Giving to Others Is Getting Back

By Sharon Hill

Whether it’s the Elizabeth City waterfront, The History Center in Morehead City, or The Ark in Elkin, there is one pervasive need - volunteers. Whether it’s Historic Brattonsville, the Friends of Florence Stockade venture or the Mint Hill Historical Park, these places have one thing in common - volunteers.

Not one of these groups could survive and thrive, bring to residents and area visitors opportunities to learn about the past, introduce folks to the arts, or lend a hand to those in need, without the help of volunteers. Many of the volunteers are retired, and a vast number are fifty plus years of age.

John Andrews, Hartsville city council member and a full-time social studies and geography teacher at Hartsville High School, is also vice chair of the Friends of the Florence Stockade and past president of the SC Genealogical Society. The Hartsville native revels in his avocations. “Genealogy is the crack cocaine of hobbies,” he said. “Folks who are enthusiasts plan their vacations around genealogy research trips to area libraries and cemeteries.”

Andrews’ other pet project is the Florence Stockade venture, a group effort begun over ten years ago to recreate the civil war prison site. Asked about his motivation for volunteering, Andrews explained, "I get to immerse myself in my love. I also get to give back.”

Rodney Kemp, Morehead City insurance agent and volunteer raconteur, offers a humorous look at local annals through his “Lunches with Rodney” every other Friday at The History Place.  His popular lectures, which chronicle the tales of local folks and feats of years gone by, usually draw a crowd of up to 150 .

Louise Rotchford, who relocated to Swansboro from New York, has been running the store at The History Place for over two years and also volunteers in a Meals-on-Wheels program.  The former Colonial Grocery Store now houses a 200-seat auditorium and a classroom that can be rented to groups.  “Volunteering is very rewarding,” she said.

Dot Amick, a Rock Hill native, helps recreate plantation life in the 1700s and 1800s as a volunteer for Historic Brattonsville in York County, SC.  The retired history teacher is convinced of the value of what she and the Brattonsville site offer. “Living history centers are a wonderful resource to use in teaching history,” she explained. “It’s like having a time capsule.”

Carolina volunteering is not just about preserving the old, however. Some folks, like John and Louise Lloyd stay busy welcoming newcomers. They are members of the unofficial Rose Buddies of Elizabeth City.  Started by friends Fred Fearing and the late Joe Kramer, these active self-appointed “welcome wagon” folks seek out visiting boat travelers, greeting them at the free-of-charge city dock with roses from Kramer’s garden and potato chips and beer donated by local distributors. When the roses are not blooming, boaters get cotton bolls, with little notes that tell them they are now “Cotton Pickin’ North Carolinians.”

“We’re part of the volunteer generation,” said Louise, who was a candy striper in high school and served as a volunteer during World War II. She also gives her time at the hospital and teaches reading and GED preparation at the town’s learning center.
Former Charlotte residents Faye Cunnup and physician husband Tony relocated to Elkin over five years ago. Cunnup helped raise funds for The Ark homeless shelter.  “I’m so appreciative that I’m able to give,” she said. “I’m sitting in a warm cozy house and it would be too selfish not to help others.”

Faye also volunteers as a Friend of the Library, helping to raise funds for education, speakers, books and other materials. A retired registered nurse, she works at the hospital gift shop and also knits caps for newborns and neonatal demise babies.
Sauni Wood, a retired educational and childhood development professional and long-time Davidson resident, serves as a storyteller in the community. Her commitment to its value is clear. “We all started out as storytellers,” she said. “There is such power in stories - to heal, to inspire, to teach and to delight.” Wood tells folk fairy tales to younger children and mystery and ghost stories to older students and adults. “As soon as you say the words ‘once upon a time,’ you’ve got their riveted attention.”

Whether it’s telling tales to kids, greeting newcomers, or helping others explore their own heritage, these volunteer efforts have a commonality.

“I feel so much better when I give it away,” said Faye Cunnup. “It always comes back.”

Sharon Hill writes from North Augusta, SC.