Volunteers are at the core of the Balboa Park Conservancy’s public service mission, and many of our programs rely on incredible volunteer support. Last year, 65 volunteers welcomed and assisted nearly 516,000 visitors from around the world at the Conservancy-operated Visitors Center, logging 11,270 hours in 2017. That’s a total value of $320,737 in donated services to the Conservancy. Conservancy volunteers logged an additional 660 hours assisting at various parkwide events and Conservancy programs, including December Nights, Fiesta Botanica, Cinco de May, and special tours.

That may sound like a lot. (It is!) But the Conservancy is just getting started. In the coming months, we will begin increasing volunteer opportunities and our reach throughout the park as a national Points of Light Service Enterprise, a program that provides resources to ensure its members follow volunteer management best practices.

We are proud of and extremely grateful for our vibrant corps of trained volunteers who orient and inform park visitors, provide customer service, direct crowds at major events, give tours, and create a welcoming atmosphere throughout the park. And therein lies the true value our volunteers provide. They serve as ambassadors to not only one of the largest urban parks in the world, but to the City of San Diego as a whole.

“Many of our volunteers are retired professionals, and they bring that level of professionalism wrapped in a smile of goodwill to every shift, whether they are telling a visitor where to find a restroom or leading a private tour of the park,” said Visitors Center Director Suzanne Tawil-Betlach.

As we do every year to show our deep appreciation, the Balboa Park Conservancy held a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on April 18 during National Volunteer Appreciation Week. The dinner was held at The Abbey on Fifth Avenue, an iconic building steeped in San Diego history. Conservancy Board Member Joyce Gattas and President and CEO Tomás Herrera-Mishler were among the 100 guests to personally thank the Conservancy volunteers for making the park experience a pleasant one for all visitors.

The year 2017 was a particularly remarkable year for the annual Milestone Awards, as two dozen volunteers were acknowledged for completing 175, 360, 650, and 850 total hours of service, including nine who reached the 850-hour tier! Several volunteers also received special awards for completing 5 and 10 years of service, while nine hit the 15 years of service mark. In addition to reaching 850 hours this year, Joyce Bell, who was profiled previously in this space, won the award for most hours in 2017, with 541 hours, averaging 10 hours per week!