Thirty years is a third of a long human life. It’s the length of a career or a mortgage loan. It’s also how long some of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s longest-serving volunteers have been giving their time to the organization.
RMEF has over 650 volunteers listed in our database that have been fundraising for the mission across two decades. It narrows down to under 200 if you look at volunteers that have been volunteering for 25 years or more. Go up to 30 years of volunteering and you reach an even more exclusive group. These dedicated individuals are still raising money, running local chapters and volunteering at a state and regional level today. Just ask volunteers like Al Sunday and Kurt Shepherd.
Pennsylvania volunteer Al Sunday joined RMEF in the late 1980’s when his friend filled out an information card for him at a Harrisburg Chapter banquet. When he got a call from the chapter chair, he showed up, and he’s been volunteering ever since. “I just enjoy doing it. It’s a great conservation organization,” he says. “I just appreciate what they do, and I’m glad to be part of it.”
Al has made friends over the years with the other members of his committee, and he points out that a few of them are also 30-plus-year volunteers. He advises newer volunteers, “If it’s a cause you’re really passionate about get involved. And don’t be afraid to come to a meeting and speak your mind, because we’re always looking for new ways of doing things.”
Kurt Shepherd is currently Utah state co-chair. Back in 1990, the Utah County Chapter was young and so was the foundation itself. Kurt joined after a buddy suggested they help the 6-year-old organization out by gathering donations for a local banquet. They brought in some donations and became involved from then on.
Shepherd says he’s continued to volunteer for as long as he has for two main reasons—the cause and the people. “I really believed in the mission and what it was all about,” he says. “One of the coolest things about it was the people that I met doing it— all like-minded. Some of my very best friends to this day are people that I met through the Elk Foundation.”
Shepherd joined before his daughter (now 30) and his son (now 23) were born, but he anticipated sharing RMEF volunteering with the children he hoped to have. He was a committee member for 10-12 years before becoming chapter chair. He started helping at special events around town hunting shows and elk camp. About seven years ago he became state chair. Volunteering has become a family activity, the people an extended family. His wife, son and daughter help him sell raffle tickets and set up for banquets.
His advice for volunteers getting started today is to “believe in the cause,” and “just keep pushing.” “If you believe in it you can make it work no problem,” he says.