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It Started on the Bus

Volunteer - Lee Ball

Lee Ball welcoming visitors to VHS's 2011 Open House

April is National Volunteer Month.  To mark the occasion, we are sharing posts by some of the Virginia Historical Society’s dedicated Volunteer Guild.  This week we hear from Lee Ball who has shared his time and talents with the Advancement Division at the VHS since July 2011. 

It started on the bus. The VHS “See you on the Bus,” that is.  I’ll explain.

After retiring from NASA in 2005, I moved to Richmond and soon became a VHS member.  One of the things I enjoy is travel to places near and far, so I signed up for a VHS bus trip.  I had a great time.  Many more bus trips followed, allowing me to get to know some of the VHS staffers, including one of my all-time favorite people, Kelly Winters.  When Kelly left last year, I called her colleague, Cynthia Moore, and asked if I could help with anything.  I didn’t need something else to do but thought VHS might need an extra hand for a couple of weeks or so until Kelly’s position was filled.

The VHS Family Day Open House was coming up soon, and Cynthia said she could use some help.  I filled giveaway “goodie” bags, printed handouts, arranged books for the used book sale, and on Open House day greeted visitors at the Boulevard entrance, many of whom told me it was their first time at VHS.  I enjoyed helping, and when Pam Seay, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, asked if I’d like to become a volunteer in her division, I said yes.

The Advancement Division is responsible for fundraising and public relations, two areas that are (unfortunately for them) outside my prior experience, so my help is at the administrative margins.  I’ve worked on several projects, some taking a few hours while others have required several weeks to complete.  I’ve tried to make tasks a little less labor intensive by using spreadsheet formulas and other methods to automate routine steps. I’ve updated a “region list” that divides Virginia into sections so that members can be properly assigned to common geographic areas.  Among other things, this involved determining the three-digit zip code prefix for all the U.S. Postal Service city designations in Virginia, combining areas to define the regions, and creating a color-coded map.  I’ve also prepared graphs of VHS attendance over recent years, used multiple regression to analyze attendance variables, and developed Gantt charts to monitor an upcoming project.  I’m now preparing a contact list for Virginia colleges and universities as a potential vehicle for reaching alumni of these institutions.

The folks I work with are professional, supportive of one another, fun to be with, and clearly appreciative of the help I provide.  (If there are grumpy people anywhere at VHS, I haven’t found them yet.)  I’ve been associated with many organizations, but VHS is different.  It seems to have found an intangible “special sauce” that makes members feel like a family, which doubtless facilitates its mission of linking the past to the present.  I’m glad to be a small part of it.

Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff. The Virginia Historical Society encourages discussion; however, we reserve the right to remove posts that are offensive, threatening, or insulting.

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