Posts Tagged With: volunteer

Bob Butsch: Our longest Keeper’s Aide volunteer

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“Our volunteers are simply amazing! They bring a wealth of knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm that is unmatched. We could not accomplish what we do here without them. Together, we are building a better world for animals.”

~ Julie Bates, director of Dallas Zoo’s Volunteer Services

Long before the Dallas Zoo had an organized volunteer program,_mg_5396-bob-butsch-4x6-cb Bob Butsch spent his Saturdays helping take care of various animals in the Herpetarium where our reptiles reside. For free!

As of today, he’s our longest serving Keeper’s Aide volunteer, having volunteered almost every Saturday for nearly 30 years. (Yes, three decades.) If you do the math, half a day for 50 Saturdays out of the year for 29.5 years totals 5,900 hours! That’s 245 days. Can you imagine having that under your “Volunteer” tab on your resume? Wow.

Additionally, he’s been in the Herpetarium longer than anyone, including keepers and curators. Bob began as a volunteer at the Zoo on Memorial Day weekend in 1987. On a trip to the Zoo with his wife and then 2-year-old son, he wondered about putting his master’s degree in biology to work. He called the Zoo’s Education Department, who told him they had no openings for volunteer docents (who answer guests’ questions). They directed him to the reptile department, who took him in.

He’s had a weekday job for even longer, where he does IT programming for a medical company. But he graduated with his bachelor’s in Biology and Chemistry at the University of Texas-Arlington, then went on to complete his master’s in Biology at the University of North Texas. Volunteering at the Zoo, for him, is a way to exercise his knowledge in a meaningful way.

In 1987, he started out answering guests’ questions as a docent. After his first few months, a reptile keeper took him behind the scenes to give him an impromptu “evaluation.” This simply involved seeing how well he could handle the animals. After he handled a snake with no fear, he became a Keeper’s Aide Volunteer.

In July 1991, Bob Butsch was recognized at Dallas Zoo's volunteer of the month.

In July 1991, Bob Butsch was recognized at Dallas Zoo’s volunteer of the month.

Ever since, he’s worked with various animals in the Herpetarium, including amphibians and reptiles of all kinds. He’s done every job available to volunteers for this department. While he has helped in several different ways, he still must follow the rules specific to volunteers, despite his long career of volunteering.

“As a volunteer, I’m only allowed to do certain jobs,” he said. “In the reptile department, it is very important to follow the rules, because of the dangers that are present with venomous creatures.”

Yet he’s been around on Saturdays for so long that nobody has to watch over his shoulder as he goes about his work. “It’s really flattering when I come in,” he said. “They hardly bat an eye.” That’s the ultimate sign of trust that he’ll do the job right.

He’s seen many changes at the Zoo over the years, like the fact that the Herpetarium used to be an aviary, with birds and reptiles coexisting in the same building. He’s also lived through the replacement of the entire AC unit, taking care of animals out in the lobby so they were out of the way for the workers. And construction, lots of construction, as the Zoo remodeled and improved exhibits.

So why has he continued to volunteer 50 Saturdays out of the year for 29 years? The answer is simple: “The work I do is therapeutic for me, and it’s wonderful to come work in an environment full of happy friendly people who really love what they do.”

As for us at the Zoo, we love having such a dedicated and happy volunteer helping us build a better world for animals.

For information on how you can volunteer at the Zoo, check out our Volunteer page.

Categories: Reptiles and Amphibians, Volunteers | Tags: , | 2 Comments

The community who cleans together, stays together

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Kohl's, one of our most dedicated groups, works hard to clear bamboo out of our tiger habitat. We're honored Kohl's donated funds to our volunteer programs, and frequently spends time helping our Zoo.

Kohl’s, one of our most dedicated groups, works hard to clear bamboo out of our tiger habitat. We’re grateful that Kohl’s has donated funds to our volunteer programs, and frequently spends time improving our Zoo.

It’s time to get our hands dirty and clean up! Today we hosted our second-ever Corporate Workday event with more than 130 volunteers. Our staff worked alongside these selfless professionals on multiple projects throughout our 106-acre park.

Our friends from Kohl’s, Fossil Group, Humana, HP-E, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Samsung, and American Airlines helped us get the Zoo squeaky clean. A few jobs they worked on today included: raking up leaves in the tiger habitat; spreading mulch in behind-the-scenes animal yards; gardening; and scrubbing down our animal hospital.

Our Corporate Workdays benefit everyone involved. Companies get a chance to give back to their community and spend valuable team-building time together, and we get much-needed help with some of our projects.

“Our volunteers are simply amazing! They bring a wealth of knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm that is unmatched,” said Julie Bates, director of Dallas Zoo’s Volunteer Services. “We could not accomplish what we do here without them. Together, we are building a better world for animals.”

As a non-profit, days like this are vital to making our Zoo the best it can be. You don’t have to be part of a corporate team to volunteer, though! Check out all the ways you can help the Zoo and give back to your community.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation volunteers clean the floors of our animal hospital.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation volunteers clean the floors of our animal hospital.

Volunteers from American Airlines work on winter window coverings for our gorilla building.

Volunteers from American Airlines work on winter window coverings for our gorilla building.

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Working for the weekend: Corporations spend morning giving back

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Mammal Supervisor Linda King poses with volunteers from Research Now.

