WEES (Waskasoo Environmental Eduction Society) operates the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Allen Bungalow, Historic Fort Normandeau, the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, and is responsible for natural and cultural history interpretation throughout the entire Waskasoo Park system. WEES is a nonprofit charitable society governed by a volunteer board and managed by a professional staff of interpreters, educators and administrators. The Nature Centre and Fort offer an extensive program of natural and human history interpretation, environmental education, major special events, school, youth group and public programs, sleep-overs, day camps, Red Deer’s first natural playspace/outdoor classroom, and outdoor music garden.
WEES is a continuation of the former Normandeau Cultural and Natural History Society, originally incorporated on March 10, 1989, which had grown out of the Red Deer’s Museums Management Board. Incorporated on January 1, 2008, WEES operates the facilities and the rest of the Waskasoo Park Interpretive Program (WPIP) under terms of an agreement with The City of Red Deer, originally dated January 1, 2008.
We see approximately 80,000 patrons a year at our facilities. We have approximately 250,000 people who walk our trails annually.
WEES is mostly operated by volunteer staff. We have the equivalent of 15 full-time paid staff positions per year between full-time, part-time, contract and seasonal employees. We rely on 100 volunteers per year to help with the rest. Overall, we estimate that over 2500 hours are contributed by our 100 volunteers annually.
Integral parts of our service offerings are run by volunteers. Our nature store, front desk, and public events are all run by our volunteers. When the general public visit the centre, they often do not know the difference between the staff and the volunteers.
Our volunteers are an essential part of our team. We work together to carry out our mission. Many of our volunteers have been with the organization for 20+ years and have extensive knowledge and experience. In particular, our nature store and front desk volunteers are interacting with the public, answering questions and sharing information. They also bring a special energy to our organization due to the personal passion they have for what we do.
Community Impact of WEES
The work we do cultivates community members that have developed their eco literacy. Our programing increases people’s understanding/appreciation of our local natural systems. These systems are responsible for our life on earth and rely on our stewardship. Those who have engaged with us are more likely to consider environmental impact when making personal lifestyle decisions.
Our work with Fort Normandeau also fosters an appreciation for our cultural heritage.
Typical volunteering roles offered by WEES:
Note: some of these activities have been suspended during the pandemic:
· Serving on boards and committees
· Assisting and promoting programs and special events
· Helping to operate the front counter (reception) and book shop
· Data entry/clerical work
· Assisting with setup & cleanup for events
· Dressing up as a soldier, rebel, or settler at Fort Normandeau Days
· Face painting
· Hauling seed in from the shed into the Centre
· Assisting with building maintenance
· Working in the wildflower or heritage gardens
· Building bird houses, bird feeders and bat houses for the bookstore
· Making costumes for the Fort and Nature Centre
· Inventory and cleaning in the bookstore
· Assisting with the setup of tipis and festival tents
· Planting trees
· Collecting garbage
· Changing garbage bags on trails
· Invasive species management and maintenance in the Sanctuary
· Caring for aquarium and terrarium
Volunteer Recruitment Made Easy
WEES found it difficult to target the appropriate people that will make a great fit for the volunteering roles. As a partner of Volunteer Central, we have helped to alleviate this with recruiting through our easy-to-use volunteer opportunity submission form. WEES has found approximately 1-2 new volunteers a month through using our website. The process is quick and simple, and makes volunteer recruitment much more efficient on top of the day-to-day life of volunteer management. “All we have to do is post an ad on the site, and watch the emails come in!”
WEES finds value in Volunteer Central’s educational opportunities, and the opportunities Volunteer Central provides for partner organizations to recognize volunteers. Community recognition is integral to creating community pride and spirit.