Rachel Jones instrumental to the origin and continued success of Zoo Pride
Charter member has volunteered for over 40 years
What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I saw many needs in our community in which I could volunteer and found the time to do so, even when working for a local company for 49 years. I’ve been volunteering in our community for a long time.
After battling an illness for 7 years, my husband passed away in 1987. During that time, I was responsible for his full-time care, which didn’t leave me much time to volunteer. Once he passed away, I really wanted to get more involved in the community, so I started volunteering immediately after.
Describe the organization where you volunteer and the work they do.
The mission of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee is to take part in conserving wildlife and endangered species, to educate people about the importance of wildlife and the environment, and to support the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Zoo Pride is the Volunteer Auxiliary of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee and it was founded in 1975. Zoo Pride volunteers lead tours, assist with education programs, staff our information booths at the Zoo, help with special events, and provide clerical and staff support.
What do you do when you volunteer, what kind of help do you provide?
More than 40 years ago, I helped found the Zoo Pride volunteer group and am the only remaining charter member that is active in Zoo Pride today. I’ve always loved the Zoo and animals. All those years ago, I responded to an ad in the newspaper about starting an auxiliary group for the Zoo.
Over the years, I’ve helped out in the administrative offices, at special events and am the chairperson of the zoo’s information desk. Beyond the volunteer hours I’ve put in, I’ve supported the Zoological Society financially through annual appeals and membership circles.
I also volunteer at a few other organizations – IndependenceFirst, Friends of Havenwoods State Park and German Fest.
When you think about your paid jobs, how is volunteering different or the same?
Volunteering is the same as a paid position in that it is a true commitment, and being there when you are scheduled is very important. However, as a volunteer, you have the freedom to choose your areas of interest regarding volunteer duties and committee service.
What have you learned through this volunteer opportunity? What have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
Through the years I’ve learned quite a bit about animals. I also learned more about our community from questions asked by our visitors. Some of these questions involved having to do research to find the answers.
Has it changed your view of this community in any way?
I don’t think my view has changed but one realizes how important the Zoo is to our community.
Why do you keep volunteering with Zoo Pride?
The friendships and community keep me coming back. There’s still a need in our community, and I feel compelled to help.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
I would like to think by volunteering, our guests benefited by our being there. I think that is an accomplishment.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed the growth of Zoo Pride. We started with 63 volunteers and today there are more than 600 members. Zoo Pride supports almost every aspect of the Zoo’s operation – education, membership, special events and more! I feel fortunate to have been a part of that.
What would you say to someone who is looking to get more involved in his/her community? What words of wisdom would you pass along?
Try it! There are many opportunities in the city to volunteer. Get out there. Be selective in what you’re interested in and know your limits for what you can and cannot commit to doing. Be realistic about your time and energy.
To learn more about Zoo Pride and the Milwaukee County Zoo, please visit: http://www.milwaukeezoo.org/about/jobs/volunteer.php
The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is a membership association serving over 500 nonprofit and corporate members and the nonprofit sector at large. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee promotes the interests and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector through strengthening organizational capacity, expanding volunteerism and encouraging collaborations. Its programs include training and consulting, Volunteer Milwaukee, financial management, and Jobs that Serve. For more information visit www.npcmilwaukee.org.