Ellen Parker was recently honored for her years of volunteer efforts on behalf of the Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust in Puerto Rico. Bob Gevinski, vice president of the board at the Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust wrote, “I had the huge honor of presenting to Ellen Parker our award for 2016 Volunteer of the Year. She and Harry have been a huge part of the Trust for many years, and we could not have found a better candidate than Ellen for this award.”
A snapshot of Ellen’s work for the Trust can be gathered from Bob Gevinski’s remarks at the dinner for her this winter:
It’s fair to say, the work one does can never truly be appreciated until the shoes of that very same person need to be filled. After many years of coordinating the Trust’s ever popular House Tours, Ellen Parker decided to pass the reigns, and yours truly ended up with the short straw. Yes, I was the one given the daunting task of filling Ellen Parker’s humongous shoes.
Fortunately for me, she did not simply walk away from this popular tour. She very easily could have said, “Thank you, Harry and I are headed to the beach”. Instead, she and I met earlier this past fall so that she could give me tips on how to organize and run this popular tour. And when we met, she came with a huge binder, filled with names, phone numbers, maps, schedules, driving directions, and a whole lot more. It was filled with such intricate detail, that I opened it, and thought I’m in the presence of General Ellen, and she’s drafting me for a planned invasion of St. Croix!
Now with the help of that binder, and many phone calls and email exchanges with Ellen, I was able to nervously sweat my way through our recent House Tour – with her help and support, I think we pulled it off.
One of the interesting tidbits I found in that binder, is that the first house tour was given in the year 2000. Appropriately enough, the tour involved some of the biggest advocates of the VCHT, some of whom we are celebrating here tonight.
Now, one of the hardest parts of the tour is actually getting folks to open their homes. And, since that first tour, we have been welcomed in to over 100 houses and gardens. In the process of coordinating the houses this year, I’ve learned that Ellen is a walking Rolodex of the houses of Vieques, of their history, and of the people who have ever lived or owned them. If I didn’t know better, I’d make her out to be the biggest real estate agent in Puerto Rico! Considering that for every 1 house on the tour that we actually see, probably four to five people have been approached. So in doing the math, Ellen has approached 400-500 people about letting a bunch of strangers come walk through their homes.
Ellen’s perseverance over the years is a true sign of her commitment to the Trust. And thanks to Ellen, every House Tour has been a success, and to the benefit of the Trust’s coffers, they have all sold out! She is a shining example of what it means to dedicate one’s life to the Trust, not only as a donor and volunteer, but now as a great mentor. I can now vouch that Ellen Parker not only wears the biggest shoes I’ve ever seen, but she has an equally large heart.
And with that, I’m proud to introduce and award the 2016 Volunteer of the Year to Ellen Parker.