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Makaing a Difference in Your Community : Enthusiasm Needed More Than Expertise


Janet Teal has always had an interest in museums. When she traveled with her family on vacations, she would see to it that they stopped at museums to absorb some knowledge.

Now, retired from the Burbank school district after 24 years as an elementary school secretary and office manager and with her two daughters grown, Teal has become one of those who helps dispense knowledge at the Burbank branch of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

"I probably never will be an expert," said Teal, who volunteers in the branch's Discovery Center, which includes hands-on exhibits about the natural sciences. "But I don't have to be an expert. I would call myself a conveyor of information."

Teal, a Burbank resident, has volunteered at the branch since it opened in May, 1993. "It helps me stay young," she said.

Volunteers at the branch are trained to answer questions about the branch's exhibits, which change four times a year. Teal has learned about bats and back-yard insects, as well as about "Treasures of the Tar Pits," the current exhibit on the finds at the La Brea Tar Pits.

When the branch first opened, the museum had about 100 apply to be volunteers--from all over the San Fernando Valley--but that number has gradually dwindled, said Mary Ann Dunn, the administrator and volunteer coordinator. "Some people lost their homes in the earthquake and they had to move," Dunn said.

Teal and the other volunteers share an interest in natural history and an enthusiasm for learning, Dunn said. Some have seemed to need little instruction about the museum.

"We've had some people who are retired teachers and did know a lot of it," Dunn said.

Volunteers are needed to work as tour guides, in the Discovery Center, the gift shop and at information tables. The volunteers range from junior high school students and single working people to senior citizens.

Those who want to volunteer should call Dunn at (818) 557-3553. The museum is at 555 N. Third St., Burbank, near the Media City Center shopping mall.

The Burbank Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is looking for volunteers 55 years or older to help answer phones, file and do some typing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays at the Family Service Agency, 2013 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. To volunteer, call Dee Call at (818) 953-9503.

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