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Hello all! My name is Sarah Lechich and I am a second year SCA and AmeriCorps Centennial Volunteer Ambassador serving at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. After serving my first term at Grand Canyon National Park, I decided that I was ready for a new challenge, a new experience, a new park, and another set of amazing people that I am glad to call my volunteers. Last year was a once in a lifetime experience and the same can be said about my current position. With being at a much larger volunteer program last year, my focus was mostly on assisting with short term volunteer efforts. This year, being at a smaller and ever so wonderful historical park with a smaller volunteer program, I have the opportunity and ability to focus on helping with the entire program. I chose to be a CVA for a second term because I come to work each day energized and reminded daily that our volunteers are donating their time and effort towards sharing the story of the Missions and the National Park Service. It is magical to see that when individual volunteer efforts are combined into a unified group effort it can create something intangibly beautiful.

I thought it might be fun to bottle that beauty into something more tangible so to speak and share it with you all by asking a handful of our long term volunteers why they volunteer at San Antonio Missions and also why do they stay. I wanted to write this because I explained to my volunteers they are the reason I’m in this position and they are the reason I stay and in return I wanted to know why they are here to stay. I feel that sharing these stories is a way of igniting or reigniting that spark we all have inside of us to do something good and volunteer for an effort that we truly believe in because we never know where that spark may lead us in the future. So, get ready! Drum roll please! You are about to meet five of the reasons that I’m in this to stay. Enjoy!

Allow me to first introduce you to Meara Kelly by sharing her response to why she volunteers and why she stays as a volunteer at San Antonio Missions NHP.

My name is Meara Kelly and I have been volunteering at Mission San Jose for about four years. I originally was looking to volunteer for the National Park Service because of my love for history and our National Parks. In addition, I had just moved to San Antonio and I was looking for ways to familiarize myself with Texas history. This is when The San Antonio Missions presented themselves.

I had never visited the Missions and did not know their history. As a result, I was a little overwhelmed at first when I began drafting my tour. I was given books that opened my eyes to what the story of the Mission entailed. Now, four years later, I am still learning more and more about this very special place. However, I do not just consider it merely Texas history anymore, I feel much more connected to the story as, each time I step through the gates, I can imagine what life would have looked like when it was an active Mission.

I love bringing the Mission’s story to life for our visitors; guiding them to understand what this place is all about, helping them gain an appreciation of the unique history and connecting them to the people who were here is so many years ago. I hope they can imagine what life was like at Mission San Jose in the 1700s. This is why I volunteer.

Next up, I would like to share with you a tiny tidbit about Ed and Darla Piner by sharing what they wrote.

Darla and I have volunteering at Mission Espada since 2007. Prior to that we volunteered at Big Bend National Park. The reason that we volunteer is to give back some of the enjoyment that we have experienced at National Parks.

The reason that we continue to volunteer is that we enjoy meeting interesting visitors and their appreciation of the missions and the history that we can impart to them.

Now, I would like you all to say hello to Misael Orozco and listen up as he tells us why he volunteers here at the Missions and also why he stays.

Name: Misael Orozco Site: San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo

I have been volunteering at the San Antonio Missions for about four years if I remember correctly. During this time I have been primarily on the San Jose Site, but I have also done Mission Espada once and Mission San Juan for Farm Day. Four times I have represented the park during San Antonio Founders’ day at the ground of the Alamo.

Volunteering at the missions is one of the highlights of my week. I love this place, and somehow I feel connected. I like to think of myself as an expert on early modern Mexico, early Texas, and the Spanish colonial presence in the United States. All of which intercept here in San Antonio. I also specialize on the obscure history and folklore of Mexico and South Texas, and love to tell people about it.

With that said, what I do love the most about volunteering at the Missions, is the fact that I get to tell people that there is more to Texas history than March of 1836.

Lastly, for now, I am excited to introduce you to George Dawson.

George M. Dawson

Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuñya

4,200 hours over sixteen years

In 1999 I went to England to visit my brother on his 65th birthday. At the Cathedral in the town of Ely I had the best tour of my life. The guide had a good time. We had a good time. It was fun, interesting. The information was new to me. I thought, “I would like to do something like that”. A year later there was an article in the San Antonio paper about volunteering at the missions.

Why do I keep volunteering? The missions in Texas have a unique and marvelous story that visitors have never heard before – unlike the Alamo. The visitors are a great audience… in a good mood…with family and friends…relaxed… wanting to learn. There is also the opportunity to do independent research… to dig deep into subjects that interest me.

Concepcion is a beautiful and peaceful place. My shift at the mission leaves me happy…refreshes me… my mind energized…grateful.

Now that you have met five of the reasons that I stay, you might be asking, what made her select these volunteers among the rest?

I asked this handful of volunteers to help me with sharing their stories because just as each of our Missions are unique and have their specific stories the same is true for all of our volunteers and their stories really spoke to me as an individual and I hope that they do the same for all of you. I am thankful that they were willing to share why they chose to volunteer and more importantly why they continue to make the decision to stay on as a volunteer. As long as one individual volunteer makes the effort and decision to stay, I will make the decision to do the same. Thank you for all of your attentive eyes and engaged minds! Until next time!

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Mission San Jose – Find Your Park & Volunteer!