Guest Contributor: Carly Euler, Marketing Manager at MemoryFox
Have you ever wondered who maintains the memorials on the national mall?
Volunteers, led by the National Parks Service, are a huge part of keeping those larger-than-life symbols of our nation’s history suitable for over 25 million annual visitors.
When I lived in Washington DC, I worked for a veteran-service organization. And while the vast majority of our work happened behind-the-scenes in an office, our staff eagerly sought out opportunities to perform boots-on-the ground work. One volunteer experience that had a profound impact on me was cleaning the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
We woke up at the crack of dawn on a chilly Sunday morning in November to complete our task before the influx of crowds arrived. This particular Sunday fell prior to Veterans Day, one of the most-visited days the memorial would see all year.
My colleagues and I began filling buckets with soapy water and dividing ourselves into teams: soap, scrub and rinse. The Park Ranger overseeing us educated our scrubbers on how to use the brooms without scratching the delicate names, while others uncoiled hundreds of feet of hose to ensure it would reach all the way from the spigot to the very last name on the very last section of the wall.
But, before we began the cleaning process, the Park Ranger showed us how to move items away from the wall with honor and dignity. Often, when people visit the memorial, they leave tokens by the names of their fallen family and friends: letters, photos, jewelry, and other meaningful items. He explained the process of how the items become archived. Here’s one such example.
So we moved the items, one-by-one, and we did our absolute best to honor the sacrifices of those who served. As a team, we soaped, scrubbed and rinsed over 58,000 names as the sun rose above the Capitol. And while I am just one small set of hands, my involvement as a part of the bigger system was integral to the overall success of the day.
This is my story. But, I suspect you have your own. And the tens - or hundreds, or maybe even thousands - of volunteers that stand at the heart of your organization have their own as well.
It's your turn
In the realm of philanthropy, every story carries the potential to inspire change - and great volunteer stories can boost volunteer recruitment and bolster retention. Do you have a great volunteer story to share? Was there one volunteer experience that really stands out to you? We’d love to hear about it!
Author Bio: Carly comes from the nonprofit world ready to elevate the hundreds of nonprofits in the MemoryFox community. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Wily Network’s Young Professionals Association, and has previously held positions at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, the Code of Support Foundation, Kenya Lacrosse Association, and the BOMA Project, where she has specialized in marketing, communications, and fundraising. Storytelling has been an integral part of each role.