Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can’t understand the government volunteer system. The ranks of volunteers for the National Park and National Forest Service seem to be growing rapidly. It sounds like a win-win situation for both seniors looking to volunteer and the government in a budget crisis. I completely understand the theory of supply and demand, but I do not understand rudeness. My husband and I have submitted volunteer applications to several parks offering to do most anything they need. It’s as if the applications go into a black hole. We have come to expect no communications from the Park Service, not even a “Thanks." This attitude will to some degree kill the goose that laid the golden egg if they continue to treat this "manna from heaven" help with such disregard. Am I right or am I just becoming an old curmudgeon? Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think even a form letter letting people know where they stand in the volunteer line would be nothing less than courteous.
--Out of Line in Laredo
I have heard this complaint often lately. I know that places like Glacier National Park have hundreds of volunteer applicants that they cannot place every season. Many sunbelt parks have even more. They have many people who will commit to a longer term service and those who are already networked in from past service. These volunteers usually take precedence over new applicants. I think it is great that state and local governments have this resource of volunteers to draw from, but I agree that they should work on their communications. Most applications are made online and therefore could be efficiently kept informed the same way as to their chances of capturing a volunteer position.
It is a numbers game. Over 10,000 people will reach retirement age every day for the next 20 years. That is why you see all your favorite campgrounds filled, even during the off season and shoulder seasons. This same demographic is swelling the volunteer ranks.
My only advice would be, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Get on the phone, find out who is making the decision on positions you are interested in and open some dialog.
My wife and I worked our way around the country for several years in our 20s and 30s. We never got a job by saying, “No.” If we were asked if we had experience doing something, we always said, “Yes.” It was only a little white lie until the first day on the job. I ran a D8 bulldozer in Alaska for about two hours one day before the boss came over and said, “You’ve never run a bulldozer before have you? I said, “I can’t say that anymore!”
￼Since the government facilities are getting avalanched with applicants, you need to be the one to force communication. I know it seems odd to scramble for a volunteer position, but that is exactly what other applicants are doing to snag the positions they are interested in.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink