New Bedford Volunteer Recognized With National Award
Judy Roderiques, a 24-year volunteer for the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, is proof that the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with one step.
"I started out in 1998 as a volunteer doing walking tours," she said. "My husband Cliff and I had come here to take a tour, and we got so much enjoyment from it that we signed up to learn how to give tours."
Roderiques was recently honored with the Hartzog Enduring Service Award for her years of dedication to telling the history of the Whaling City.
Roderiques uses her acting skills as well to recreate a living history.
"I'm Abby of Ruth and Abby, the 1850s ladies," she said. "It's my favorite thing."
Roderiques said she greets visitors from every corner of the globe.
"If anyone is ever down on their city, just come down here to see how the visitors rave about our historic city."
She acknowledges that visitors don't want to hear about killing the whales, even though it's a vital part of New Bedford's history.
"One time, a gentleman came in growling about killing the whales. I explained that we look at whales so much differently than they did back in the day. I told him about the different aspects of our city back then, like what kinds of jobs people were doing and how the whaling industry had contributed so much to the formation of the country," she said. "Before leaving, the visitor thanked me for putting everything in perspective, saying he never knew about what whale oil's contribution was to the country."
What does it take to be a good volunteer? Nobody would know better than Roderiques.
"If you're someone who enjoys talking with people and helping them, I encourage you to volunteer a couple of hours a week or a month," she said.
Roderiques said by becoming a volunteer, you'll meet interesting people from everywhere. You'll also get a completely different reading about what visitors think about New Bedford.
What does Roderiques enjoy most about volunteering?
"I love to help people have a positive visit to our city, and enjoy themselves while visiting us. I get a lot of fulfillment from that," she said. "My father used to tell me, if you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."
If you are a fence straddler about volunteering, the national award-winner has some advice to pass along.
"Find things you enjoy, and don't let people convince you that it's not worth it, because it is!" she said.