Volunteerism – Time Well Spent to Help Manatees
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.
“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.”