Born in Hays, Kansas, in 1945, Christine Little and her family moved to Louisville in 1953 when her father was transferred by General Electric. She graduated from Assumption High School and the University of Louisville with a degree in English and minor in biology. Little worked for South Oldham Veterinary Clinic for several years before having children and dedicating her time to being a stay-at-home mom. A life-long love of animals is what drew Little to her volunteer position as a docent at The Louisville Zoo in 1992.
Why did you choose to become a docent?
I was part of the walking club at the zoo and would often see one of the educators at the Meta Zoo. She kept telling me I should take the docent training program, but I knew lots of them were retired teachers and just didn’t think I could do it. One day the educator had some baby opossums with her, and she let me touch them. Well, that was it. That day I enrolled in the docent program.
What do docents do?
We’re volunteer teachers for zoo camps, classes, education programs, and community outreach. I’ve taught classes at the Meta Zoo for school children and preschoolers, but outreach is what I like to do most. We take biofacts (animal pelts, bones) and animals to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and libraries around the area. I like being able to take the zoo to people not able to come on their own. We provide a hands-on experience, which is so rewarding.
What else do you do at the zoo?
I’m chairperson of the library committee responsible for maintaining the collection of biofacts. We make sure they’re kept clean and organized. We have an impressive collection of animal pelts and skulls that we use in our educational programs, and we have to keep them organized and in good shape.
What has volunteering done for you?
It broadened my horizons and made me realize I’m capable, I can still do things. I can speak before an audience now and am able to educate other people. That’s something I never thought I could do. I’ve also learned so much about animals, their habitats, and the environment. I learn something new every day working with the animals. And I get to work with so many dedicated and passionate people.
What would you say to seniors thinking about volunteering?
Go for it! There are so many wonderful places and organizations that need volunteers. Look for something you’re interested in and feel passionate about. You get exposed to other people — people you would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Just pick something and get started. Volunteering is never boring.
Story by Kym Voorhees Raque | Photo by Patti Hartog