What do you do?
Jeanne McElderry

Where do you work and what is your title?
       I volunteer at Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department to present a variety of nature programs. I coordinate the ‘Summer Fun at the Garden’ programs that include wildlife, geology, birds, insects and wildflowers of the park. In addition, I lead the Tuesday evening bat walks.
What do you do there and/or what are you responsible for?
       Ideas for program content are limitless, with the only stipulation being a relevance to the Garden of the Gods Park. Coordinating with other volunteers really is by invitation to share their passion with our participants, for no fee.
How long have you been doing this kind of work (total)? How long on the Westside?
       I have led and coordinated volunteer programs for decades, literally! I began as a Girl Scout leader in 1982, when my daughters were Scouts. Later, I was volunteer coordinator at St. Mary’s High School. Living at the south edge of the Garden Gods, I have volunteered at the Visitor Center as interpretive specialist, school tours guide and presenter of the Tuesday evening bat walk since 1995. This spring, I was offered the program specialist position, with the emphasis on nature program offerings.
What do you like best about it (other than quitting time)?
       What I like best about volunteering at the Garden of the Gods is the unique beauty of this natural wonder right on our own Westside. I never see it the same twice – either the vegetation has changed, or the sun and the sky look different; and the critters are always a surprise and our visitors are never disappointed.
If you could change one thing (other than pay), what would it be?
       I would most like to refute the falsehoods about bats that deter people from appreciating these nocturnal insectivores: Bats are not blind, they do not fly into your hair, they are not the most common carrier of rabies, and only three Latin American species actually feed on blood (none in North America). Rather, a bat can eat 15 pounds of bugs each night – a great asset to our outdoors!
What part of your work did your training/education never prepare you for?
       With my degree in sociology, my life experience was separated by marriage and motherhood from any occupation while I stayed home to raise our four kids. Then I mostly started volunteer positions which evolved into parallel job positions, so the social worker title never really happened, except as each volunteer encounter afforded opportunities.
What makes working on the Westside special?
       “Working” at Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, and sharing the park with our visitorsis, locals and tourists alike, is a special encounter with the nature of Colorado, right on our own Westside.

“What do you do?” is a regular feature in the Westside Pioneer. If you know someone who has an interesting job on the Westside (but doesn’t live here), he/she might be a candidate for this column! If you know someone who might qualify, give us a call at 471-6776.