The National Aquarium truly values every volunteer who lends us his/her time, and some volunteers go far above and beyond what we could ever ask of them. In fact, we begin to wonder, how would we get by without them?!
Chuck Erbe is one such volunteer. Chuck was no stranger to animal rescues when he first came to our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) several years ago; he volunteered in Delaware with the Marine Education, Research, and Rehabilitation Institute and actually assisted MARP with rescues and releases even before he came to be part of our program. He was drawn to the compassion of the MARP staff and the contributions they made to the stranding network, and when he pursued the opportunity to become involved in MARP we knew he would be a perfect fit!
Chuck’s contagious passion for healthy oceans has helped make dozens of MARP outreach events successful, and he has the rare ability to get through to people and really make an impact. He mentions “participating in the educational outreach workshops and seeing the enthusiasm of the young children as we talk to them” as a source of inspiration to continue his volunteer work. Chuck is generous with more than just his time, and he is always donating to our cause – take, for instance, the larger-than-life sea turtle model that he decided our MARP outreach display simply could not do without!
When its rescue time and marine animal lives are on the line, Chuck never hesitates to lend a helping hand – when a stranded animal needs to be transported to the Aquarium, he finds a way to be there. And you can bet he is there when all the hard work comes together for a successful release! When asked about a favorite MARP moment, Chuck replied, “Each time we are able to rehabilitate and release an animal, it brings joy to my heart.” Naturally, he was unable to really nail down a favorite animal experience, but he was proud to have been an integral part of the rescues of both of the MARP animals released in 2009, a seal named Hamilton, and Flight and Release, a loggerhead sea turtle.
The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) works closely with MARP, so it was only a matter of time before ACT! realized that they too could benefit from Chuck’s passion for the environment. ACT! recruited him as a boat captain, and there are numerous restoration planting projects that could not have been completed without Captain Chuck cheerfully running people and supplies to some of our island sites.
We asked Chuck why he keeps coming back for more – “Easy answer,” he replied, “The really great people I get to meet and associate with. They are just fantastic, caring, compassionate individuals both from MARP and ACT! I am thrilled to be able to work along side them…There is nothing I’d rather be doing than volunteering with others to help our environment.” Clearly, he does not realize that we are the ones lucky to have him.
Chuck is truly an inspiration, so as a closing we asked him to provide a bit of advice to help encourage folks who might be considering volunteering in the future:
Do you want to feel great about yourself? Do you want to help make a difference? Do you want to spend time around great people? Do you want to challenge our younger people to participate in conservation? If you do, then please become a volunteer. It is something that you will be glad you did, and our animals and the environment will benefit from your experiences.