The Deering Estate
Luis Gutierrez is currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.
I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Deering Estate. This institution is a historical site that is a common destination for tourists and locals for a variety of events, classes, and tours year-round. Their estate contains two historical buildings that were built by Charles Deering and the Richmond family in the early 1900’s. It also contains hiking trails that are open to the public and transport you into what Miami looked like in the past. Whether you are interested in their history or the scenery, the Deering Estate is a great place to visit and volunteer at.
I selected this particular volunteer opportunity because I had a great experience in our first in person class with Professor Bailey. The actual estate is beautiful and the people that work the grounds seemed like genuine employees that care about the estate and its significance. It doesn’t relate to my major exactly, with my major being English, but it did provide an opportunity that was quite exciting and fun to be a part of. I had reached out to them first but was scared they wouldn’t accept my volunteer request, so I reached out to other establishments as well. When I heard back from them super-fast, I was both relieved and excited to be a part of the activity I signed up for.
I connected with this opportunity through their website. I saw that there were many volunteer options that I knew I had to email them directly for more information. Once I emailed them, I heard back from them the following day about all their opportunities with more information regarding them along a few papers I needed to sign. After sending back the papers I signed and the acceptance of one of the volunteer opportunities, I heard back from them that they were pleased to have me on board immediately.
Where & What
I was assigned to check people in and physically keep track of how many people were walking through the gates. I was given two clickers on December 4 and was told click one if the person was 4 and younger and to click the other if they were older than 4 but younger that 16. I did this activity while standing and greeting the people who were entering for 5 hours. After all the people were checked in and began to leave, I was instructed to pass out a flyer that promoted the Deering Estate and its events for the upcoming year to the leaving guests. Before I was assigned at this post, I was told I could walk around the estate and go through the houses before the people began to walk in. This allowed me to see everything that was decorated and prepared for the people entering.
On December 12, I was assigned the same task but instead of having two clickers, I had three. The other clicker was to count people who were older than 16. I was also instructed to tell the people coming in to follow the main path and check in into the booth at the front. I did this also for 5 hours, even when it began to pour with rain for 2 of the hours.
Overall, I am really thankful for both of these opportunities to volunteer and help out with the Deering Estate. I had a lot of fun which was surprising because I thought it wasn’t going to be much but it ended up being something really grand. I also had some great company the whole time standing and helping out so that was a great plus. I met a lot of genuine people such as Vanessa and Emily that really care about all of the guests, the employees, and the volunteers.
Even though the task was more of a repetitive one rather than one I would learn from, I still very much enjoyed doing it. Both of these opportunities also were Christmas themed and that really put me into the holiday spirit.
This volunteer opportunity also made me realize how much society thrives off of human interactions and tradition. This tradition of meeting Santa and siting on his lap is something that happens every year to children. Even though COVID is still around and is still a threat, families around Miami still are pushing to keep tradition and make sure that their children are having a childhood that they would remember and cherish when they look back. The human interaction and coming together for the holidays is one that shouldn’t be frowned upon even through the times that we are living in currently. Though I mentioned earlier that this task didn’t really have a learning opportunity and was rather a busy task, I realize that there was a time for reflection and acknowledgment that this time of the season should be recognized and encouraged no matter what. It makes me smile knowing that institutions such as Deering Estate are following regulations and still pushing the envelope on making these events happen for both children and adults. Seeing the children walk in super happy and energetic and excited to meet the real Santa made me realize that the holiday spirit can be crushed by a disease. As long as people are coming together and having a good time with friends and family, there is nothing that can bring down the holiday spirit. This realization made me jump up in joy and blast Christmas music on the way home after volunteering with the Deering Estate. The volunteer opportunity brought me into the Christmas spirit and raised some big ideas without me even knowing when I initially emailed them about my interest. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering here and I would volunteer here again in a heartbeat.