Volunteering brings big rewards to Chehaw volunteers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Volunteering brings big rewards to Chehaw volunteers

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February 12, 2006

Albany-- This week begins the volunteer training program at the Parks at Chehaw. Although it's not a paid job, volunteer veterans already find the big payout with each volunteer hour.

"Hoot hoot, hoot hoot. You make that sound and make him talk back to you," says Chehaw Volunteer Don Dally about an owl at the park. It takes a lot of skill to teach an old bird new tricks.

"Hootie's been with us for eighteen years," says Dally. But for just as many years, Dally has been handling animals like Hootie and educating the public about what he's learned as a Chehaw Park volunteer.

"I started as a volunteer here in 1987," says Dally, "When people come up and say what kind of an owl is that? Can he turn his head all the way around?" To the questions he has the answers but what's his motivation? "Kids and animals, you can't beat that right?," says Dally.

Right now about 30 people make up the volunteer program at the Parks at Chehaw filling roles in education, animal care, and even horticulture. "That's really what's most exciting about the volunteering. You are always learning," says Curator of Education Jennifer Arledge.

"We continue to learn and that's one of the things I like about this," says volunteer Carolyn McDivitt.

McDivitt says volunteering keeps her connected with the people and the animals. "The other thing is that the people you volunteer with becomes a surrogate family," says McDivitt. But not only do the volunteers have special bonds, their hours save the park thousands of dollars.

"Every year we have atleast 3,000 hours that volunteers put in out here and if you think about how you would have to pay someone out here doing that many things, we wouldn't be able to afford it," says Arledge.

Since the volunteers aren't paid in dollars, that pay comes in different forms.

"The kids' smiles," says McDivitt, "I am not fortunate enough to have grandchildren yet but kids keep you young, the keep you vital."

"The opportunity to help people understand about the world we live in and taking care of it is the pay that I need," says Dally.

The compensation is priceless, replacing the paystub with a smile and a job with another three letter word. "It's a lot of fun," says Dally.

Classes for new volunteers begin on Thursday night. It's not too late to enroll. For more information, contact Jennifer Arledge at 229-430-3012.

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