It began with an interest in volunteering, and a love of the zoo. With support, Brian signed up and completed all paperwork to become part of Zoo Crew, an opportunity for young adults to give of their time at Blank Park Zoo. He attended 2 full days this spring for orientation prior to volunteering 5 hours every Wednesday this summer. He used an online sign up system to pick his volunteer stations each Wednesday and was encouraged to try all station options. As part of the experience, Brian enjoyed lunch in the break room with other volunteers, zoo workers and the zoo keepers. There were times he was able to work with the animals inside the enclosures even.
There were a few different volunteer stations that Brian was able to try:
- Education: Showed artifacts and shared facts about several different types of animals all while tracking the number of guests he interacted with as well.
- Clean up crew: Wiped down the front of trash cans and picked up trash throughout the entire zoo.
- Kids kingdom: Worked at the feed shack to pick up plastic feed cups that guests had dropped.
- Train: Greeted guests, took tickets, opened gate upon exit and wished guests a great rest if their day. An added bonus was that Brian got the opportunity to ride the train several times while volunteering!
- Safari kids camp assistant: Greeted kids and parents as they arrived and stayed with the group of 3rd and 4th graders of which he was assigned.
Krystal, a Mentor and Direct Support Professional with HOPE Agency, was instrumental in supporting and encouraging Brian to give of his time and talents. The following is taken from an interview with Brian about his experience.
Question: Can you give me a short summary of your volunteer experience?
Brian's answer: "Talking to people and learning about more animals and practice talking to people. Volunteering teaches you skills for work (time to get up, get ready, clock in, practice with responsibility-being where you are supposed to be)."
Question: What was your favorite part?
Brian's answer: "The train and taking the tickets there. I like the train best because I get to ride sometimes when it's not full. I also like working at the feed shack because I get to use the grabber to get cups from enclosures so goats don't eat them. I liked working with the little kids more that I had thought I would.”
Question: What was the best learning experience?
Brian's answer: "I learned facts about lots of animals. I'm better at this than I thought."
Question: What was your least favorite part?
Brian's answer: "Cleanup crew was my least favorite and I really didn't want to do this but since my provider encouraged me to try all stations at least once, I chose to do my best."
Krystal further shared some insights. "He surprised me with how observant he was in finding trash. He collected tons of trash before the zoo even opened. He also reported trash within an animal enclosure. He opened up and blossomed when working with the little kids. His smile that day was nearly permanent and he took his responsibility of caring for the kids very seriously".
Well done, Brian!