In August of 2013, Jamie found a Groupon for the Center online and came to visit. She tells us that two factors that day guaranteed she would be a volunteer: (1) Kim Barker, the volunteer staffer who led her tour that day, and (2) Tonka Tiger, who introduced himself (likely with grumbles!) at the end of the tour.
“Kim told the background and story of each animal we visited with such detail and personality that we didn’t leave just remembering that we saw tigers, lions, or binturongs; we left remembering stories,” Jamie says.
That tour — despite the fact that it rained lightly the whole time — was nothing short of life-changing for Jamie. She was excited to know that a place like the Center existed; the fact that she lived two hours away from the Center did not deter her from applying to volunteer because, according to Jaime, “I was already in love, particularly with a handsome tiger named Tonka.”
But just because she fell in love with a tiger doesn’t mean she’s biased towards them!
Jaime admits, “I don’t think I could possibly identify an absolute favorite [species]. Initially I would have said tigers, because Tonka stole my heart and he was a tiger, so there was no contest. But after he passed away [of old age], I tried the process of ‘letting the animal choose me’ and Matthai Lion decided I was going to become familiar with the part of the park I refer to as ‘lion country.'” Jaime calls herself “a citizen of lion country” now, especially since she later adopted Matthai’s mother, Kiara, as well!
As a volunteer, Jaime enjoys working most at our annual events, like Pumpkin Prowl and Tree Toss. She usually works registration, so she tries to get to know the guests who visit the Center.
“It’s nice to speak with people as they are arriving and finding out if they have visited before, if they have a favorite animal, who they are most looking forward to see that day, etc. It’s like showing off your children to other parents or something,” Jaime says.
Her favorite project, however, has been sorting through photo files with our Communications Coordinator, Kathy Patterson. It has allowed her, she tells us, to see pictures of all the Center’s animal residents past and present — including Matthai and Kiara. To her, it feels like a special privilege.
“I cannot imagine a time that would not include volunteering at the Center; no matter how much I may give, it could never equal what I receive from being a part of this amazing place.”
Thank you, Jaime, for being a part of our volunteer family, and for your heartfelt words.