Raise Your Hand! Calling all volunteers, March 9
Fort Smith and Van Buren are both award-winning volunteer communities, recognized by the state for the great participation of its citizens and the quality of the projects supported by people who generously give their time, skills and energy.
But there is always a need for fresh recruits!
In order to find and encourage new volunteers, a group of the area's cultural, historical and natural attractions and RSVP, a clearinghouse of diverse volunteer opportunities, will hold a Volunteer Fair March 9 at the Riverfront Pavilion. Each will have a table or booth manned by recruiters who can help volunteers find a fit with a place they would enjoy supporting.
Want to drive an electric trolley car? Make an ice cream soda? Tell the story of Judge Isaac C. Parker? Teach a child to fish? The Volunteer Fair offers plenty of unique opportunities. The groups involved also are seeking your career expertise for administrative assistance. Skills of every kind are needed and young people are welcome. It is a great way to give back to your community and to help our whole area prosper and even grow.
"In 2012, we were pleased to see the tourism industry out perform the economy nationally and Fort Smith had the best year we have seen in years," noted Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Since Fort Smith has been recognized nationally as 'The No. 1 True Western Town' in America by True West Magazine, early indications show that we can again expect a very busy tourist season. Volunteers have always served as front-line ambassadors for our tourism industry, so we hope the volunteer base will grow along with the number of visitors. Showing off our town and helping visitors have a good time is the greatest job in the world!" he added.
While tourism is increasing, some local attractions such as the National Historic Site are experiencing tightened budgets. Relatively new ones such as Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, the Chaffee Barbershop Museum and the Drennen-Scott Historic Site would like to increase the hours they can be open to visitors. Every helping hand can improve that likelihood. Consider raising your hand.
Here are some of the opportunities:
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith's premier tourist attraction, visited by more than 70,000 people last year, trains volunteers to give tours to the public. Volunteers also take admission and operate the gift shop. With the original fort, the courthouse, the Hell on the Border jail, the gallows and commissary building, volunteers who enjoy sharing Fort Smith's rich history are especially needed to assist the park's staff. Green thumb volunteers may nurture the park's heirloom garden.
Miss Laura's Visitor Center
Volunteers at Miss Laura's, besides having the fun of being able to wink and say they work in a historic bordello, are often the first people to meet visitors to Fort Smith. They are trained to lead tours of the building, telling its colorful story, and help visitors find brochures and maps of Fort Smith and area attractions.
Fort Smith Museum of HistoryThe museum needs volunteers for a variety of jobs, including greeting visitors, giving guided tours for school groups, working in the old-fashioned soda fountain, cleaning and simple maintenance. Also needed are research assistants, curatorial assistants and people experienced in archival work to assist the curator.
River Valley Nature Center
The Nature Center offers volunteers both indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor workers may man the front desk, greet visitors or help to check out equipment. Those who love the outdoors may help with visiting school groups, conducting "critter" or insect programs and helping kids with fishing or archery. A volunteer photographer or garden workers would be welcomed, as well.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum
With training, a volunteer at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum can become an electric trolley operator! That's the most unique job to be offered at the Volunteer Fair. Helpers with trade skills are needed to weld, paint and do electrical repairs. Gardening work is appreciated and the museum library needs to be catalogued and shelved.
The Clayton House
This historic house museum is a house for all citizens to enjoy and care for. The Victorian mansion is developing a tea guild. Volunteers may be trained in period manners and pouring from beautiful silver tea services. Administrative help would be very welcomed and simple tasks such as household cleaning, sidewalk sweeping and handyman maintenance would be appreciated. New walking tours are being developed and Sunday tour guides are invited to volunteer.
Chaffee Barbershop Museum
Volunteering at the Chaffee Barbershop Museum could be a little bit patriotism and a little bit rock 'n' roll. Elvis Presley received his first GI haircut here so docents may meet the King's dedicated fans. The building also holds a fine, self-guided military history exhibit about Fort Chaffee. Volunteers are needed urgently to increase the number of days the museum can be open.
Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
The recently opened RAM is seeking volunteers to work as art educators and docents, art research specialists, "mailing masters"?for outreach, event-planning and staffing and general maintenance.
Drennon-Scott Historic Site
Operated by UA-Fort Smith, the Drennen-Scott Historic Site Museum is a living laboratory for students but also serves as a visitor center and historical attraction. Volunteers may be trained as docents to lead public tours or give orientation talks, help with special events and living history programs. The home of Van Buren founders offers a fascinating story to entertain and educate its visitors.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program is a clearinghouse connecting active adults 55 or older to a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. RSVP members may help children through tutoring, assist students and low-income citizens with tax preparation or seniors with their Medicare paperwork. RSVP?volunteers serve in more than 100 community organizations, including schools, hospitals, community centers, museums and more. Many continue the type of work they enjoyed in their careers while others try something completely different.
The Volunteer Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 9 at the Fort Smith Riverfront Pavilion, 101 North B Street, Fort Smith. For more information, call 479-783-3961.