Sarah Paro

Q: How long have you been volunteering at NABC?

A: Almost a year, since Bearkeeper class in the spring of 2011.

Q: What motivated you to volunteer at NABC?

A: Brace yourself for a long tale….I started visiting NABC in 2008, the year after they opened.  I would go a couple of times in the summer with my kids or whomever else I could persuade to go.  As a lifelong MN resident, I had no experience with bears except for the typical fear/rumor element.  But after my first visit to the bear center, I was amazed and hooked.  I LEARNED from the center and from the speeches given by Donna and staff and from watching the bears, and I fell in love with them.  Then of course, the Lily phenomena began.  After spending more and more time involved with the bears and the people who love them, it was a natural transition.  This was not a passing interest or a novelty; it becomes an entrenched part of your psyche and your life (ah, preaching to the choir here :-)… it just all comes together!

Q: What do you do as a volunteer?

A: Volunteering at the NABC can involve anything—recording bear activity, helping with the bears, measuring foods, labeling containers, working on trails, planting flowers in the enclosure, talking to customers, or even shoveling scat!

Q: Is there one memorable experience you’ve had as a volunteer?

A: It’s very rewarding to be able to spend a little time with Ted, Honey, and Lucky or to do activities that benefit their well-being. However, it’s also rewarding to see visitors express their amazement and fascination with the bears. Any time I can answer a question for them, it really makes me feel good.

A very memorable experience was helping Program Director Sharon Herrell with the Halloween Haunted Trails! Being a ghoul in the dark woods around the NABC was AWESOME!

Q: What would you like volunteers to know about you?

A: Maybe someone is wondering how a person ends up in Ely….like I said, I’ve lived in northern MN all my life, and my cousins live in Ely.  In 2003, I decided to start planning for the future and bought 10 acres right outside of Ely.  Along with my friend Tim, we built a garage (generously referred to as a cabin), where we live part of the time (yes, we have electricity, and no, we don’t have running water).  When not in Ely, I live in Duluth and work at UMD in the IT department (where I ended up after attaining my BA and MA degrees in English).  I have two boys ages 19 and 21 who kindly refrain from rolling their eyes at my love for the bears (most of the time).