History buff gives her time freely at N.C. Transportation Museum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó Rachel Mobley said there are a few people ó her boyfriend, included ó who kid her about working for absolutely no financial reward.
To which Rachel replies:
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it.”
Rachel, 17, is a junior volunteer at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. Since going to work there in June, Rachel has served as a narrator for the train ride and worked at a summer camp for children.
The last weekend of September and the first weekend of October, Rachel will be working for the Transportation Museum’s biggest event ó the annual visit by Thomas the Tank Engine.
“I’m sort of a history buff,” Rachel said of her decision to get involved with volunteering at the museum. “I’ve thought about doing something like this for a living when I graduate from college.”
Rachel is a senior at Graystone Day School in Misenheimer. She’s the daughter of Kendall and Rhonda Mobley of Salisbury. That aforementioned boyfriend who kids Rachel about her volunteer efforts is Jonathan Bryant.
Rachel said she worked at the museum quite a bit during the summer. Now that school has resumed, she plans to only work an average of one Saturday a month.She’ll probably make an exception and work both weekends that Thomas is in town.
Rachel said she got a crash course in the history of the museum when she went to work there. She followed LeAnne Johnson, the museum’s director of volunteers, for a week and, “Soaked in all that history.”But Rachel admitted there has been a time or two when visitors stumped her with questions about the State Historic Site.
“There have been a few times when someone who used to work there wanted an answer to a specific question,” Rachel said.
She said if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll track down one of the museum’s employees.
“I do pretty well,” Rachel said of her knowledge of the history of the huge site.
She said going to work as a museum volunteer was simple, involving little more than completing an online application.
Not long thereafter, Johnson called and put her quickly to work.
“She’s been a wonderful addition to our staff,” Johnson said. “She’s done everything we’ve asked of her.”
Johnson said that in a perfect world, the Transportation Museum would be inundated with young people like Mobley interested in volunteering.
The need for such volunteers, Johnson said, will be especially great the two weekends that Thomas is in town.
On average, between 35,000 and 40,000 people ó an average of 7,000 to 8,000 per day ó visit the museum those weekends.
Johnson said the museum is pretty well staffed with adult volunteers those weekends, but there remains a demand for teen volunteers. Their duties, Johnson said, involves taking tickets and helping children on and off the trains. There’s also a need for storytellers should the teens feel so inclined.
In addition, teens will staff the children’s areas and help with games for the children.
“There’s a lot of stuff for them to do,” Johnson said.
She said about 20 teen volunteers are still needed for those weekends. They’re asked to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the days they’re available.While the volunteers don’t receive monetary compensation, they won’t leave the museum completely empty-handed. They’re fed lunches and also receive Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirts and badges.
Teens need to be at least 15 to volunteer unless they’re accompanied by a parent.
“They’re busy, busy, busy weekends,” Johnson said. “I promise you won’t be bored.”

Teens interested in volunteering at the museum can call Johnson at 704-636-2889, ext. 258 or complete an online application at www. nctrans.org. The deadline is Sept. 23 for volunteering to work the weekends that Thomas the Tank Engine will be in town.