During 2016, Tom and I spent 1,149 hours volunteering for the National Park Service. Each. That is 147 days of full time work each. We love volunteering for the National Parks and have two more parks lined up for 2017. We don’t do it for the recognition, but 2016 was a special year for the National Park Service and we received a special award.
As most of you know, 2016 was the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, which was established in 1916. August 25 was the actual day when most of the parks had cake or cupcakes to share with visitors. But the parks celebrated all year long and will continue to do so until the end of December.
All the parks keep track of volunteer hours and turn those figures in every year. Some of the parks have so few staff that they would have a hard time keeping the Visitors Centers open if they didn’t have volunteers. And, while more parks are added every year, Congress keeps cutting the funding for the National Parks. I think the parks will continue to recruit volunteers and the number of RV volunteers will increase. Tom and I never lack for places eager to have us come – although we have gotten pickier about what we like to do with our hours volunteering.
In order to increase volunteer hours during 2016, the National Park Service decided to give a coin and a letter of recognition to volunteers who donate a minimum of 201.6 hours during the year. Tom and I hit that number after two months at Kings Mountain (at the beginning of March). But the Volunteer Coordinators at the park have to fill out a form and apply for the coin and our Volunteer Coordinator at Kings Mountain forgot to do it.
After three months at Grand Portage we had another 201.6 hours. Our Volunteer Coordinator at Grand Portage, Ranger Beth, filled out the paperwork but our coin didn’t come while we were still at Grand Portage. So Ranger Beth mailed the coin to Columbus but it wasn’t waiting when we got back to Columbus from our second stint at Kings Mountain.
Finally, the coin showed up last week in one of those “Your mail is important to us” packages you get sometimes from the Post Office. They send them when they have mauled a piece of mail but managed to salvage enough of it to get it to your address. The letter was intact but the coin had come out of the envelope. Fortunately they found the coin and included it in the oops package.
So, 9 months after we reached our 201.6 hours of volunteering, we got our 2016 coin and recognition letter. The coin is very nice. I’m not sure what it is made of, but it is heavy and sealed in a clear plastic case. The letter says, in part, “Congratulations on receiving the 2016 Centennial Volunteer Challenge Award! On behalf of the National Park Service, thank you for being part of our centennial celebration. Through your volunteer service, you have made a significant contribution to your community and country.”
Tom and I love our time volunteering in the National Parks and intend to keep doing it as long as we are able. If you would like to volunteer, you don’t have to be an RV volunteer. You can volunteer at a National Park near you for a morning, a day, a month, or on a regular basis through the year. To learn more about the Volunteer in the Park program, check out this link.