Grandfather Mountain named Terry Jenkins of Linville Falls its Volunteer of the Year on Thursday, recognizing a shining star in the fledgling volunteer program that has gained tremendous momentum since launching this spring.

Jenkins, a retired English teacher and former employee of the Linville Falls Visitor Center, joined the volunteer program in May. Since then, she has amassed more than 300 hours of service on behalf of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

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Photo by Lesley Platek.

Jenkins’ first volunteer assignment was donning a kangaroo suit to serve as UNC-TV’s Read-a-roo mascot during the UNC-TV Kids Club Day at Grandfather Mountain on May 3. Since then, she has done everything from dog-sitting for guests while they toured the animal habitats to clerical work, directing traffic, greeting visitors and more.

“Terry has probably taken thousands of family photos for our visitors, and she has answered just as many questions about Grandfather Mountain,” said Volunteer Coordinator Lesley Platek. “Grandfather Mountain was very lucky to get Terry as a volunteer!”

Jenkins was surprised with the award Thursday during a luncheon honoring all 33 seasonal volunteers who contributed their time and talents this year. Another 60 people volunteered as part of civic groups for single-day projects, and about 30 more gave their time assisting with the September Hawk Watch.

The crop of volunteers ranges from age 14 to 80 and includes college students, former Grandfather Mountain employees, retired educators, businessmen and women, a political consultant, a retired Air Force officer and a published author.

Altogether, the group is expected to exceed 1,500 volunteer hours by the end of October.

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Terry Jenkins, left, accepts the award from volunteer coordinator Lesley Platek. Photo by Monty Combs.

“The one thing these folks have in common is they are all lovers of nature and enjoy helping other people,” Platek said. “The volunteers have become incredible stewards for Grandfather Mountain, and we are very thankful and appreciative for their services on the Mountain.”

Grandfather Mountain is now seeking applicants to join this distinguished volunteer team in 2015. Some projects may be available during the winter months, but volunteers are most needed between May and October.

Opportunities include: animal habitat ambassador, hospitality host, conservation and stewardship, gardening, educational assistant, exhibit interpreter, and parking and traffic control. School groups, church groups, clubs and organizations are also needed sporadically for special projects in the park.

To learn more about the program, visit grandfathermtn-staging.v38mw8dg-liquidwebsites.com/preserving-protecting/volunteer, or contact Volunteer Coordinator Lesley Platek at (828) 733-2013 or volunteer@grandfathermtn-staging.v38mw8dg-liquidwebsites.com.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325 or visit www.grandfathermtn-staging.v38mw8dg-liquidwebsites.com to plan a trip.