Volunteers are VIPs: A Story from the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Whenever I tell others here in Iowa that I volunteer for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, they almost always ask, “Oh, did you go work on parts of the trail or build something?” So when I explain I primarily write Facebook posts from my small home office, their faces wrinkle in confusion. “Really…?”

Lacing up my hiking boots, tossing a backpack in the car and heading West for a few weeks is something I would love to do several times a year. But, even though I’m 90% retired, it would be a challenge for me to find the time for on-site volunteer work. Instead, I was blessed to discover about a year ago that the trail staff in Omaha needed someone to help develop content for their daily social media posts – a perfect match, it seemed, with my career in advertising and my love of 19th century American history and our country’s National Parks.

I’ll be the first to admit I do this partially for myself. I enjoy the research, the increased knowledge and the time spent writing. But I also do it because I hope our 16,000 Facebook followers enjoy reading and learning more about the many facets of the incredible Lewis and Clark story. For sure, this task is small, dwarfed in comparison with the work of thousands of other volunteers along the Trail’s 3,700 miles – from trail restoration to research, interpretation to internal operations. The point being – every role is important and contributes to the overall mission of the Trail.

Being a National Park VIP (Volunteers-in-Parks) is a hugely rewarding experience. There’s a place for you to help, a way for you to share your skills and talents, and an opportunity for you to make a positive impact. Contact Trail headquarters to find out how you can connect -- it’ll be a Win-Win-Win experience for you, for the staff and for everyone who enjoys and appreciates the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

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Kent Schlawin, Volunteer
Johnston, Iowa
Each year, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail benefits from the dedication of thousands of volunteers.