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Shell Museum hosting Open House for prospective volunteers

By Staff | Sep 11, 2009

On Friday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m., The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum will hold an open house for members of the community interested in hearing more about the Museum’s Volunteer Program.

Attendees will learn the history of the Museum, plans for future programming, and the roles in which volunteers serve. After a brief presentation by Diane Orvis Thomas, the museum’s Public Program Specialist, light refreshments will be served and guests will have the opportunity to meet and talk informally with staff members and volunteers.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart,” according to author and writing coach, Elizabeth Andrew. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is fortunate to have a team of 90 volunteers with a heart for shells.

“Like most not-for-profit organizations we operate with a very small team of five full-time and six part-time employees,” reports Jos H. Leal, Director/Curator for the Shell Museum. “Without our generous volunteers, the museum would cease operating as we know it today and the breadth of services provided would be impossible to deliver or support.”

People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons. Some have the need to feel needed while others want to share a special skill, or make new friends. Many volunteers possess the desire to impact the world around them, while many merely want to demonstrate commitment to a cause like educating the public about shells and mollusks, heightening awareness of the natural environment and promoting shell and mollusk research.

Volunteers have shared the following comments:

Peg Bisignani – “The Museum’s children’s program is wonderful. The interactivity really makes the Museum come alive for the children, many of whom have never visited a Museum before. It’s surprising how many of the children and adults for that matter, don’t realize that there is a living creature that makes the shell. The most rewarding experience is when the children get hooked and bring their parents to the Museum. It is incredibly exciting to listen to the children share their knowledge of mollusks with their parents.”

Ginny Avery – “The Museum’s school program is very kid-friendly and hands-on. What keeps me coming back is witnessing the children’s excitement when they visit the live tank and realize for the first time that there is a living creature inside the shell and eventually are able to connect this to the bigger picture of conservation of the natural world. Also, the Museum staff is very supportive and there is a fantastic group of dedicated volunteers that serve on the team.”

John Fairfield – “As and Exhibit Hall Docent, I love having the opportunity to share mollusk and shell information. It is amazing how many visitors have misinformation.”

Jean Rompala – “It is incredible being around so many wonderful shells from diverse geographic locations. Meeting people from all over the world who are drawn to the Museum because of their common interest in shells is intriguing. The other volunteers and the Museum Team are great and fun to be around. Being associated with a facility that has a world-wide reputation is an honor.”

Diana Eriksson – “Sanibel is such a special place. We want to give back to the island and to a community that has given so much to us and to do our part to help children have a great experience. The goal is to make the museum come alive for the children in a way that helps them to view museums as exciting learning centers instead of dull or boring buildings.”

Due to the addition of interactive learning experiences and new programs, the Museum needs additional volunteers. The roles are as varied as the individuals who fill them. Areas of need include; special events, education or group docent, exhibit hall docent, youth docent, library, museum store, educational programs, tour guide, office assistant and public relations/marketing assistant.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all,” stated author and humorist, Leo Rosten.

If you have an interest in making a difference and learning more about becoming a Shell Museum Volunteer, please attend the open house or call Diane Orvis Thomas at 395-2233 for additional information.