Manatee Season is here, and we could use your help to educate others! Come volunteer with us as we set up education booths across the state at a variety of festivals and fairs. If you’re passionate about manatees and have some time to spare, fill out our Online Volunteer Application (see link on this page).
We Need Volunteers!
You can help Save the Manatee Club by becoming a 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!
If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out our Online Volunteer Application.
For those wishing to inquire about earning community service hours at the Club’s office in Maitland, Florida, please do not fill out the Online Volunteer Application form. For eligibility and availability, contact Diana Ngai, the Club’s Volunteer Activities Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 407-539-0990.
A former English teacher, Mary Bourassa first became involved with manatees when she helped form an environmental club called “Green Lions” at King High School in Tampa and entered a Save the Manatee Club contest. “Our students decided to write a skit of a manatee trying to avoid a speeding boat and stage it for a third-grade class,” said Mary. “The object was to teach the children how dangerous speeding boaters can be for defenseless manatees in Florida’s waterways.” After the skit, the students encouraged the children to enter an art contest and judged the drawings. The manatee art was displayed and awarded prizes at Tampa’s Earth Day. The Green Lions won first place for this project and were awarded a trophy.
The Green Lions adopted Ariel the manatee and became members of Save the Manatee Club. Though Mary retired from teaching in 2002 after 30 years, she has adopted Ariel every year since that time. Retirement gave Mary time to become an active member of the Club, and it’s now been 16 years since she started volunteering to help educate the public at festivals and events and give presentations at schools and summer camps.
Though she was born in Evanston, Illinois, Mary considers herself a “naturalized Southerner” after 64 years of living in Florida, and she’s a passionate volunteer, “Volunteering helps me fulfill my inherent calling to teach,” said Mary. “I find the education booths and the classrooms where I make presentations ideal places to pass on the knowledge I’ve gained about the plight of the manatee and importance of preserving this majestic, gentle animal. Children I meet are especially eager to learn about manatees, and this makes my role very fulfilling. I find their interest and enthusiasm thrilling.”
In addition, Mary’s husband Omar is her constant companion at festivals and events. “He has picked up a lot of knowledge of the manatee, loves them, and when necessary has taken over at the booths,” says Mary. “He is vitally important in my ongoing volunteer commitment to Save the Manatee Club.”
When she isn’t volunteering for SMC, Mary is an avid reader of nonfiction and mystery. She’s loves to knit and donates her work for cancer patients and the homeless. She also works at Temple Terrace’s Book Nook and delivers for Meals on Wheels. “I call myself an environmentalist, an optimist, an antique lover, a thrift shop devotee, and a lover of reusing and repurposing and, when these are not possible, then recycling,” she said. An avid traveler, Mary also collects words and aphorisms and writes journal entries and stories. Her favorite ice cream is butter pecan. “I could go on,” said Mary, “but leaving my portrait with ice cream is so delicious.”
Melissa and Mike Fishman from Rockledge in Brevard County, Florida wear their volunteer T-shirts and caps whenever they table at events for Save the Manatee Club. Join our volunteer team and earn points through the Volunteer Rewards Program to get your free shirt and cap.
Earn It, Pin It, Show It!
Save the Manatee Club presents a variety of service pins to further recognize and honor the efforts and importance of our loyal volunteer/members. The special, customized pins are earned by registered volunteers who staff education tables for the Club at events, help out in our Maitland office, or give manatee presentations for the Club at local schools, libraries, etc. Wear the pins on the Club’s lanyard which holds the volunteer name tag, or on the Club’s volunteer cap or t-shirt.
See the Pins
The Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program
Now in its third season, the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program is a collaboration between Blue Spring State Park, Save the Manatee Club, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sea to Shore Alliance, and Volusia County Environmental Management. The program runs during the summer months from April to November when the park is open for swimming, tubing, snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving and sees large numbers of visitors.
While historically only a few manatees would visit the spring during the summer months, the past couple of years have seen an increase in manatee usage of the spring, resulting in the need to have volunteers assist the park to prevent harassment of manatees during that time.
“I feel like we’re making a difference,” says volunteer Shari Dworkin-Smith, who joined the program this season with her husband Rob. “Not only can we make this a safer place for manatees, but we also get to educate a lot of visitors about proper manatee behavior and answer a lot of questions.”
Elementary school teacher Melissa Landreville agrees. “I educate kids in the classroom on a daily basis, so coming out here was just a natural next step,” she says.
Volunteers attend a mandatory orientation session in early spring to become familiar with proper behavior around manatees, learn manatee basics, and participate in a kayak training session by Debbie Wingfield, who represents Volusia County in the program. Volunteers are then usually scheduled for either morning or afternoon shifts with one volunteer on the kayak and one on the boardwalk. “Park visitors are always thrilled to hear there are manatees in the spring run,” says Monica Ross, who represents Sea to Shore Alliance in the program, “and with the education and guidance from our volunteers on how to pass by the animals without disturbance, visitors have the chance of a lifetime with manatees in the safe haven of Blue Spring.”
What started as a loosely-organized handful of volunteers has now grown into a group of over 40 volunteers who come from all walks of life. Students, full-time working adults, and retirees are among them. “We are extremely grateful to have such a large number of volunteers,” says Cora Berchem, who represents Save the Manatee Club in the program and schedules the volunteers on a weekly basis. “Our volunteers have put in over 850 hours this summer, which is amazing.”
This summer not only saw the birth of manatee Annie’s fourth calf, but two recently-released manatees learning how to adjust to life in the wild also frequented the park almost daily. In addition, many mother manatees brought in their young to show them the spring, making a volunteer presence ever more important.
“Blue Spring State Park is a very popular place with visitors during the summer months,” says Park Manager Michael Watkins. “We have over 200,000 visitors that come and enjoy the water activities here in the summer time and to have strong support from this great volunteer group is a tremendous help. On behalf of all the park staff, we are very thankful for their dedication and love the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program.”
If you are interested in joining the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program, you can sign up with one of the participating agencies and attend an orientation session next spring. To join with Save the Manatee Club, please email Cora Berchem at email@example.com