A New Way to Volunteer: Hit the Beach as a Shell Ambassador
It isn’t exactly a uniform, but the bright blue shirts and hats with yellow lettering identify the newest category of volunteers for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum: Shell Ambassadors. When volunteers wear their Ambassador apparel to the beach, they’ll not only be enjoying the surf, sun, and shells, they’ll also be available to answer questions and identify shells.
Shell Museum volunteer Claire Beckmann invented the idea of putting specially designed shirts on volunteers to indicate that they’re available to answer questions on the beach, and that concept has become the Shell Ambassadors program.
“Claire will receive the first official t-shirt,” says Executive Director Dorrie Hipschman.
With training, anyone with an appreciation for shells and a willingness to volunteer can become a Shell Ambassador for the Museum. The program is already attracting people who recognize that interacting with the public as an Ambassador is a great way to help beachgoers understand both the shells they find on the beach and the shorefront environment. It also raises awareness of the Shell Museum, and it’s a wonderful way the volunteers themselves can learn more. It adds another layer to everyone’s enjoyment and appreciation of the beach and shelling.
“We’re looking for volunteers, and we’ll encourage them and give them the confidence to bloom in their new role,” says Hipschman. “It’s important for our Shell Ambassadors to feel comfortable talking to people about shells, as well as answering questions.”
She adds. “We’ll cover all that in the training. In fact, you don’t need to know anything when you begin the training sessions we’re going to offer, and anyone can participate, even people who aren’t affiliated with the Museum. We’ll give you all the information – and confidence – you need to get started.”
Shell Ambassadors won’t have set hours or shifts. Whenever they’ll be on the beach anyway and are willing to be “on duty,” they need only wear their choice of Ambassador apparel, which includes a shirt, hat, and beach cover-up. Each piece of the Ambassador wardrobe features the words “Ask me” and “I know shells” – on a sleeve, the front of a cap, the back of a shirt…wherever they’re most visible.
To become a Shell Ambassador, volunteers must participate in several training sessions that will provide information on local shells, the beach environment, and visitor etiquette. That latter topic will include instruction on how to approach and inform people who may be collecting live specimens, which is illegal on Sanibel. There will be a test, but it’s one that anyone who’s taken the training should be able to pass with flying colors. Then it’s time to get started as a Shell Ambassador.
The Museum will offer Shell Ambassador classes beginning in the fall and throughout the season. Volunteers may take the several required sessions in any order that’s convenient for them.