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The Value of Volunteers
From the January-February 2012issue of Smithsonian Zoogoer

As the president of Friends of the National Zoo, I have a special vantage point for observing the workings of this amazing organization. I marvel endlessly at the ways that FONZ supports the Zoo and builds a community of people dedicated to the welfare and conservation of its animal inhabitants.

FONZ’s success stems from many factors, including a talented, dedicated staff and the best, most loyal membership anyone could ask for. It also results from the impressive labors of a group I’d particularly like to thank—our volunteers. Each year, more than 1,500 people give of themselves as Zoo volunteers. Their service is a true inspiration to me and an invaluable gift to the Zoo. We truly couldn’t operate the Zoo without them!

FONZ President Andrew Shore

Friends of the National Zoo President Andrew Shore

Volunteers aid the Zoo in a wonderful variety of ways. They interpret exhibits, helping visitors understand what they are seeing. They serve as keeper aides, providing top-notch care for our animals. They document animal behavior, contributing vital data to Smithsonian science. They hand out treats at Boo at the Zoo and take tickets at ZooFari, making it possible for FONZ to host special events that raise needed funds and build support for the Zoo. They assist with camps and classes, enabling us to offer high-quality educational programs that raise revenue while educating a new generation about wildlife and conservation. Those are just a few of myriad examples.

A few numbers underscore the importance of FONZ volunteers. Last year, volunteers contributed nearly 100,000 hours of service, valued at more than $3 million. Without these generous gifts of time and talent, the Zoo would have to drastically curtail its operations and offerings.

There’s more. Our rigorously trained and fantastically dedicated public education volunteers interacted with more than 900,000 visitors last year, providing almost one in every two Zoo visitors with personal greetings and engaging information that enriched their Zoo experience.

Volunteering benefits the volunteers as well, of course. They have the opportunity to be of service—a key ingredient, many sages agree, in a rewarding life. They have the chance to learn about fascinating animals and to perfect new skills. They have the satisfaction of knowing they are supporting one of the area’s, and the nation’s, great institutions. And they enjoy more tangible benefits, such as free parking and a discount in FONZ’s shops and food facilities.

If you are one of the Zoo’s volunteers, I thank you. If you are thinking about becoming a volunteer, I encourage you. Visit fonz.org/volrecruit.htm to learn about our current needs and application process. Volunteering at the Zoo can be a gateway to leading a fuller life and building a greater Zoo.

Sincerely,
Andrew Shore, President
Friends of the National Zoo

 

Ed. note: We invited Mr. Shore, who joined the FONZ Board of Directors in January 2006 and has served as president since October 2009, to offer his reflections in this space as we begin 2012.