12,000 hours, 29 years ‘is nothing’ to Virginia Aquarium volunteer

Sandy Wood. (Courtesy of the Virginia Aquarium.)
Sandy Wood. (Courtesy of the Virginia Aquarium.)

VIRGINIA BEACH — In the 29 years the Virginia Aquarium has been open, Sandy Wood has stopped by nearly every Friday to greet visitors, build parade floats, plan fundraisers or complete any other task asked of her. Her volunteered time now totals more than 12,000 hours, according to staff.

But who’s counting? Not Sandy.

“I haven’t stopped to,” she said. “Half the time I go up there and I don’t even put my hours in. I forget.”

She remembers the words of her great-grandma often who talked about volunteering, though.

“Back then there was no TV or radio,” she said. “You’d just sit around and chat. And she used to tell us that you should always be so grateful for what you have and to always give back in some way or another.”

Years later, while reading the newspaper, Wood saw an ad asking for volunteers to help at the new Virginia Aquarium. That’s one way, she thought. She called, was accepted and never looked back, she said.

Only one other volunteer has dedicated 12,000 hours to the aquarium, according to Matt Klepeisz, a spokesman. Another is a few-thousand hours short of the milestone, Wood said.

“You don’t do it for the hours, though,” she said. “You do it because you enjoy what you’re doing … and want to give back.”

Shawn Reid, the aquarium’s volunteer resources manager, said in a release that the facility is fortunate to have “extremely dedicated” volunteers like Wood, who believe in the work done there.

“For Sandy, it goes much deeper than this,” Reid said. “Without a doubt she is passionate about the Aquarium, but she’s also a champion of the individuals here.”

Wood has served on more than two-dozen volunteer committees there, chairing six of them. She’s recruited volunteers — including her daughter — built parade floats and welcomed guests from all over the world, Klepeisz and Wood said.

Wood, a mother of two who’s worked in her husband’s business off and on in roles such as secretary and janitor, just takes the volunteer hours as they come every Friday, whether it’s four-, six- or eight-hour shifts.

Managed like that, 12,000 hours “is nothing,” she said.

The Virginia Aquarium will host a volunteer open house from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 21. More information is available by calling 757-385-0274.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact city hall reporter Judah Taylor at Judah@SouthsideDaily.com or 757-490-2750.

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