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ABQ BioPark Thanks Longtime Volunteers

Several women have served at the BioPark for more than 25 years!

April 19, 2022 - It’s National Volunteer Week, and the ABQ BioPark is recognizing its more than 500 volunteers across our facilities. While the BioPark appreciates all of its volunteers, we want to give a special round of applause to a small group of women who have been with us for 25 years and counting.

Melinda Davenport BioPark Volunteer TileMelinda Davenport

First Year as a Volunteer

1996

What inspired you to become a volunteer?

“I enjoy learning about nature. Our BioPark education department has always provided many opportunities for continuing my education about the facility, about nature and teaching, and providing a positive experience for our visitors. The opportunity for continued education is very important to me.”

What roles have you had over the years?

Greeter, touchpool, docent

“Over the years I have been fortunate to receive training to teach at Tingley Beach, the mangrove shark ray encounter, otters, the Pollinator Pavilion and the Bugarium.  As the farm, High Desert Rose Garden and Japanese Garden were added, training was provided for me at all of the locations.”

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the BioPark?

“Throughout the years I have always had a very high respect for the members of the BioPark education department. They have provided me with many learning experiences that I never would have imagined would be available to me. With their guidance and nurturing, I am a better person. I also have made friends that are very valuable to me. My favorite thing about the BioPark is probably one that our visitors would mention as well: there are always new things to learn and new experiences to be enjoyed at the BioPark.”

Fran Dever BioPark Volunteer TileFran Dever

First Year as a Volunteer

1985

What inspired you to become a volunteer?

“I was inspired to volunteer by a docent I encountered in the old jungle habitat. It was a wonderful free-flight exhibit of tropical birds. I saw her talking to other visitors, and it was obvious to me that she know what she was talking about. I grabbed her when she was free and started asking her about the birds. I asked her if she studied ornithology and she said everything she knew she learned in docent training. I was hooked. Learning new things about the animals and habitats and sharing that information with visitors is what has kept me involved.”

What roles have you had over the years?

Docent, touchpool, insect volunteer

“Currently, marine animals and habitats are what I know the least about, so the Aquarium is getting most of my attention. I used to do primarily off-grounds programs, but those are now done by staff. I like to do special programs (discovery days) on grounds and evening programs, especially the adults-only events.”

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the BioPark?

“I love being able to engage visitors in an exhibit and help them learn something new. And I wouldn't still be here if I didn't have the opportunity of learning new things about the plants and animals at the BioPark.”

Sue DeWitt BioPark Volunteer TileSue DeWitt

First Year as a Volunteer

1987

What inspired you to become a volunteer?

“In New Jersey I had volunteered at a small outdoor county wildlife facility—a place that was close to my heart. When I was growing up, the next-door woman was the director there and sometimes she brought home animals to raise. Outdoor adventures and animals have been a passion since an early age, and I kept that spark alive at the zoo.”

What roles have you had over the years?

Mostly docent

“It was not easy, but a classmate and I studied together, and we are now active garden docents. Together we took the two Spanish black turkeys out, strolling around the grounds of the farm, educating people about the breed and how it fit into the Heritage Farm. Even after the Japanese Garden came online, I have continued to educate at the Heritage Farm, helping local people see what life was like in the 1930s on a family farm.”

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the BioPark?

“Without a doubt, I really enjoy seeing how pleased visitors are when I speak with them. It is a rare time that I am signed in for an aquarium or garden shift that I don’t leave feeling positive about my experience. I always receive the most comments from people who are enthusiastic about the farm and its message. In general, the reason that I keep working at the BioPark as a volunteer is that I know that my role as a teacher there is appreciated by the people who visit. They realize that the facility is an educational as well as a recreational destination.”

Christina Gonzalez BioPark Volunteer TileChristina Gonzalez

First Year as a Volunteer

1995

What inspired you to become a volunteer?

“Love of animals and desire to be around them is what inspired me to volunteer and this continues to keep me engaged. In addition, the enthusiasm and obvious love of the BioPark, displayed by the wonderful education staff, keepers, and the administration folks, make me want to support and help their programs.”

What roles have you had over the years?

Docent

“I have assisted the other parts of the BioPark (Botanic Garden, Tingley Beach) when they have special events.”

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the BioPark?

“Observing the behavior of our animals. For me, this is an immediate stress release. Also the reaction from small children when they learn something new or see an animal they’ve never seen before.”

Other things that keep Christina volunteering:

  • While I was still working, being able to volunteer at the BioPark was an outlet for relaxation and a way to decompress from my job.
  • Since I retired, being able to volunteer is a great way to fight boredom. There are so many different ways and kinds of jobs to do.
  • I feel good when my help makes someone else’s job easier (i.e. BioPark employee).
  • It is also a wonderful outlet to stay connected to the New Mexico BioPark Society. I’ve made some great friendships among my fellow volunteers and BioPark employees. Some of our visitors are very entertaining.
  • It is a wonderful feeling when you are around people (employees and volunteers) who feel like you do about animals and the environment.
  • I love the fact that I am still learning something new every day.
  • The behind-the-scenes opportunities are the best!
  • I enjoy sharing knowledge with visitors. Often they tell me something I didn’t know.
  • It is gratifying to help a visitor look at a particular animal in a new way, especially if the animal has a bad or inaccurate reputation. Maybe the animal isn’t very physically attractive, but after the visitor learns all the wonderful things it can do, appreciation and respect for the animal grows.

Diana Riley and Sylvia Frede

Although we were unable to interview Diana Riley and Sylvia Frede, we’d like to thank them for their many years of service!