BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Zoo needs a few good volunteers.  This weekend, it hosted an open house to try to  lure them in.

As Gigi Barnett explains, the zoo is looking for helpers of all ages.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is a 24-hour operation.  Behind the scenes is an army of volunteers.  This weekend, hundreds of people flocked to the zoo, looking to help in every area.

“I’m a gardener, so I’m going to volunteer for the horticulture department,” said one open house attendee.

While there’s no cash for volunteers, there are benefits.

“There are lectures and field trips, and we have a huge volunteer appreciation party that’s really fun,” said Director of Volunteer Programs Kerrie Kovaleski. “We try to make it as valuable as possible.”

Sheryl Smith and Ryan Kerns know the value of volunteers.  Ryan is a weekend warrior; Sheryl does clerical work throughout the week.  Both say the payoff is big because they’re working for the visitors.

“I love it here. The people here are great, and it’s really refreshing to see the guests, their reactions to some of the things we tell them between education and events,” Kerns said.

Kovaleski says much of the work has nothing to do with the animals.  The zoo is looking for teen volunteers between the ages of 14 and 17. Kovaleski says working here now can help build a career later.

“Our youth program actually will have its 30th anniversary in 2012, so we have a long history of people who have come up through this field and are now doing all sorts of interesting things,”  Kovaleski said.

Every year, the zoo’s volunteers work more than 30,000 hours in labor.  That saves the zoo a little more than $600,000 in salaries.

More than 200 people attended the open house to become volunteers. But they still need more.  If you’d like to become a zoo volunteer, call 443-552-5266.


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