The Marine Mammal Center could not exist without our volunteers, the heart and soul of our organization. Their tireless efforts and dedicated service to the work of the Center are an invaluable part of our mission to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals.
April 9, 2014
While we do our best to celebrate the contributions of our volunteers, it's difficult to put into words the importance of their volunteer service. That’s why we also honor our volunteers each year during Volunteer Appreciation Week, which coincides with National Volunteer Week, an annual tradition that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
First established through executive order by President Richard Nixon in 1974 and reaffirmed by every U.S. president since then, National Volunteer Week is a tribute to the people who are indispensable to an organization like The Marine Mammal Center.
More than 1,000 active volunteers contribute to the work of the Center, ranging in age from 15-year old Youth Crew volunteers to 96-year old Jerry Mecabe. (Jerry will turn 97 on April 24 – be sure to wish her a happy birthday!)
More than half of our volunteers work on animal care crews, while others give docent-led tours, staff the gift shop, perform administrative duties in the office, or are on call to rescue animals.
Together they contributed a whopping 119,071 volunteer hours in 2013, up 8% from 110,475 hours in 2012. Impressive numbers to be sure, but more important are the human faces behind those numbers.
Jerry Mecabe has been a volunteer at the Center for 25 years -- but didn't start until age 72!
After serving in the Army during World War II, Jerry worked at Sunny Hills Services, a nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable youth and their families. She also worked at San Quentin State Prison for 30 years, retiring in her mid-60s.
After several years of retirement, she decided she was tired of doing nothing and started volunteering at the Center! Every Thursday, she worked in the Info Hut at The Marine Mammal Center's old facility, manning the switchboard for incoming calls and greeting visitors at the entrance. More than two decades later, she still volunteers on Thursdays at the information desk in the front lobby of the Center's new and much-larger facility.
What inspires such dedication to one cause? Jerry has a life-long love for animals, especially marine animals. She was born in New York and learned to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, although she and her family moved to California when she was very young. She was an only child and, together with her mother, who was an artist, she spent many happy summers at a beach home in the Natural Bridges area of Santa Cruz.
Jerry's connection to The Marine Mammal Center doesn't end with a day's shift. For many years, she served on the Volunteer Council, a group of elected volunteers that represent the entire volunteer community in planning, communication and decision-making efforts within the organization.And she has touched many people along the way.
Her friend and fellow volunteer Linda Curtis describes Jerry as a generous people-person. "Whenever she meets someone new, that person is immediately treated like her best friend," Linda says. "She makes friends easily – everybody knows Jerry.“
At the other end of the age spectrum is 16-year old Sam Noble, a youth volunteer working in animal care on the Friday Night Crew. Like many of our Youth Crew volunteers, Sam puts in long, hard hours caring for the seals and sea lions on-site, all while juggling all of the responsibilities of a high school student!
As part of a video production class at Albany High School, Sam produced a documentary about former sea lion patient Silent Knight, who was shot and blinded. Silent Knight was rehabilitated at The Marine Mammal Center and then relocated to a permanent home at the San Francisco Zoo.
To create the video, Sam interviewed his crew supervisor, Graham Charles, Stranding Manager Shelbi Stoudt and Veterinary Technician Sophie Guarasci, as well as Debbie Marrin-Towey, Assistant Curator of Carnivores at the San Francisco Zoo.
He put together a touching story in the six-minute documentary, and throughout the piece, Sam’s love for animals and dedication to The Marine Mammal Center is evident.
Watch "Silent Knight," Sam Noble’s documentary that highlights the work of The Marine Mammal Center:
Our Appreciation for Volunteers Extends All Year
Volunteer Appreciation Week is taking place this year at a time when we are a experiencing a massive influx of new patients. Our volunteers deal with countless problems on a daily basis, listen to heartbreaking stories about our pinniped pals and persevere against daunting challenges. The work of The Marine Mammal Center would not be possible without their help.
"Our volunteers' hard work, dedication, endless energy, warm smiles and contagious spirits make this place much more than a world-renowned marine mammal rehabilitation center," says Volunteer Coordinator Scott Buhl. "Every last volunteer contributes to our vibrant community of passion while infusing us all with inspiring optimism that we can and will change the world.”
Writer and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, coauthor of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, has stated that “Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless.” An even more succinct description of our volunteers' motivation comes from newscaster Tom Brokaw, who said “It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.”
Find out how to Volunteer at The Marine Mammal Center.
Learn about other ways to Get Involved.
Find out how you can: Take Action to help Marine Mammals!