DIAMOND — As a way to say, “Thanks for all they do,” the George Washington Carver National Monument held its annual “Volunteers in Parks” recognition dinner last Thursday at the monument.
“We have invited our volunteers from everywhere,” said GWC Park Ranger Diane Eilenstein. “We have some artists from Art in the Park, judges from our art and essay contest, Carver Day exhibitors, some of our musicians, Prairie Day people, those who do living history and our education people. We try to cover everybody who came in and volunteered for us over the last 12 months. That is also going to include a group of teenagers from a school in Joplin that come out about one Friday a month and work a few hours on landscaping. It includes some interns that we have had. Many of our volunteers are first-timers and many, many of them are returners.”
Volunteers were treated to a dinner catered by Red Onion of Joplin and cake.
As far as how many volunteers the monument sees in a year, Eilenstein said about 225.
“We usually average about 225, some years it has really peaked at more than 300,” she said. “Some years it is a little lower, but it usually averaging 225 every year. They give us anywhere from 6,500 to 10,000 hours, depending on the projects for the year. Volunteers are vital to the wonderful programs that we are able to offer free of charge to the public.”
Asked how important volunteers are to the monument, Eilenstein said, “Volunteers make the park run, I tell you what. We (the staff) certainly run the park, but they are the ones who make our costumes, who present our programs to our children who have some wonderful ideas. Our volunteers are truly the stewards of this park. We have a project, like for instance, the archeological surveys that we have been doing about every year. (Volunteers) come in and do the tougher work, like moving the stakes.
Volunteerism is vital to the National Park Service, we have a limited staff to do many different programs.”
The volunteers were also recognized with a commemorative ink pen toward the conclusion of the program.