“Count your many blessings and you’ll soon lose count.” Ben Derby, this month’s featured volunteer, lives by Johnson Oatman, Jr’s quote and considers volunteer work an essential part of his life. His kind heart and positive attitude are contagious to those around him. He started volunteering when he was in high school and has integrated service work into his life. We hope you enjoy reading about Ben!
PEEC: Tell us about yourself.
B.D.: Imagine a German country boy. I am grateful for every day on this earth and live simply to love, learn, and imitate Socrates. Outside of my favorite hobby, tinkering with new materials in the laboratory, you will often find me flying airplanes, telling my deepest thoughts to the cactus flowers, devouring a good book, and digging in elbow deep into my motorcycle. “The idea is to die young as late as possible.” – Ashley Montagu
PEEC: Where are you from and how did you end up in Los Alamos?
B.D.: I was born in Auburn, NY, which is smack dab in the middle of the Finger Lakes region. Just ask me how much I love Wegmans and Dinosaur BBQ…I’ll tell you! I made the long trek to the land of high-density-altitude from Ann Arbor, MI. I am currently a lab rat…I mean graduate student…studying Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. My advisor, Amit Misra, was a lab fellow at LANL for many years and now sends his students out here for summer internships to use special equipment and gain knowledge from the best scientists in my field.
PEEC: Tell us about your family.
B.D.: My dad met my mom while attending a disco party at an army base in Fulda, Germany while he was stationed there in the military. Although a wallflower, my dad took a leap of faith and asked my mother to dance with him. The rest is history as they say, and it should be no surprise then that my sister, Melanie, and I got my mom’s lust for life and my dad’s sense of solitude and honor.
PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?
B.D.: One of my greatest friends in Los Alamos, Christa Tyson, presented the opportunity to me, and I could not resist interacting with the LA community and helping them learn more about the world outside.
PEEC: What is your job at PEEC?
B.D.: I am a docent. I have the great opportunity of introducing folks who come in, to the Nature Center. Whether young or old, first-timers or multiple-timers. I receive great satisfaction from talking to visitors about their experiences and helping them learn about nature.
PEEC: What other volunteer work have you done?
B.D.: My favorite volunteer work has been being a horse leader for Therapeutic Riding. We train people with disabilities how to ride horses. I’ve never been so happy or laughed so hard then when I was working with the Therapeutic Riding Institute.
PEEC: Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?
B.D.: I think that our happiness and mark on this world should only be measured by how we lived for our neighbor. Volunteering should remind us how much gratitude we owe for all that we have been given. Though it’s selfish to write, seeing the joy of folks young and old learning something new about the world in the Nature Center is truly special.
PEEC: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
B.D.: The smiles on people’s faces.
PEEC: Best outdoor experience in Los Alamos?
B.D.: Looking at the stars or the view looking behind you while riding up the “Mother” lift on the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area.
PEEC: What do you enjoy most about living in Los Alamos?
B.D.: Soaking up the view of the mountains when I go into work and taking in some more on the way home.
B.D.: Playing with the dinosaurs with a boy with a vivid imagination.
PEEC: In your opinion, what is the most important work PEEC does?
B.D.: Incentivizing people to step out into the sun and enjoy the outside world.
PEEC: What outdoor hobbies do you enjoy?
B.D.: Is everything a possible choice? It depends on the season, but the more time I spend outside, the better. Let’s just say that when you grow up in rural Upstate NY, you learn quickly how to make your own fun, outside. My all-time favorite outdoor hobby is simply walking.
PEEC: Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering?
B.D.: What are you waiting for?
PEEC: What is on your wish list for PEEC for the next 10 years?
B.D.: Involve those folks who are impoverished and at-risk and introduce them to the great outdoors.
PEEC: If you could be a local animal, which would you pick and why?
B.D.: An Alamosaurus. I would like the view from up there.
-If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please email Christa Tyson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Christa Tyson, PEEC Visitor Services Manager