“Find something that really peaks your interest and you will feel really good doing it,” that’s the advice from Mike Grosso when asked how he encourages others to get involved in their communities. Nominated by Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo, we are thrilled to honor Mike as our May Volunteer of the Month and to celebrate everything he does to give back to his community!
A longtime resident of Monroe, CT, Mike retired from his career as a school psychologist in 2003. He was looking for something to do with his free time and was hoping for something different than what he’d done during his career. His wife mentioned the zoo and his interest immediately peaked. He’s been a docent at the zoo since 2011 and he loves the work he does. He started as a volunteer educator, meeting and greeting the public and talking about the animals with visitors and school groups. He then became certified as an animal handler, which allows him to work with a number of the education department’s animal ambassadors, these are the animals used for on-grounds and off-grounds programs. To be certified, Mike went through several weeks of detailed and intricate training with the Animal Care Specialists, who exclusively care for all the animals on exhibit at the zoo.
Mike started volunteering in high school at a local hospital. During his career, he made time to volunteer during the summer time when he was off. His wife, also a school psychologist, spent time volunteering during her summer breaks as well. They led by example when it came to getting their daughter involved in community service and she was very involved as a volunteer in town programs as a young person. Now married, she shares Mike’s love of working with animals and volunteers at an animal shelter in Norwalk.
When I asked Mike what has kept him at the zoo this long, his first answer was the staff. “They are helpful, involved, dedicated, and create a terrific atmosphere for everyone volunteering.” Tracy Benham, Volunteer Coordinator, leads the volunteer team. She’s been at the zoo for over 10 years and Mike credits her energy and enthusiasm as another one of the main reasons he’s stayed so long. And then there are the animals, of course, his favorite being the tigers and leopards!
President of the Volunteer Council at the zoo, Mike said they meet monthly to discuss issues, plan fundraisers and celebrations for the Zookeepers during Zookeeper Appreciation Month. The council’s fundraising efforts go towards funding things in the zoo and education departments and improving the habitats. Between volunteering and his work with the Volunteer Council, Mike spends an average of 6-12 hours a week at the zoo. He lives by his words, “it might take trial and error, but once you find something that you love doing, you will feel really good doing it!”
On behalf of Volunteer Square and The Beardsley Zoo, we want to thank Mike for his outstanding service to the community. Congratulations, Mike!