Who is a Volunteer (in the Outdoor World)?

ATmaintainer.jpgI have been working for a good couple of years on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference.

My job is to plan excursions and find volunteers who would lead these excursions. I also need to find volunteers who will staff the excursion desks and answer questions about the excursions.

Finally, registration for the conference opened up this week. I’ve been getting emails left and right from volunteers who want to know if they need to pay the registration fee or pay for lodging at Western Carolina University. These questions were not asked in a sense of entitlement but just to find out what they were getting for their volunteerism.

I answered as follows:

Yes, you have to register just like anyone else. For your volunteer service, you’ll get a T-shirt, an invitation to a volunteer reception and my undying gratitude. Surely that’s worth your service for a day or so. Over a third of the ATC biennial folks volunteer in some capacity or other.

So what is a real volunteer? I like this definition. A volunteer is a person who gives his/her Services without any express or implied promise of remuneration.

If you are an intern or if you get college credit for your service, that is remuneration. If you work for a company but  but are allowed to spend time working for a nonprofit, that’s not volunteering. It’s nice but you are not a volunteer. A volunteer shouldn’t expect to be paid mileage or to get a free T-shirt. You should expect that you have real work to do that makes a difference to a cause.

So Lenny and I maintain a piece of the Appalachian Trail and a piece of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. We volunteer because we hike these trails and that’s the only way the trails are maintained.

I lead hikes for Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies because I feel that I’m doing something important. I want to encourage people to get out of their cars and into the woods. Leading hikes is a good way to do that.

Some of my volunteer efforts, like being on the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, is prestigious. Clipping growth on the trail is grunt work but it needs to be done.

But it’s all good and no one pays for our mileage.

The ATC biennial conference still needs a lot of volunteers. Interested?

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