From Zoo to You

Last week was National Volunteer Appreciation Week. This is a week where institutions across the country, including the Lee Richardson Zoo, celebrate the many volunteers they rely on every day. Here at the Zoo, we have almost the same number of volunteers as we do staff members, and they are an incredible team to work with!

If you have visited the Zoo, you have likely interacted with at least one of our volunteers. Have you ever fed a giraffe during a visit? Touched a biofact, like an animal bone or fur, at a Discovery Cart? Attended a camp or Story Time? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have had a chance to say hello to some of our volunteers.

They also do a ton to help us out behind the scenes. Some of our volunteers help us by cleaning and organizing spaces around the office, or helping to care for the ambassador animals. They maintain our biofacts so we can continue using them to educate others. They assist our maintenance team with weeding and gardening throughout the Zoo. They have even spent time making over 50 masks for Zoo staff to wear! Without all of these volunteers, our zoo would not be as amazing as it is today.

A common favorite activity for our Docents is joining us for ZooMobile programs in the local schools. They get to bring animals out for students to see, and to help them learn something new about the natural world. By doing this, our volunteers not only have a positive impact at the Zoo, but throughout our entire community.

This year’s Volunteer Appreciation Week has been very different than anyone planned. We were not able to get together and have a big celebration. We couldn’t meet with them and thank them face to face as we would like to do. Instead, we show our appreciation from a distance and look forward to when we can all be together again.

To our volunteers: Thank you for everything you do! We miss you dearly and cannot wait to see you again at the Zoo. We are incredibly lucky to have you on our team.

To everyone else: The next time you’re able to visit us, see if you can spot some of our volunteers while you are here. And if you do, take a moment to thank them for all of the time and knowledge they are kind enough to share with the rest of us.

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Week!

Julianne Werts is a conservation education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.