What It Takes To Run A Tight Ship

By Sandra Zunino

With an 18-acre campus and 10 exhibit buildings, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum relies heavily on volunteer labor to continue its mission of furthering interest and appreciation for the culture and maritime heritage of the Chesapeake.

More than 200 volunteers donated over 28,000 hour last year to the non-profit organization, according to Melissa Nimmerrichter Spielman, volunteer administrator, CBMM. “On average, one volunteer gives us over 100 hours a year,” she says.

“Volunteers help in different areas around campus,” says Melissa, “everything from administrative tasks, public tours, education, school programs, on-the-water programs curatorial tasks and in the boatyards.”

To be considered an active volunteer, someone must donate more than 20 hours a year to the institution. Many volunteers donate considerably more hours than that, however. Rosemary “Rosy” Thomson has volunteered for the CBMM since 1997, providing more than 8,000 hours as a receptionist.

“She’s very involved,” says Melissa, “just a delight and always helpful.” Rosy also helps with special events, memberships and other administrative needs.

Lloyd Devigne, who has been with CMBB since 2006 donated 1,500 hours working as a docent leading tours and assisting with educational programs as well as acting as crew member on the Mr. Jim bye boat through the on-the-water program.

Ellen Plummer has helped with curatorial and library programs since 1988 donating more than 6,000 hours!

To show its appreciation, the CBMM holds an annual reception every June to honor volunteers who pass certain milestones. “It’s an opportunity to say thank you to everyone,” says Melissa. “We all walk out of it very grateful for everything they have given us.”

Once a volunteer completes 1,000 hours of service, the CBMM gives him or her a lifetime museum membership valued at $2,500. Additionally, separate departments hold social activities and monthly meetings, and volunteers with their spouses enjoy an annual cruise hosted by the CBMM.

Keeping track of all the volunteer shifts and hours was a chore until volunteer John Gillespie created a website especially for the CBMM volunteers. The site announces specific events and lists areas where shifts are needed such as the museum store, boatyard or public tours.

Melissa recognized the need for such a website but acknowledged that it was too expensive to outsource the project. John, an undergraduate professor from the University of California, designed the site specifically for the CBMM. “The website actually captures volunteer hours and keeps track,” says Melissa. “It’s a very comprehensive tool.”

To volunteer at the CBMM, candidates must fill out an application and undergo a brief interview process. “I want to know the people who are here on campus,” says Melissa. “We learn a little about why they want to volunteer and what they want to get out of it so we can place them correctly.”

Most of the CBMM volunteers are in their 60s and retired. Many volunteers join for the social aspect of the job as well as their dedication to the organization’s mission. Melissa says the volunteers themselves are the CBMM’s greatest recruitment tool.

“We are very fortunate to have a very dedicated group of volunteers,” says Melissa. “With the economy, we have a smaller staff and more challenges to the institution, and the volunteers have been an enormous help meeting those challenges.”

For more information on the CBMM or how to volunteer, visit www.cbmm.org or contact Melissa at 410-745-2916 x 252.