Illuminating a Beloved Park Through Volunteerism and Heritage

Daily Point of Light # 7770 Mar 18, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Beth Bushke. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

In the heart of San Diego, Beth Bushke dedicates herself to community service and environmental appreciation in the vibrant life of Balboa Park. With her multifaceted volunteer efforts, Beth has become an indispensable part of the park’s visitor services, enriching the experience for guests from around the globe and enhancing the park’s educational offerings through her innovative projects. As a Balboa Park Visitor Services volunteer, Beth’s primary role involves guiding visitors through the park’s rich history, many museums and engaging activities.

One of Beth’s notable contributions is the co-creation of a walking tour that highlights women who have made significant contributions to Balboa Park. This initiative, developed in partnership with three park organizations, showcases Beth’s passion for history and her commitment to celebrating the achievements of women. Her research into the lives of these 20 featured women, coupled with her efforts in creating a script, route and training for volunteer guides, exemplifies her dedication to bringing this important aspect of the park’s history to light.

In addition to her visitor services and educational contributions, Beth plays a vital role in organizing Forever Balboa Park’s sPARK awards, an event that celebrates innovation within the park. As a member of the sPARK Awards Ad Hoc Committee, she has been instrumental in researching funders and sponsors, assisting with logistical planning and providing strategic insights for the event.

Beth devotes 35 to 45 hours per month to her volunteer activities at Balboa Park. Find out what inspires her volunteerism.

Beth Bushke dedicates her time by volunteering regularly at Balboa Park in San Diego.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

My primary duty is to assist visitors to San Diego’s Balboa Park by explaining park history: providing information about the 17 museums in the park, including type of museum, current exhibits and events, hours and cost; assisting with the purchase of park-wide passes; offering suggestions on the activities in the park; explaining park guide and map and guiding visitors to park attractions. I also create a monthly directory of exhibits and events at museums to be used by other park volunteers and visitors.

Over the past several months, I worked with one other volunteer to create and roll out a walking tour within the park of women who made significant contributions to the park. The tour is a partnership between three organizations within the park. My role included researching the 20 featured women, creating a script and a route for the tour, providing training and guidance to volunteer tour guides and serving as a tour guide. I also initiated the collaboration between the three organizations and led the planning and communications to roll out the tour to celebrate Women’s History Month. The tour will be an ongoing offering to park visitors.

I am also serving on the committee to celebrate innovation in the park via the annual sPARK awards. As a committee member, I provide direction on the event, solicit sponsorships from local organizations and network to communicate the event and awards to the community.

Why is this issue so important to you?

I love supporting Balboa Park for many reasons. Parks are available for the entire community – people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs are welcome in the park and can find a source of learning, recreation and relaxation. Parks literally serve as common ground where local residents and tourists visiting from around the globe can share and explore what is familiar while simultaneously gaining exposure to new experiences.

Balboa Park is an especially wonderful park that is home for many of San Diego’s cultural institutions. In addition to the zoo, the park hosts 17 amazing museums, abundant gardens with diverse plant life, unique recreation and entertainment areas and facilities, miles of trails and plenty of open space for visitors to enjoy.

Balboa Park also has a rich history. I am thrilled that we were able to partner with three organizations within the park to bring together the walking tour highlighting women who have been influential in making the park the treasure that it is today. Each of the women have their own stories that serve to illustrate how they were able to persevere to make contributions, sometimes in the face of opposition and resistance, and inspire us to continue to ensure the park is inclusive for women and all visitors. The women we talk about span the early days of the park to current times and highlight women who are in leadership positions now, continuing the journey.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

I love helping people discover the treasures of the park. People are always so excited and enthusiastic when they realize everything that is in the park, and I love helping them create a plan to optimize their experience.

It was especially rewarding to create the Balboa Park Women’s Tour. I loved learning of the stories of the women, the times in which they lived and the approach each of them took to ensure that their perspectives and talents were used to benefit themselves, other women and the broader community. While their involvement was not always welcomed, it ultimately improved events in the park as well as the park itself and made the entire community stronger. l feel a friendly, personal connection to the women. I’m grateful for their work and am kind of “protective” of them. I want their stories to be known so that others can be inspired by them.

It was also very gratifying to see how warmly the tour was embraced. When we asked for volunteers to help as tour guides, we were met with much enthusiasm – so many were excited to learn about and share women’s stories. The tour was also very well-received by the community – our first four tours booked up very quickly which confirmed our belief that there was an audience who was very interested in learning more about these women and the impact they had.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Volunteering has really reinforced for me how interconnected the world is. People share common desires for themselves, their families and their communities. There is so much wonder and diversity in the world. Preserving and celebrating a beautiful setting where people can enjoy and be nurtured by nature is very healthy and nourishing.

One of Beth’s contributions is the co-creation of a walking tour that highlights women who have made significant contributions to Balboa Park.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

It’s always fun to watch the ways Balboa Park is evolving. Two current projects that I’m excited about are the reopening of the 1915 Botanical Building and the new gardens and interpretive trails that are being installed outside the San Diego Natural History Museum. I am also excited to see our women’s tour continue to grow. Initial response has been strong, so I’m looking forward to sharing the stories with more people in the community as well as visitors to San Diego and Balboa Park. As we tell the women’s stories, we learn about even more women who have been contributors.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Every little bit of kindness and good-will creates a ripple effect. The person offering the kindness is rewarded and the person receiving the kindness is rewarded. Getting involved in causes you care about not only serves the community, but broadens our perspective and understanding of each other and the world that we live in.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Find something that is interesting to you and get involved. You don’t need to be an expert. The most important thing is curiosity and a desire to share and help others. I can guarantee that you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Beth? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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