Friday, June 11, 2010

Volunteers - GETT

The 18 Venturers of Crew 615 clear brush along the area of the High Water Mark known as "The Angle," one of our most-visited and visible areas of the park.

I've mentioned before about how incredible the attitude of the people within and around Gettysburg is, but I don't think it can be stressed enough just how dedicated the people who work here and the visitors are to this place.
I was fortunate enough to work with Angel De Jesus today, inside the administration of our maintenance division. He administers the Adopt-a-Position program in the park, among other things, and is an incredibly busy man. Despite this, he took some time to explain to me some of the ways the park takes advantage of the massive volunteer support it receives. For example, in 2008, Adopt-a-Position volunteers logged nearly 7,000 hours of work maintaining the grounds of the battlefields. Our Park Watch program (which works alongside the Law Enforcement Division), as well, recently celebrated completing its 100,000th patrol hour.

Angel told me that he likes to meet the volunteers personally, taking pictures as they work and e-mailing them to the volunteers afterward. This helps reinforce our park's relationship with the volunteer groups, and lets them know how important they are to us. Here, he photographs some of the crew working.
Early in the afternoon, I was able to follow Angel as he met with Venturing Crew 615, which had traveled all the way from Augusta Georgia in order to complete a service project here at Gettysburg. In just one day, the 18 of them completed 54 hours worth of very hard labor, manually hacking overgrown weeds and tangled honeysuckle bushes down with clippers and swing blades near historic stone and wooden fences along areas too delicate for our mowers to reach. This difficult work helps us maintain the historic appearance of the battlefield in order to honor the fallen and the men who fought here.

Carlos Garcia and Angel De Jesus (far background) supervise the crew as they work The Angle.
I keep hearing that once you work at Gettysburg, you never leave - and I'm starting to see why. The people love this park and their enthusiasm is infectious. During the busy season, we have multiple groups of volunteers who come from all around the country (some of our Adopt-a-Position VIPs travel all the way from California) every day for the specific purpose of helping maintain the battlefield. Personally, I love these people. I think they're fantastic and the work they do is phenomenal.

Being able to work and have contact with these volunteers is incredible. Their enthusiasm and love for the park is just so apparent when you talk with them, and their eagerness to put in hours of very hard physical labor on their own time really rubs off on you. If you're ever having a bad day or feeling off for whatever reason, talking to a volunteer for just a couple minutes really sets things right again and puts everything in perspective. We're very fortunate to have such proactive supporters, and working with and for them to maintain and protect these cherished places is nothing short of a great honor.

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