Mammal Supervisor Linda King (far left) poses with volunteers from Research Now.

That’s a wrap! We are thrilled to announce the success of our first-ever Corporate Workday event. More than 150 volunteers from KPMG, Kohl’s, Research Now, Holmes Murphy, Deloitte & Touche, and HP-E dedicated their time to improve our Zoo. Our corporate volunteers tackled projects like adding new sod to the tortoise exhibit; building bamboo fences; landscaping primate and carnivore habitats; giving our buildings a fresh coat of paint and more.

IMG_7662 Volunteer cleanup CSWhy would corporate professionals want to come in early, break a sweat, and get dirty on a Friday morning?

“More and more companies are becoming socially responsibility and encourage their employees to volunteer and give back to the community,” said Julie Bates, director of Dallas Zoo’s Volunteer Services. “Companies like to have their employees volunteer in groups because it creates a positive team building experience for participants.”

As a non-profit, volunteers are one of the most important resources we have at the Zoo, contributing more than 40,000 service hours every year. Today was the first time we hosted multiple large groups at a time. Having teams work together allowed us to complete many much-needed projects in a single day.

Our volunteers knocked it out of the park this morning, making us certain we’ll deem Corporate Workday a reoccurring event.

“The ability to work willingly together for the betterment of our Zoo is unmatched. The time our volunteers donate is very important to both the Zoo and the folks involved, making it a true win-win situation,” said Bates.

Learn more about volunteering with us at dallaszoo.com.

IMG_7736 Volunteer cleanup CS

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Children’s Aquarium was catalyst for renowned oceanographer, UTA professor

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Dr. Johnson poses for a Fox and Friends video at the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park.

Dr. Johnson poses for a Fox and Friends video at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park.

As a child, young Ashanti Johnson fell in love with marine science, sparked by hours of watching the famed Jacques Cousteau exploring the deep blue world.

Yet as a high school senior in landlocked North Texas, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park gave her the first taste of what would become a remarkable and inspiring career.

Today, Dr. Johnson is an associate professor of environmental sciences and assistant vice provost for faculty recruitment at the University of Texas of Arlington. But in the summer of 1988, she was a teenager with a passion for the science of the ocean.

A meeting with the director of the Dallas Zoo gave her an opportunity be a youth volunteer.

“He wanted me to work with snakes, and I don’t do snakes,” she recalls.

The Children’s Aquarium was much more to her liking.

“[My family] would spend a lot of time walking through the different museums on the weekend,” she said. “Going to Fair Park was the closest they could get me to marine science.”

Johnson volunteered at the Children’s Aquarium during her senior year in 1988-89. Her work was definitely “not glamorous,” she says: cleaning glass, cutting fish, sweeping and mopping. But her passion never waned.

“Growing up, we were supposed to be productive as we pursued our interests and give back,” she says about the importance of volunteering.

Johnson went on to become the first African-American to receive a marine science degree at Texas A&M University at Galveston. She then earned a Ph.D. in oceanography from Texas A&M.

She’s worked all across the globe as one of the first female African-American chemical oceanographers, inspiring hundreds through her Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science initiative.

Her passion for mentorship was rewarded with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2009.

“One of my biggest pleasures is helping other people achieve their dreams,” Johnson says.

Visiting the Children’s Aquarium, the Zoo and museums as a child was critical to her successful career, she believes. Those successes were recently spotlighted by Fox and Friends for Black History Month.

“Life experiences help children imagine and dream,” she said. “It’s much more impactful than being in front of a computer.”

(Imagine what volunteering could do for your child – or for you! More than 1,000 people volunteer each year at the Dallas Zoo and the Children’s Aquarium. Visit dallaszoo.com for details on how to join us.)

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Sweating for the love of tigers

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It’s not every day Malayan tiger Batu searches his one-acre habitat for dozens of hidden meatballs. But when 25 volunteers spend four hours cleaning it, they get the special task of hiding his food and watching from a behind-the-scenes location as he enters to find it.

“Hiding Batu’s food was the best part,” said 16-year-old volunteer Cierra Smith-Vaughn. “The keepers said he can stand nine feet tall, so I tried to hide it as high as I could.”

Our wonderful volunteers put in much appreciated work that would have taken our zookeepers triple the amount of time to complete. Here’s the roundup:

  • Bagged 150+ 60-gallon bags of leaves
  • Filled two trailer loads full of dead bamboo
  • Wheelbarrowed in four tons of river rock to build a dry stream bed to control water erosion from the viewing building
  • Drained and cleaned the tiger pool and outside stream
  • Planted winter grass seeds

“I came because I know the keepers needed help and it’s a beautiful day,” said volunteer Caroline Moore. “I could volunteer anywhere else, but I want to be here. I love the Dallas Zoo.”

And it’s selfless volunteers like neighbors Cierra and Caroline, who drove from Fort Worth to spend their Saturday putting sweat, hard work and a lot of laughter into cleaning our tiger habitat.

The volunteers also received a behind-the-scenes tour of the tiger and otter night quarters, plus a free breakfast. For more information on becoming a Zoo volunteer, click HERE.

Volunteers remove leaves from river stream
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Categories: Enrichment, Mammals, Tigers, Volunteers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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