OCEAN — A keen interest in kayaking brought her into the N.C. Coastal Federation office one day almost 10 years ago, and her energy and love for the coast has kept Beth Moulton coming back every Monday afternoon to help keep things moving smoothly at the busy organization.
Beth and her husband, Rick, were offered an early retirement package from a phone company where they both worked in Connecticut. They knew they wanted to live near the coast.
“When we thought about retiring, we made a trip down here to the Outer Banks,” she said. “We both like the water and the beach so we moved into a community very near the (federation) office. I had heard they (federation) were having kayak trips so I came into the office.”
Someone asked Moulton if she would like to volunteer. She’s been coming back ever since.
Though she uses the term “in the front office” to describe where she works, it’s a loose description because many of her volunteer hours are spent outside. She usually has news articles to clip and file, but she can also be found manning a booth at a local festival, helping with kayak tours or with plantings. She recalled that one of her most interesting volunteer days included a road trip.
“Someone donated a pickup truck, so they asked if I would drive to Snow Hill to pick it up,” she said. “I never know what the day will hold.
“It’s fun for me. They don’t get upset if I’m late or leave early…the pay is always the same,” added Moulton, who won the federation’s Volunteer of the Year Pelican Award in 2008. “I just show up and they tell me what they need me to do. It’s not the same thing any two days. There’s always something to do here.”
Volunteers are a crucial to the success of the federation. The federation currently enjoys having more than 675 volunteers on the rolls. These volunteers receive notices of scheduled volunteer events and may help in any number of ways, which could include planting a marsh or building an oyster reef, office work, attending public meetings, sprucing up nature trails or assisting with outreach events, said Rachael Carlyle, the federation’s director of operations.
“The numbers of volunteers that we rely on every year is dependent on the current grants that we are working on, but for the most part, I think an average of 1,200 is an accurate estimate of the number of volunteers that the federation relies on every year,” Carlyle said. “Beth volunteers over 200 hours every year to the federation. The staff is very thankful to her for making such a large commitment to the federation.
Moulton is one of the federation’s most reliable volunteers, Carlyle said. Though she’s scheduled to work on Mondays, Moulton comes in whenever the federation needs help, Carlyle added. She noted that Beth began volunteering as a receptionist but became very knowledgeable about the federation and has been able to help with even more administrative and outreach projects.
“She is cheerful and humorous. Her presence at the office always lightens everyone’s spirits,” Carlyle said. “The federation staff has developed a true camaraderie with Beth. We all look forward to her smiling face on Monday afternoons.”
Carlyle says in 2011 volunteers donated 13,239 hours valued at an about $288,500. If you add in students who assisted with restoration projects, the total would be 3,061 volunteers donating 17,021 hours at a value of almost $371,000. “The monetary value associated with in-kind match from volunteers is extremely important in helping us meet the required goals and match value for federal, state and private foundation grants,” she said.
However, the actual value of volunteers to the federation goes way beyond a monetary value, Carlyle said. “The sheer numbers of volunteers and the hours they have committed to our projects and efforts have allowed us to accomplish our goals every year, which would be an impossible feat for just our staff of 20,” she noted. ”Many of these volunteers have become our friends and we look forward to working with them every year. And as we all know, it is impossible to put a monetary value on friendship.”
“My life would be horrible if Beth didn’t come in on Monday afternoons,” added Rose Rundell, an administrative assistant. “And if the weather is bad she can be convinced to come in more often.”
When Moulton isn’t volunteering at the federation office or doing plantings or picking up pickup trucks, she can be found doing what retired people do when they live in beautiful coastal Carolina.
“I volunteer once a week for Meals on Wheels in the Swansboro area, but the rest of the time I do a lot of beaching and kayaking with a friend,” she said. “In fact, I just finished a moonlight kayak with a friend. It was just beautiful. I guess I do the regular stuff retired people do, gardening and a lot of sitting around, but always looking for something do to.”
Moulton and her husband do some traveling to visit family in Connecticut, Vermont and Florida, but mostly spend their vacation time right at home. “When people ask if I’m going on vacation I have to ask them ‘Why? I am always on vacation here.’ Occasionally we’ll travel but you can’t quite beat it here,” she said.