Category: Event  Listing Date: 2018-04-19
I've Been Lucky
There really is no other way to explain it.
What does luck have to do with volunteering you may ask? Well for me, everything.
National Volunteer Week was April 7-13, 2019
Each year, National Volunteer Week is celebrated to recognize the contributions of volunteers. A volunteer is a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.
I came to volunteer totally by accident. My goal during my working years was to reach a point where I could do absolutely nothing. I'm not going to worry about deadlines or making payroll. I am going to do nothing. That’s right, nothing. Nothing. It will be great!"
Here's where luck comes in. I was lucky enough over the years to have good jobs, later involved in some good businesses and finally lucky enough to reach the point where I could do nothing.
Day one. This is great. I don't have to do anything! Day 2: I don't have anything to do. Day 3: There's gotta be something I can do. Finally, after about 2 weeks I stumbled upon a class offering sponsored by the National Park Service and Western Dakota Technical Institute located in Rapid City, South Dakota.
I told my wife to whom I am "lucky" to still be married to for many years, that I was thinking about taking a class. In disbelief she asked; you mean like a school class? Yup. That's what I think I'll do. I've gotta do something.
I was lucky to meet some really nice folks that were also taking this Plus 50 class. We learned about the national parks in South Dakota. We visited Badlands, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Mount Rushmore, Minuteman Missile and at each location received instruction and information about the Park Service and about the history of each location.
Not really knowing what I was getting into by taking the class I was really lucky to discover that "this stuff is very interesting" and I'm glad I'm doing this.
April 20 to 28
It's interesting that National Park Week follows National Volunteer Week. The National Parks as well as the many other organizations and causes dedicate a week to recognizing volunteers but it's the opportunities to volunteer that I'm lucky to have found. If not for the men and women that I met at South Dakota's National Parks I would not be what my wife Amy describes as "A Full Time Volunteer" which is a description I happily accept.
I was honored to receive the George & Helen Hartzog Award for the Midwest Region for 2017.
In 1970, the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program started with a few hundred volunteers. Today, hundreds of thousands of volunteers donate their time, skills, and talents to the National Park Service every year.
"When a VIP agrees to share his talents, skills and interests with the National Park Service, he is paying us one of the highest compliments possible by offering a most valued possession - his time." . . . George B. Hartzog, Jr. Director, National Park Service, 1964-1972
The supervisors and personnel of the particular park or facility deserve, in my opinion, as much or more recognition than the volunteers. They have jobs and projects, and schedules to keep but they patiently explain the requirements and guidelines for being a volunteer. They listen to questions from the volunteer(s), most of which they've heard a hundred times before. They outline the tasks and goals of each project and supervise the work and projects of the volunteer(s).
As a volunteer, I have received far more than I have given. Some of the best people I have met in my life I have met at the various facilities I have volunteered at. I have learned things I would never have learned had I not been lucky enough to volunteer. I have improved upon skills learned over a lifetime and have learned new skills.
I could try to list all the men and women that I have met through volunteering, but I would most certainly leave some out. Not intentionally, but because of age related memory loss. Actually, I never had a good memory to begin with.
I will mention a couple of people. Zane Martin is the Museum Specialist for Mount Rushmore (MORU), Jewel Cave (JECA), and Devils Tower (DETO). Mount Rushmore is the repository for those 3 NPS properties. Bradley Block, the Chief of Interpretation at JECA introduced me to Ms. Martin suggesting that I may be able to assist in cataloging artifacts, documents, photos and the like. Talk about lucky! Little did I know at the time that I would be assisting with projects not only related to JECA but also MORU, DETO and even Minuteman Missile (MIMI).
I have to mention Tom Farrell, Chief of Interpretation for Wind Cave National Park. Tom's motivation and teaching approach challenged me to give a little added effort to the Plus 50 class I mentioned above. I will also note that Tom has a good bit of knowledge about the Civilian Conservation Corps and its contribution to Wind Cave and other National and State Parks. The CCC has become the major focus of my volunteering as of late.
I have had the pleasure of being involved in projects with Ranger Ed Menard at Mount Rushmore. There is no one more knowledgeable and dedicated than Ed. I have recorded and edited interviews conducted by Maureen McGee-Ballinger, Chief of Interpretation and Education and also Blaine Kortemeyer, Assistant Chief of Interpretation and Education at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Rangers McGee-Ballinger and Kortemeyer were both part of a 2013 event that centered around the last living Rushmore Worker, Donald "Nick" Clifford. At the time, Nick was 93 years young and wanted to reach the top of Mount Rushmore once more. Again, I was lucky. Boy was I lucky. I was asked to accompany the group as videographer and to record the conversations and take photos of the hike to top.
I have assisted with several oral history interviews conducted by Zane Martin on locations from Iowa to Wyoming and points between. Zane's separate interviews with Don Hart and Jill Hart were both interesting, humbling and inspiring. I've worked with fellow volunteer Candice Leigh. Candice interviewed caving legend Jan Conn. Talk about being lucky. I would not have met Jan had I not been a volunteer. I would not have met Dan and Lydia Austin, Jewel Cave and Custer State Park respectively or Mike Wiles, Chief of Resource Management, Jewel Cave. Thank you, Cheryl Schreier, Superintendent, Mount Rushmore National Memorial for welcoming me and the others that have the opportunity to volunteer.
The very first time I visited the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum of South Dakota was with Zane Martin. I was lucky enough to have accompanied Zane to Jewel Cave to work on a project there. On the way back to Mount Rushmore Zane said we should stop at the museum. Zane asked if I might be interested in doing some research into the connection between CCC and National Parks. Zane indicated that several of the Rushmore Workers also served in the CCC. In fact, one of the interviews that Zane conducted was with Rushmore Worker and CCC Boy Elwood "Whitey" Iverson. Once again, I was lucky enough to be the videographer for that interview. I was very interested in doing some research.
Some time during the project I contacted a local historian and author Peggy Sanders. Sanders was on the board of the CCC Museum and after several email exchanges and conversation Peggy asked if I would like to attend a board meeting. Shortly after I was again lucky. I was asked to join the board. On the board was one of the founders of the museum, Jay Hendrickson. Jay was born in Huron, SD but spent much of his life in and around Hill City and Deerfield. Jay is well known in the area and I am truly lucky to have met him.
Several years ago, a fully restored 35 GMC truck built for the CCC was made available to the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum of South Dakota. Time passed and with no facility to house the truck it was thought that the opportunity was lost. An inquiry was made to the Allen Goens Family in 2018 to find out the status of the truck. Again, luck! It was still available if it could be displayed out of the elements and be visible to the public. A recent addition to the museum board had considerable construction background and was also a car enthusiast. You talk about luck. Kerry Conner had restored vintage vehicles and owned a few. While the Allen Goens 35 GMC was not running, Kerry was convinced he could get it running.
Luckily the City and Chamber as well as members of the community of Hill City, SD supported the idea of having the "CCC Truck" become part of the "Heart of the Hills" and be permanently displayed.
The all-volunteer museum board pitched in with various tasks needed to be completed in order to bring the truck to its new home. Various permits had to be obtained and engineering requirements met. Transportation for the 35 GMC needed to be scheduled. All was accomplished. Board members Kerry Conner and Dave Maudlin volunteered their time and expertise and the truck is now running and has already been in a local parade.
It really is luck. I'm very lucky I have been able to volunteer. I'm very lucky that opportunities to volunteer have been and continue to be available. Go ahead. Volunteer. You'll be happy and lucky you did.