The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge has a very successful volunteer program. Starting in 1982 with one volunteer, the program now has over 250 volunteers that perform a wide array of duties for the refuge. Volunteering generally involves working a 3 to 3.5 hour shift once a week; although, some volunteers work more due to multiple duties they enjoy performing.
Volunteers are currently utilized in the following areas of the refuge:
Education Center Information Desk
At the desk, volunteers orient visitors to what is available for them to see and do on the refuge, present our short orientation film, and rove the Education Center answering questions about the wildlife and exhibits.
Volunteers operate the cash register in the bookstore. This register is equipped with a scanner and is easily operated by any novice.
Roving volunteers venture onto the Wildlife Drive or the Bailey Tract in a vehicle, electric car, golf cart, or on bicycle and identify wildlife species and answer general information questions for visitors. This duty is very important to the refuge because to some visitors, the volunteers are the only official staff they will encounter. These volunteers act as tools for the Service providing interpretation to the visiting public about the Service, the wildlife and how important it is to protect this vital habitat.
Many visitor inquiries come to the refuge by telephone. Generally, volunteers man the telephones from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This allows for two 4 hour shifts.
We need smiling faces to welcome visitors to the refuge. Duties include sitting at the bottom of the boardwalk ramp to greet and
orientate visitors to the Education Center. The greeter program runs from January to March and there are three shifts available: 9am-noon, noon-3pm, and 3pm-5pm.
We conduct many studies here on the refuge. Volunteers help the biology staff with collecting and compiling data. They also assist in exotic vegetation removal.
Everything from mowing grass, painting, blowing leaves from paths, repairing trails, exotic plant removal and removal of discarded monofilament line can be done by volunteers. Our maintenance volunteers help keep the refuge in tip top shape.
Hundreds of school children experience the refuge through the refuge's environmental educator with the help of volunteers. These volunteers help with everything from assisting children identify birds to reading stories and making wildlife art.
Volunteers help us out greatly by assisting the staff with many special events. These can include outreach both on and off site. Some of the refuge's annual celebrations include National Fishing Week and the National Wildlife Refuge Week, Ding Darling Days celebrations.
We encourage volunteers of all ages. Volunteers under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Student volunteer days are set up throughout the school year to help students fullfill required community service hours.
If you're interested in becoming a refuge volunteer for at least three months per year, contact the refuge volunteer coordinator at (239) 472-1100 ext. 222, or complete the volunteer application and return it to the refuge Education Center. Because the refuge is located in an area where volunteers are readily available, we do not have campsites available for RV volunteers.