A National Park Service Volunteer

Volunteering at the Johnson Settlement in the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park.

| March/April 1984

On many summer mornings, my sister Anita rises early . . . dresses in black high-button shoes, a long skirt, a muslin shirt, and an apron . . . and leaves for a cabin. There she spends her day doing many of the chores that were necessary for survival in the late 1800's. She waters and tends the garden, harvests and prepares vegetables, cleans the henhouse and gathers eggs, feeds the chickens, sweeps the cabin, and hauls water for washing dishes and clothes. Most important of all, though, she talks with visitors.

Why is Anita doing all this? Well, she's working at the Johnson Settlement in the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park. There she and several other people re-create the frontier lifestyle of Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr. (the grandfather of our 36th President) and his family.

And the most unusual part of Anita's job is that she doesn't get paid a cent. You see, she has the distinction of being a National Park Service volunteer. To do so, she has to dress in a costume appropriate to the period portrayed at the settlement. Not only that, she must try to bring those pioneer days to life in such a way that park visitors feel linked with the past and understand what it was like to live back in the late nineteenth century.

Anita re-creates the past through her work and through conversation with park visitors. To sharpen her knowledge of the past events she interprets, she read a book about the history of the Johnson family when they were living at this Texas Hill Country settlement.

How to Become a National Park Service Volunteer

In order to be one of the Volunteers in Parks (VIP), you must have a personality well suited for the job. You have to like being around other people, be concerned about your environment, and enjoy sharing your skills with visitors and with your co-workers. Before Anita applied for the job, she considered these requirements and decided that she would enjoy this type of work. (She also likes the outdoors and working with animals.)

There's no age limit for Park Service volunteers — my sister is twelve years old — but you do have to be in good health and physically able to carry out your duties. (The superintendent of the park for which you want to volunteer may ask you to obtain a medical examination, at government expense, to make sure you're fit.)

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