Krystyna Karr - Conner Prairie Volunteer
In past years, Jane Hetrick, a former Conner Prairie employee, encouraged me to consider volunteering
, telling me that with my interests, it would be a good match. She knew how important service is to me and how volunteering has been a critical component in my life. With a background in education and a history of working with families and children, the opportunities available were appealing, and as I could be selective of the events and the positions, it would provide flexibility and avoid over scheduling.
When my schedule opened a little over a year ago, I completed the process; getting started was easy, one application, a background check, and orientation. Arlene and Jody at Conner Prairie made the process seamless, and when that first volunteer flier arrived, it was Headless Horseman
sign-up time. Taking advantage of the descriptions listed, I signed up for a few different positions so I could get some variety. After that event, I realized what Jane had been telling me.
It was a wonderful experience from that first day. I was blessed to meet people who had been volunteering for years, and they welcomed me openly. The staff provided clear instruction, and while they were “old pros” at what to expect, they, too, respected my newness. The children’s anticipation of the hayrides, families bouncing at the gates, and the stories circulating of what to expect resonated. After that, signing up was not a question but more of, “How can I help?” As long as my work and personal schedule allowed, I decided to give as much time as I could. I have been fortunate to assist with special events (Follow the North Star
, Headless Horseman, Civil War Days
, Symphony on the Prairie, Country Fair
, Conner Prairie by Candlelight
) other ongoing positions (school groups, new member orientation, free days, opening of Civil War Journey Raid on Indiana
), and, of course, the Conner Prairie Store
To say that I enjoyed one over another would be a lie, but I am not a believer in small roles. Each one has unique qualities, and the guests that choose to come to the different events make it worthwhile. Interacting with guests is more than just part of what I expected to do. Hearing how far they have travelled, learning about their lives, and sharing in their experience on the grounds/at the event, only make me want to help provide them the best time possible. And the more time I spend on the grounds, the easier it is to serve. The attention to detail in historical accuracy, the passion and knowledge of the staff, and the opportunities for the guests continue to impress me.
I mean it when I tell people that CP is a labor of love, and I seldom have met a staff person who acts as if this is just a job. I am ashamed to say I think I get more out of Conner Prairie than it gets from me! While other volunteer opportunities have crossed my path, I know where I will continue to serve. Conner Prairie can have my time and service as long as they want it.