Volunteerism – Time Well Spent to Help Manatees

Manatee mascot and two student volunteer escorts at the Manatee Observation and Education Center stop for a photo opp with Kathleen Phillips (far right) and Club volunteer Judi McCauley (far left) during NatureFest '09 in Fort Pierce, Florida. Save the Manatee Club volunteers staffed a manatee information table at the full-day festival, which had nearly 2000 visitors.

By Janice Nearing
Director of Public Relations, Save the Manatee Club

For more than a decade, Kathleen and Larry Phillips conversed with boaters at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, participated in a manatee workshop at Homosassa Springs, attended a packed public hearing in Palm Beach County, stamped inky manatee shapes on the hands of giggling children, and answered countless manatee questions from the curious and the caring at environmental festivals and community events around South Florida.

Joining the Club’s Volunteer Team back in 1999, they had a strong interest in community involvement, along with an earnest desire to educate the public about manatees and the struggles they face, and they worked together until Larry passed away in 2016.

Kathleen Phillips
"Who wants a manatee?" Kathleen Phillips stamps many a child's hand, or wrist, with popular manatee designs at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center's annual Sea Turtle Day event in Boca Raton, Florida.

"We felt volunteering was very important," says Kathleen. "Many hands helping lessens the load and accomplishes more. We are supposed to be good stewards and caretakers of this world and its creatures, so we should do whatever we can to help the ones in need."

The attraction to Florida’s amiable marine mammals happened years ago when Kathleen and Larry moved to Florida as teenagers, before they met each other. Larry was born in West Virginia; Kathleen in Philadelphia, although she grew up in New Jersey. Both had never seen a manatee before moving to the Sunshine State, and they knew nothing about them. Once they saw manatees, they were immediately drawn to their gentleness and uniqueness.

The Phillips adopted Robin from the Club’s Blue Spring State Park adoption program in the late ‘90s. “I don’t remember what caught our attention about Robin,” says Kathleen. “But the adoption was a Valentine’s gift to Larry. I wanted a gift that would make a difference in the world.”

Kathleen remains a dedicated Save the Manatee Club volunteer, and these days, you’ll often find her staffing a manatee education table for the Club at various events in their area, including NatureFest at the Manatee Observation and Education Center and Sea Turtle Day at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

Like all of Save the Manatee Club’s invaluable volunteers, Kathleen Phillips sees volunteering as a way of giving something back. "It’s being a giver versus a taker," remarks Kathleen. "Larry and I had read President Obama’s letter to his daughters encouraging them to 'hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself.' That has been our philosophy for a long time."

Kathleen Phillips assists a youngster with manatee goodies.
Kathleen Phillips has a strong interest in community involvement, along with an earnest desire to educate the public about manatees and the struggles they face.


Sign Up to Volunteer!
You can help manatees by becoming a Save the Manatee Club volunteer. SMC volunteers staff tables at manatee-related events, engage in speaking presentations, help out in the SMC offices, write letters and send e-mails on issues of concern to manatees, and report information to manatee researchers. YOU can make a difference for manatees!

Interested? Get a description of volunteer positions and fill out our online volunteer application form.



  Robin is the manatee who was adopted by Kathleen and Larry Phillips. Robin is a male and visits Blue Spring State Park in the winter. He was born to Wonder Woman in April of 1980. Robin is one of the few manatees who has a recorded birth date because Wonder Woman was being monitored by researchers at the time he was born.


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