National Volunteer Month and Week at DCP


By Kathy Cool

Darke County Parks

April is here and the whole month is National Volunteer Month. This month recognizes all of those dedicated people who come out to parks, businesses, non-profits, schools or other organizations and spend countless hours donating time, money, services, and goods to help out the organization. April 16-22 is National Volunteer Week.

As a “former” and most likely a “forever” volunteer, I can attest to how much time and effort is put into volunteering. Before I became the Volunteer Coordinator for the Darke County Park District, I started out as a volunteer back in 2011. My love of volunteering and helping people started way back in high school as a candy striper at the old Piqua Memorial Hospital. I loved what I did back then, and still love and enjoy working with our volunteers in whichever capacity they want to be involved.

I am pretty sure that many of you volunteer your time and really don’t think of it as volunteering. For example, have you ever offered to pick up your neighbor’s child at school when he/she was ill and watch until a parent got home? How about the elderly neighbor that is ill or had surgery and cannot get out to pick up their medicine or groceries? Haven’t we all taken a relative to their doctor’s appointment when they could not do it by themselves? To me, all of the above is a form of volunteerism! None the less, when you take your time to help someone who otherwise would not be able to complete the task, you are volunteering your valuable time to make their life easier and less stressful. I bet you felt a gratification that you were able to help too, right? It’s a “win-win” situation.

Many of our 200+ volunteers have been donating their time for many years and over those years they were able to determine what type of volunteer work they enjoy doing. At Darke County Parks, our volunteers help with school programs, maintenance doing outside work, special events like Prairie Days, Maple Syrup Breakfast, Candle Light Dinners, Winter Wonderland, and numerous other programs. We have a dedicated group of men and women, who help to cut, split, and stack fire wood all year for the Blacksmith Shop, Log house and The Sugar Shack. This group also helps collect, boil and bottle sap for all the maple syrup that we sell in the Park Gift Shops.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to help in the Log House and the Blacksmith Shop? We have volunteers who give of their time in teaching others and maintaining those buildings for events. To make the events authentic, they must understand the workings of those buildings and dress the part. These volunteers do everything in those buildings and the Park depends on them to help with demonstrating to the public how things were done in the “olden” days! We literally could not keep those buildings running without those specialized volunteers. I am sure they would like to train some new volunteers to take over! Hurry up and come out to get a tour!

Our volunteers feed and take care of animals, including turtles, snakes, and the raptors. For a less structured volunteer experience, you can walk the park’s trails and become Trail Monitors and Adopt a Park on your own schedule. If you enjoy office work we have volunteers who regularly cover the receptionist areas at The Nature Center/Shawnee Prairie, Bish Discovery Center on Ohio Street and at Historical Bears Mill.

If you are ever in the Nature Center at the Shawnee Prairie, look up on the wall above the receptionist office and above the door on your way out. You will notice gold plaques with names of volunteers who were selected as Volunteers in the Spotlight each quarter. They are chosen because they are volunteers who dedicate time to the Park District. The chosen volunteer(s) are featured in our quarterly newsletters with a picture and a bio.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the Darke County Parks I am sure you will find the time rewarding and gratifying. The entire staff are fun and pleasant to be around. It doesn’t feel like work because what you are doing is valuable and appreciated. I still hear on a daily basis from the Director and the staff “thank you for coming in, thank you for doing that, thank you for being here” and I say it daily to the volunteers that I am in contact with also. In turn, our volunteers logged in 3700 hours in 2022, and already in 2023 have logged 1127 hours.

Congratulations to all volunteers who give so tirelessly of their time to help the Darke County Parks become the best park district around!

No posts to display