Friday, January 3rd, was our last day of volunteering, and had our exit interview with the volunteer cowardanator. Our work camping is over. We are now in Fort Myers. It has been quite an interesting 3 month stay. When we first got here, we had no idea really of what we were even going to do. Hosting (cleaning bathrooms and the camp sites after people leave) is the first thing people think of, because all parks have volunteers for that. This park being so big has other positions for volunteers. We were never asked to host, so we were in the dark. I was put in shop/maintanace for the first month of our stay. I worked three days a week, or 20 hours. My duties, included working with almost all of the 14 rangers they have here. We did parking spot paver removal and replacement. Working in the wood shop on different projects. Cleaning of the beach area. Emptying of the recyclable containers. Trimming of trees, and brush, and a few other things I can’t remember any more. Almost all of this work is outside. October was a hot month, and more than a few days i was beat. All in all that was a fun position. Melissa started working with the volunteer cowardinator, in her office. Doing general office work and things like that. At first it took her awhile to adjust but she did.
In early November things changed a little for us. Melissa, was asked to work at the visitor center. The first place people go. There they have a large aquarium, and a movie on the coral reef. She greeted guests ,and answered questions that they had on the park. Then she was asked to work at the entrance gate. This is the first place people come into the park, they pay there fees, have many questions and are quidded to the parking areas. There is one maybe two other rangers there at all times. This is not an easy job, It was a little trying at times, but Melissa got used to it. So for the last month and a half, she has been on and off to all three of those jobs. I think she did great, and give her a lot of credit. Most volunteers here have one job only.
I was asked to be a greeter at the other state park down the road. My job was simple, I greeted people as they came in , gave them a brief history of how the park came to be, go over the trails they were about to walk, and what to look for. Also and most importantly, give them the little blue envelope, so they could put there entrance fee in. I worked there three days a week for the rest of our time workcamping. I will say it was fun and a learning experience for me. I met people from all over the world, was outside all day, and no other park people were there, so I was on my own.
So you might ask how was it, this work camping gig, for three months.
For me it was a very rewarding experience. I had a lot of fun doing it, and felt part of something. It was at times, hard, easy, boring, busy, tiring. A few things I wasn’t fond of was getting up at 6:30 sometimes, and wearing a uniform shirt. I never really wore a button down shirt before let alone tucked in. What I did like, was the feeling of being a part of it all, and the weather, warm ,sunny most days. So now that it is over, would I do it again, Yes, I would.
As Dave mentioned I had different jobs but that made it a challenge. I would also agree that is was a good feeling to be part of a great organization like The Florida State Parks. It was a great opportunity to work with the Rangers, who were all great and have such a great group of Volunteers to be our neighbors!
THE PARK RANGERS
There are 14 park rangers working here. Emerita, Dan, Serena, Chris, Drew, James, Mary, Shep, Bob, Rebecca, Lindsey, Liz, Michael, Ronnie. They range in age from 25 to 65. Some are married and some are single. Every one of them is very nice and pleasant. We got to know all of them, some a little better than others. It was a pleasure to get to know and work with them. Only a few have the same job every day, all the rest rotate , from opening early to the gate to maintanace, and other day to day operations of the park. So they all wear different hats. When you visit the park you do not see all the inner workings of it. Volunteering you get to see all aspects of how a state park works. We started to feel part of it as time went on, that was a pretty neat feeling, being only volunteers. The parks rely heavily on there volunteers. We both enjoyed working with them all.
OUR VOLUNTEER VILLAGE
Our little village, it has 6 Rv spots. They are tucked away behind one of the main bathhouses. The visiting camper does not have access to it. So it was pretty private. Out in the campground there are two Rv spots for volunteers who do hosting duties. We all got along good together, (sometimes they don’t), we had get to gethers for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Paled around doing other things, and generally all had a great time.
Bill and Barb from Ohio, they still own a house and part time Rv. This was there first time volunteering.
Lisa (on the right) from Florida, does not own a house, she is a full timer, and has volunteered many times.
Brian and Audrey from New Hampshire, do not own a house,and fulltime Rv, they have volunteered at a campground before, and have of all things house sitted for people, before they started Rving.
Dan and Jackie from California, do not own a house, and fulltime Rv, and have done lot’s of volunteering all over the country.
Charles and Mendy from Georgia, they still own a house, and part time Rv, and have volunteered before.
Frank and Lois, from Ohio, they own a house, and part time Rv. This was there first time volunteering.
All a great group of people!. In closing it was a great learning experience for both of us.