So You Want to Be a V.I.P?

Dr. Jack A. Sunderman, Geologist and Vice President, the Fox Island Alliance

One of life’s greatest joys is seeing a child (or an adult) glow with excitement over some new-found discovery. Nature provides many questions that we may spend a lifetime trying to answer; but helping others in their quest for answers to these same questions can be one of life’s most truly rewarding experiences.

Why? The Fox Island County Park is a unique natural area that includes a great variety of post-glacial plants, animals, and natural features - all protected by the State of Indiana in the Park’s Nature Preserve. The Preserve is not only a huge natural laboratory where research can be carried out in many fields, but it also is a remarkable natural classroom where students of all ages can learn inspiring things about the earth’s lithosphere and biosphere.

Who? You, too, can experience the rewards of helping others in their quest for knowledge, by volunteering at Fox Island County Park. Adults interested in nature are needed as volunteers at the park. If you are retired, or if you can spare a few hours per week from your busy home or work schedules, the Park can use you. You should have transportation to and from the Park, should be in good health, and should enjoy working and talking with people, both youth and adults.

What? Depending on your background and special interests, you may be asked to explain natural processes and Park features, or to guide Park visitors in their quest for knowledge about birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fungi, flowers, trees, sand dunes, glacial landforms, groundwater, lakes and ponds - you name it, the park probably has it! You may be asked to assist visitors at the Nature Center, the Observation Building, the bog, the constructed wetlands near the Nature Center, the Geogarden, or the sandy trails of the Nature Preserve itself.

How? Never fear, you will be trained! The Park Staff will direct you in how to lead small groups or answer questions from individuals about park features mentioned above. The Park Staff will train you in the conduct of such educational endeavors as answering questions from visitor’s to the Nature Center and to the Observation Building.

And then there is the showcase of them all, the V.I.P. Trail Guides Program! This program is conducted jointly by the Park Staff and the Fox Island Alliance, Inc., a Not-for-profit Volunteer Organization that supports educational and environmental aspects of the Park. The Alliance Education Committee and Park Staff Members organize and schedule the Trail Guides Program. The Trail Guides then lead thousands of youth from local schools through the magical woodlands and other areas of the Park, thrilling the children with questions, answers, and hands-on experiences in observing and identifying nature’s wonders.

Where? The Trail Guides learn their trade in four V.I.P. Trail Guides Training Sessions held throughout the year, two in the spring and two in the fall. Knowledgeable Alliance Members, professionally-trained Park Staff, and invited specialists act as instructors for the training sessions. Times that you can spend as a Trail Guide are scheduled through the Park Staff, with help from the Alliance V.I.P. Trail Guides Program. Won’t you please join us in this most rewarding of Volunteer Experiences?

When? For schedules of the V.I.P. Trail Guides Training Sessions, please see issues of the FoxTale, or contact Alliance Co-chairs of the Trail Guides Program, Vera Dulin (436-3125), Marcia Coffey (432-2058), or Emily Pollander (436-7785). For additional information on Training Sessions, or for other volunteer opportunities at the Park, please contact Park Staff Member Missy Ahern (449-3180).

P.S. What does V.I.P. mean? You guessed it! It means both the traditional, a “Very Important Person,” and (especially at Fox Island Park), a “Volunteer In the Park.”