we were diving, I called out to my partner “Hey, look, I found a shark’s tooth!” and showed him the tooth.  We both laughed, but when I turned to the window, the kids’ eyes were as big as saucers.  “Happy April Fool’s Day!”

 

When I taught science, I always loved that “Ah ha” moment when a student learned or experienced something new and exciting.  I see that at GSC whenever someone touches a sting ray for the first time or sees me diving inches away from a shark.  The excitement they feel is like electricity that lights me up too.  I also love being associated with the hard-working men and women who work behind the scenes to make those experiences possible.  I still work full-time, so volunteering is my “break time” that recharges my batteries.  Thank you GSC!

Volunteer Spotlight: Sam H.

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.

This week, we’d like to introduce you to Sam H. Sam has been volunteering with us for just over a year.

Sam H

I have been a volunteer for one year, as of June, working as an Exhibit Guide in SciPlay Bay and Health Quest. There are also opportunities for me to work at special events like Pumpkin Palooza and the Tuxedo Trot. I tend to volunteer my required shifts and do more than required during the summer!

 

What drew me into volunteering is that I love to work with the public and children. My school, Wesleyan Christian Academy encourages us to volunteer and help the public.

 

Volunteering provides many funny experiences for us.  At the Tuxedo Trot 5K, I was cheering on people and we got to the end of the race. I thought there were some runners still coming and instead it was volunteers and I had no idea it was them! So I was cheering for them and excited for them to make the finish line. Then once I realized they were volunteers, we laughed!

 

What makes being part of the Volunteer Program rewarding for me is I get to serve the community. It’s also fun because I am in the know as to what happens at GSC before the public gets to know!