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Work can be reward

July 23, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

TRI-STATE - That word "volunteer" implies a lack of payment for services rendered.

But volunteers for the National Park Service often find plenty of other rewards for the contributions they make to the parks.

One is just knowing they have made a difference.

"As (park) budgets are cut, you sense that you're doing something important," said volunteer Karen Gray, who helps the C&O Canal National Historical Park organize its library, and sometimes volunteers along the canal itself.

"It's an avocation," she said. "I really love working in the libraries, but I also love to be on the canal."

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For Ed and Wendy Carr, volunteer campground hosts at Catoctin Mountain Park, "it's like being on vacation," Wendy said. In fact, she added, "I like it much better than going on vacation."

Volunteering at Antietam National Battlefield helped Bob Hortin, who travels to Sharpsburg from Damascus, Md., fulfill some ambitions.

"I retired from the federal government 13 years ago," Hortin said. "I wanted to get into something more satisfying than what I did."

His interest in Civil War history and a desire to be "outside" brought him to Antietam.

Now, Hortin helps with the park's educational programs, and provides information to tourists in the visitors center.

"I like the kids coming here and helping them get an understanding" of the battle, and seeing their enthusiasm for learning, he said.

His fellow Antietam volunteer Jim Strongin, a retired filmmaker, "was not happy with just sitting around," he said. "I just like the passing parade of people that come in through the day. You feel like you've achieved something."

And they have, park officials say.

"You can really go through the park and see the things volunteers have done," Catoctin Mountain Park Superintendent Mel Poole said.

Driving around the mountain, Poole pointed out trails cleared by about 100 volunteers during cleanup days, and wheelchair ramps and pavilions rebuilt by Boy Scouts.

"We have a long connection with the Boy Scouts," who do a couple of projects at the park every year, he said.

Work by volunteers at the canal resulted in three regional awards from the National Park Service earlier this year.

"We won our awards because of the quality of our volunteers," said David Tune, an intern at the park who helps volunteer coordinator John Noel keep volunteer projects organized. "Every volunteer leaves as a steward of the park."

The Carrs, residents of Massachusetts, also volunteer at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia and at Acadia National Park in Maine.

"I like it all - the variety of the different places," Ed said.

"We've had such a wonderful time," Wendy added. "And we sell it."

It's something everyone should try at least once, Catoctin volunteer Del Vickers said.

"I don't think anybody knows whether they're gonna like it or not until they try it," Vickers said.

And there's another perk, Ed Carr said.

"When you volunteer, it's hard to get fired."

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