The CNC Volunteers that Could

Celebrating our CNC Volunteers

April 13, 2021

By Libby Lintel, Volunteer Coordinator

What a crazy year has just passed: unexpected, challenging, heartbreaking, and life-changing.

As we reach National Volunteer Week 2021, I am reminded of one of my favorite children’s stories, “The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper. Upon rereading the tale, it seemed to be a wonderful metaphor for the Chattahoochee Nature Center and its volunteers.

The CNC is the “happy little train” that is loaded with good things for boys and girls, and all visitors. We have wonderful exhibits, animals that are lovingly cared for; we provide camps and programs, and learning opportunities for all ages. We have wonderful books and toys in our nature store. We even grow healthy food to share with others in our community garden.

In the story, “all at once, the train came to a stop”.  Like the train, the CNC also had to close, due to COVID. Like the passengers on the train, the CNC staff tried very hard to set things right. So many new circumstances, so many changes, so many ways to pivot. Virtual programs, changed events, new offerings have been added to the happy train. Donors have been generous. And so many folks have been extraordinarily kind.

But in the story, what made the difference was not the Shiny New Engine or the Big Strong Engine, it was the “little blue engine”. This is the engine that stopped at once when she was flagged down, to see how she could help. She knew that she was just a small engine, able to help in small ways. But the little blue engine was willing to try to pull the train. She did it for the children and the families – to help them get the things that they needed; the things that meant the most.

It was hard work for the valiant little blue engine. The load was heavy – but she gave it her all. Saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” as she pulled the train up-up-up over the mountain. “Hurray! Hurray” cried the CNC staff. “the boys and girls [and all our visitors] will be so happy…all because you helped us”, OUR VOLUNTEERS!

We are so grateful for every one of our volunteers. You have helped to keep us chugging along by creating programs, assisting visitors, wearing costumes, mailing envelopes, tending to campers, leading hikes, growing healthy food. Our Volunteers are the little blue engine that has pulled our train; modest, kindly, and so essential. We just could not do it without you!

While 2020 was an extraordinary year, the CNC would like to express appreciation for ALL of our volunteers, including the 35+ who were able to donate more than 100 hours last year.

Here are the volunteers who donated more than 100 yours in 2020 and have helped for 10 or more years at the 100+ hour level:

Harriette Hoyt – 10 years

Ruth Ann Sonke – 10 years

Michael Bartell – 14 years

Kim Ellis – 15 years

Zelia Lebeau – 17 years

Stacy Zarpentine – 19 years

Sally Griffith – 24 years

Here are the volunteers who achieved new cumulative 1000-hour milestones in 2020:

Bob Hagan – 1000 hours

Larry Stevens – 1000 hours

Ruth Ann Sonke – 3000 hours

Michael Bartell – 6000 hours


What does volunteering look like TODAY at the CNC?

We are happy to welcome ALL of our volunteers back, whenever they are ready to return. At this time, all volunteers are required to wear COVID masks and participate in a daily temperature-check log. Approximately 2/3 of our “regular” volunteers have returned to the CNC, and new volunteers are joining us as well!

We are currently not working with corporate or school volunteer groups, CSWs, and are not yet holding our monthly habitat restoration days. We are also deferring scout service projects or award projects. We are looking forward to restarting these in the future!

If you are interested in becoming a CNC volunteer, please visit our website and complete a volunteer application. Volunteers need to be age 16+ to help on their own.

Here are updates on placements:

Horticulture/Unity Garden/Native Gardens – volunteers help on weekday mornings. Volunteers usually can get started within a week or two.

Docent – our next orientation training will be in August. This class will likely fill up quickly. The next orientation training after this will likely be in Feb 2022.

Wildlife – there is a 1-2 year waiting list to assist in this area.

Special events – Volunteers age 16+ can help at these, volunteers age 12-15 can help, with a parent. Please contact us through the website to ask to be added to our email list.