National Volunteer Week in the United States was first established in 1974 by President Richard Nixon.
Later, in 1989, the entirety of April was designated National Volunteer Month. Like the Virginia Living Museum itself, National Volunteer Week has expanded exponentially over the years since its founding, and today it is estimated that close to seventy million Americans donate some of their time each year.
In 2019, National Volunteer Week runs from April 7th to April 13th, which is right around the corner, and the Virginia Living Museum staff looks forward to doing our part to appreciate and recognize the work of hundreds of talented, loyal volunteers! This year’s theme for the Virginia Living Museum Volunteer Appreciation Week is going to be “Animated Films,” and everyone in the Volunteer Services department is already excited to see what other departments are planning!
There are many opportunities for volunteering at the Living Museum during any month of the year, from handling live animals at the Touch Tank to working outside on the Dinosaur Discovery Trail. This summer we have an incoming exhibit, Shark Zone, which will include a replica shark cage, a fossil dig pit, and even a second touch tank featuring live sharks! Whatever exhibit or department a volunteer works with, the best experiences in volunteering often come from interactions with the public. To that end, I’ll close today’s entry with a story from long-time volunteer Jim H. on a day when the museum was busy with excited young school groups:
One group of children were standing in front of the Bald Eagles when I walked up. I squatted down so I could be on their level (not an easy thing for an old man to do) and, as I was telling the kids about the eagles, I felt a little hand tentatively grabbing my left hand, winding up clutching two fingers. As I stood, I saw a young girl, around 6 or 7 years old, holding my fingers. She smiled but did not say anything. She barely came up to my waist, and I must have looked to her like the Jolly Green Giant. A little boy of the same age asked me, “Are you her Popa (which I assume meant Grandpa)?”
“No,” I answered, “I’m just a friend.” Another little girl in the group then asked me, “Can you be my friend too?” Before I could respond, the little girl holding my fingers said quickly and very loudly, “No! Get your own friend!”
So, I was led around for several minutes by my newly-found friend. I never knew her name, but she asked about every single bird in the outdoor aviary. When the group headed back inside the museum, I told her that I had to stay outside. She didn’t hesitate a moment, dropped my fingers and grabbed those of one of the chaperones. I watched as the group walked away. I hope that their memories of their visit to VLM are as happy as mine. ~Jim
Jim H. Volunteer