State parks capitalize on donated skills

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BRUNSWICK, Ga. --- Dick Godbout, a retired infantry sergeant, jokes that he wanted to stay in the military because he doesn't like to work.

But work he does and gets nothing for it but peace, quiet and satisfaction.

As a Georgia Historic Site ambassador, Mr. Godbout keeps up the grounds, cleans and does other maintenance work at Hofwyl-Broadfield State Historic Site while his wife, Karen, works in the visitors center.

Up the road at Fort Morris State Historic Site, Jim and Leslie Bunch perform similar duties at the former Revolutionary War earthern fort.

At Crooked River State Park, campground volunteers are building a two-rail fence along the bluff that plunges steeply into the river.

There was a time when volunteer work could be considered extra. But in the current state budget crunch, volunteers have become critical components of park operations. Without them important work wouldn't get done, officials said.

When Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered deep cuts last year, there were fears that some parks would be closed. Instead park officials cut staff and days of operation and began sharing volunteers among parks.

"We try to utilize any particular skills," said Bill Giles,the manager of Hofwyl-Broadfield. "We had a carpenter last year who built a shed. An electrician ran wiring for us."

Had that gone into the budget process, the work might not have been done because of the cost of labor.

"There's no telling how much it saves us," Mr. Giles said.

The infantry doesn't exactly prepare people for building trades, but Mr. Godbout runs equipment, clears leaves from the parking lot, pressure washes and, on a recent Wednesday, repaired a fence.

Asked how he and his wife found Hofwyl-Broadfield, Mr. Godbout said, "I was lying in bed watching football when she came in with a printout and said, 'Let's go here.' "

They get to camp free at the parks -- they've worked at Pine Mountain State Park near LaGrange three times -- and will leave Hofwyl-Broadfield in February.

"We're looking for a home now,'' Mrs. Godbout said of their next stop. Not that they relish leaving.

"I'm a history freak," she said. "You get attached."

The Bunches, both in their early 60s, have been camping and volunteering for about six years, with Georgia as just one stop.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To volunteer or to learn more call Lynn Barfield at (404) 656-6533 or consult the Web site at www.gastateparks.org.

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