Lee Richardson Zoo is an amazing place. We have phenomenal animals cared for by well-trained staff. We have conservation educators who teach Garden City, and all of southwest Kansas, about the animals at Lee Richardson Zoo and conservation efforts locally and around the world. And we have the best volunteers and docents anyone could hope to have.

Most people know what a volunteer is but many may be asking themselves, what is a docent? A docent is a volunteer who has special training and leads guided tours at museums, art galleries, and zoos. Our docents work very hard to attain the title of docent, and all docents must start as volunteers.

Our volunteers are instrumental in providing a unique experience for guests here at Lee Richardson Zoo. Volunteers help with special events such as A Wild Affair and Boo at the Zoo. Volunteers also help with classroom programs, our Story Time preschool programs, animal encounters, and many other fun opportunities.

While our volunteers are important and dear to Lee Richardson Zoo, volunteering also provides many benefits to the volunteers too. Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Volunteering makes you happy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.

Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better-thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.

If you have ever thought about volunteering, then Lee Richardson Zoo might be the place for you to add extra happiness to your life while providing a wonderful service to Lee Richardson Zoo and the Garden City community. An informational session is held in January, and training sessions begin shortly thereafter.

For more information, contact Lee Richardson Zoo at 620-276-1250 and ask about our volunteer opportunities. You can also find more information at www.leerichardsonzoo.org, zoo.education@gardencityks.us, and you can find us on Facebook by searching Lee Richardson Zoo. If none of those options work, stop by the Lee Richardson Zoo administrative offices located in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education. We love to meet new people.


Max Lakes is the curator of conservation education and deputy director at Lee Richardson Zoo.