Just a few years ago, there were not a lot of avenues for a volunteer to traverse at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, but Chris Paulsen saw potential for much more.
“My wife, Sara, and I began to volunteer at Fossil Rim early in 2013,” he said. “We began in tours and did some tree trimming, and at that point there wasn’t a lot going on with volunteers in other areas of the park. I said ‘why can’t we do things other than that?’ because I knew there were a lot of other areas in which volunteers could contribute. Kelley Snodgrass, Daniel Branham and Louis Pienaar also believed we could do more.
“As volunteers, we weren’t sure how receptive Fossil Rim staff would be to us branching out, but it has expanded tremendously. A volunteer coordinating committee was formed to assist in marketing, education and support services. In the future, I believe we can add other areas to the list of ways we contribute.
“The key has been to do top-notch work and complete tasks when we say we’ll do them. That’s built trust and let Fossil Rim staff know they won’t just see us one week and then that’s it.”
Approximately 80 volunteers have chipped in one way or another in recent years at Fossil Rim, a number in the neighborhood of the facility’s entire paid staff.
“There is a subgroup of about 25 people who consistently come out and help out in different areas at Fossil Rim,” Paulsen said. “I’ll coordinate building and grounds events and send out email invites. We get the work done, have fellowship meals and build some great relationships.”
He has set a fine example when it comes to helping out in various ways at the park.
“I’ve helped with roadwork, remodeling the membership office and repairing equipment,” Paulsen said. “Also, we’ve dealt with landscaping in terms of gardening, tree trimming and planting grass – especially at The Lodge, the Foothills Safari Camp and the Overlook. We actively look for opportunities to contribute.
“Roadwork and giving advice on equipment are my main contributions. Until they recently added staff, the support services department didn’t have the numbers to address it all.
“Plus, some of it like using the road grader is pretty specialized. It’s more of an art than a science to run that thing, because it’s almost like playing a video game when you are headed down the road.”
The Paulsens are birds of a feather when it comes to giving for the best interest of Fossil Rim.
“We are both service-oriented,” he said. “Sara was a preschool teacher for kids with disabilities. I grew up in a little town where you got your hands dirty all the time helping other people and through your church. It’s rewarding to contribute to an organization that needs the help, and also to work with other volunteers, too.
“Sara and I are Texas Master Naturalists, which are docents with Texas Parks and Wildlife. So, for every hour we volunteer at Fossil Rim, money goes into the funding for Texas Parks. We do educational projects with them, too.”
While his wife may be his favorite fellow volunteer, Paulsen pointed out his construction compadre, as well.
“We’ve brought other volunteers on board like John White, who actually gets out there and works roads with me,” he said. “He’s my right-hand man and sometimes the No. 1 guy. I’m a retired chemist and he’s a retired general surgeon, but we have a common contribution here.”
Fossil Rim staff members are looking ahead to North Texas Giving Day Sept. 22 as a potential big boost for the facility, considering it is an online giving event which raised $33 million in 2015 to benefit 2,020 nonprofits. Paulsen is well aware of the opportunity on the table.
“Sara and I give every time on that day,” he said. “I think it is hard to realize how many different ways funding is needed at Fossil Rim unless you are there right in the middle of it. There are so many departments Fossil Rim is divided into, plus you have the various needs and the utilization of the funds and the restrictions on them.
“It’s a matter of what’s going on behind the scenes. There are research projects, education, tours, animal care, veterinarians and much more for which funding is much-needed and appreciated.”
The key to North Texas Giving Day is the concept of bonus funds, which allow a contribution to exceed 100 percent of its monetary value. For example, during last year’s event a donation of $100 in actuality became a donation of $107.50.
“Anything that comes in for a nonprofit is wonderful,” Paulsen said. “It doesn’t matter how it got there, whether it be equipment, money or something else. Anything above 100 percent of a contribution that Fossil Rim receives is gravy. I’m 100 percent for that.”
-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate