What would you do with an extra 4000 hours?
That’s about 166 full 24-hour days. Or 500 8-hour shifts. Or 8000 episodes of Parks and Recreation.
The Walthers decided to donate them.
John and Teresa Walther are volunteers who have served at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park for a few months annually for the past three years. For the rest of the year, they peruse the US in their RV and volunteer at other National Parks, and take some time for vacations and visiting family.
They are volunteer superstars, and in the month of June, they earned the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for contributing 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime. While at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, you could usually find their friendly faces from behind the Visitor Center desk.
The Walthers are on their way to their next adventure, so I thought I better catch up with them for a quick interview before they took off!
Where are you from and how did you end up at Chicakamauga and Chattanooga?
John: We are originally from southern Indiana and started volunteering about 6 years ago. This is our third time coming here. We were here once in 2012, and 2013. And now we’re here. This is one of our favorite parks. We like the rangers here. They treat us very nice. We’ve traveled all over the country. We like what we do.
What got you into volunteering for the National Park Service?
John: We have always planned on full time RVing when we retired. And an old friend of mine at the National Forest in Indiana talked to me about volunteering, and from there we went to the National Parks. We have been with the Fish and Wildlife Service, and next year we will be doing the Bureau of Land Management also.
What are some of the best parts about volunteering?
Teresa: It’s the people we work with. We have a very high regard for the rangers. They are very dedicated to what they do. Both of us have had numerous jobs in our lifetime, and we have never met anyone more dedicated.
Do you have a favorite story from your time volunteering here?
Teresa: Well we do but we can’t put it on here. It involves profanity.
Well, do you have a memory that you can share?
Teresa: Well I have liked every place that we have gone. You get to see a lot of history. You get to feel it I think more than the normal visitor because we stay on property the three months we are volunteering. We have access to some things the general public doesn’t. And we get to walk around and see things from a different perspective than you would see during the day.
Do you have any advice for the next generation of park volunteers? Is there is anything you would tell them?
Teresa: Well some of the places that we go to, the volunteers are getting the attitude that the park is there for them. Which is not true. They are there for the park. I think they should be willing to do what the park wants them to do or what the park needs them to do, more so than what can I get out of it.
Where are you headed next?
Teresa: We are going to take some time off for ourselves. And then in September we are going to be at the Anderson Prison Area (Andersonville National Historic Site) in Southern Georgia.
Alright, thank you guys. Oh also, you just reached a distinction for service hours, can you remind me what that was again?
John: We just reached 4000 hours volunteering with the Department of the Interior. We earned quite a bit of that here serving at this park. It’s the Presidential Award. Since we started volunteering it’s kind of been a goal to reach that. It feels very good, and we are happy that it happened here.
The Walthers on the steps of the Visitor Center.
The Walthers crash pad at the volunteer campsite at Chickamauga Battlefield.
Saying goodbye at a farewell dinner for John and Teresa!
To the waters & the wild!