Central Park seeking more volunteers

Feb. 24, 2013 @ 01:03 AM

Notable public parks become famous because the public is deeply involved.

This involvement is not limited to just enjoying the park or attending the programs but also working for the park in a volunteer capacity. Starting in February, Durham Central Park is initiating a volunteer recruitment drive to get more Durham residents engaged in its most central park.

The park was envisioned and built, and is maintained, by active board members and dedicated volunteers. The park needs new volunteers for all sorts of tasks: installing benches, planting annuals, carving out new walkways and just taking out the trash during popular events. Some of the most exciting programs the park puts on are only successful because of the volunteers that help.

To help galvanize recruitment efforts this year, a new volunteer coordinator position was created to consolidate and organize recruitment efforts and volunteer activities. With this new leadership, the park hopes to create a small army of dedicated volunteers that love Durham, love their neighbors and love what the park is doing.

For each major event the park has prepared a detailed description of what types of tasks need to be achieved during each program, what types of skills are needed from the volunteers and for fun, what kind of reward or incentive will be provided in exchange.  For most of the current volunteers, the time spent at the park making something nice, i.e. pulling weeds from flowerbeds, or being involved in making something the best, like acting as a judge at the annual Bull City Chili Challenge, is a reward itself. Hanging out with friends at these events and making new friends is also very rewarding.

To show the park’s appreciation to volunteers, the park will be providing snacks and water for the ground workdays and newly designed t-shirts for repeat commitments for the most popular events like the Food Truck Rodeos.

The park wants to recognize those volunteers who help with the rodeos by inviting them to become one of the distinguished “Food Truck Rowdies,” volunteers who help the trucks get set-up, take out the trash during and after the event and just in general help the public find a particular truck or find the bathrooms.

In the works are plans to reward volunteers with vouchers for tasty food from the trucks themselves or from the local surrounding eateries so that the volunteers are not only working the event but enjoying it as well.  An annual volunteer appreciation party will also be organized and only volunteers will receive an exclusive ticket.

For most of the park’s events, in addition to the tasks, the volunteer will most importantly be serving as an ambassador of the park, showing folks visiting from outside Durham and local patrons just what Durham hospitality is and how happy its citizens are to be engaged.

The final strategy with the recruitment efforts will be to encourage each volunteer to do a bit of the recruitment themselves, by inviting their contacts to participate with the park. The goal is to recruit and maintain a base of 200 volunteers for all the park’s needs. This allows the board members to be more effectively spread out during events to teach the new volunteers the tasks and to see where improvements need to be made.

If someone only has an hour to help at a grounds workday it can be incredibly productive. Lots of weed pulling and raking can be done in an hour. On the other extreme, commitments of 2 hours, 3 times a year to help with rodeos will be one of the best ways to enjoy the park, the local food and your neighbors. If someone already comes to the rodeos regularly why not volunteer and enjoy it from a different perspective?

The best part of volunteering is no matter how little time you commit it is helpful and appreciated! Go to www.durhamcentralpark.org to sign up for volunteering. Thanks!

Jody White is a member of the DCP board of directors and volunteer coordinator