Centennial Volunteer Ambassador for Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park
It’s January 23rd and the community service world is still riding off of that MLK Jr Day high. Here in Richmond, California, the day was indeed a triumph – it didn’t rain! I planned a modest event at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center in affiliation with a larger event on the Richmond Greenway.
It was interesting to be involved with two events in one day. We ended up doing it this way because my supervisor wanted me to gain the experience of planning and carrying out my own event and we still wanted to support the Greenway project. This was the first work day I’ve organized at any of my parks and I have to give props to my supervisor who encouraged me to persist with my idea even when I met opposition at various phases of implementation.
The horticulturalist for our four parks was able, at the last minute, to attend! He certainly helped the event run more smoothly than I would have on my own. This event was a great learning experience for me, and it was wonderful to have Keith there to provide a sense of security – that no matter what our event would go well. Now I know I should have never been nervous because, of course, volunteers are fundamentally good people that want you to succeed! It makes me see these types of projects differently when I realize that everyone there is on my team: instead of waiting for me to fail, they’re eager to lift me up. Neat!
At Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center we had eight volunteers show up – and everyone filled out there 301as! After a brief safety talk and welcome to the site we got started right away clearing out the old plants from the garden beds.
We talked about how the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s (where we know Dr. Martin Luther King Jr from) was precipitated by huge migrations of African Americans out of the south in the 1940s and a new mixing of races across the country that was necessitated by the American Home Front’s mobilization to win WWII. The social changes that we remember as a sort of “Golden Era” of progress towards equality can be traced directly to WWII, making Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front NHP a great place to give back on MLK Jr Day!
After we got all our plants in the mulch, the rosemary trimmed, the sidewalks swept, and gave a big THANK YOU, we were done at the Visitor Center. I then packed up the van and headed down to the Richmond Greenway to join two of our Park Rangers where they were tabling.
The Richmond Greenway is a “rails to trails” type of park that stretches some 40 blocks through Richmond and clearly, based on the thoughtful playscapes and love-soaked graffiti, holds a special place in the heart of the city.
Richmond, California is a very cool town. I know it’s largely due to the nature of my internship but I’ve never lived in a city that has such a vibrant, locally-sourced community service element. One of the nonprofits with deep roots here is Groundwork Richmond, a part of the national Groundwork organization that focuses on bringing natural spaces to urban areas. Groundwork Richmond is one of the partner organizations of our four parks. Our relationship is so close that their new Deputy Director is none other than our former Education Technician!
This person is refers to MLK Jr Day as “Richmond’s Finest Day” and I now know what he means. Many partner organizations had gathered with over 50 volunteers on the Richmond Greenway. Volunteers came out in great numbers to pull weeds, plant redwoods, and cultivate community together.
I might be wrong about this, but I think across America, the National Park Service is seen as kind of the “leader” in volunteer service and tends to run its own events. In Richmond, CA it’s a little different. There are so many strong, deeply entrenched non-profits here and, as at any park, our staff is stretched incredibly thin. These factors combined with the fact that we don’t actually own any of the land that our Park is located on means that we rely heavily on our partners, especially in the outreach arena.
It was really neat to be part of the NPS presence at this event with Rangers Stephanie and Jess. One special aspect was watching young kids look up at them with eyes as big as saucers full of admiration and fear for their hats and badges until inevitably, they would realize that Stephanie and Jess were just people, albeit genuine and kind people with cool outfits. Dispelling fear of the federal government one Jr Ranger at a time!
Around noon we all gathered in a huge circle and the many partner organizations were recognized. My favorite part was when the M.C. had us all turn to our left and introduce ourselves to the person standing next to us. There were people there ages 1-85, of every color and creed, leaders from Richmond’s government, Americorp volunteers, sorority sisters, and unaffiliated, passionate locals. As the M.C. pointed out, MLK Jr Day is, yes, a Day ON dedicated to one of Dr. King’s priorities of community service, but what he would have really been excited to see was the love and teamwork that was felt that day between everyone there. After a moment of silence we had some delicious hot soup provided by volunteers for volunteers and packed up in order to beat the rain.
I can easily say that this was the best Martin Luther King Jr Day I’ve ever experienced. I got to plan and execute my own small VIP event, and help enable an NPS presence at the Richmond Greenway which is an important thread in the fabric of this engaged and inclusive community.
Next year I want to combine these events even more so. Have volunteers who sign up with us wear matching t-shirts and carpool to the Greenway event so that we send a clear message to Richmond that we are here to work with them and beside them every step of the way to help Richmond continue to be the special place that it is.
Three cheers for NPS Urban!
Allison Joyce (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Centennial Volunteer Ambassador
- Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site
- John Muir National Historic Site
- Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
- Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park