Bethel Park Resident Receives National Aviary
Volunteer of the Year Honor
(Pittsburgh, Penn.) August 31, 2020 – The National Aviary has named Bethel Park resident Elaine Steffenauer its 2019 Volunteer of the Year in recognition of her nine years of service and her passion for engaging visitors in the world of birds and nature. She is being recognized now for her ongoing commitment to the National Aviary and strong leadership and expertise, which have been invaluable to the National Aviary’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Steffenauer was among the first volunteers to return to the National Aviary after a more than three-month closure earlier this year.
Steffenauer is an experienced educator having worked in daycare and in preschool education for most of her career. She began her volunteer work with the National Aviary nine years ago while her daughter was interning with the Aviary. Steffenauer is a docent, an important role at the National Aviary centered on visitor engagement. In this role, Steffenauer works in habitats such as the Wetlands, home to 150 birds, and the Tropical Rainforest, where more than 90 birds live, maintaining a strong knowledgebase of the unique species in each room. She answers visitors’ questions and helps them to engage with the diverse species they encounter. Steffenauer also assists with African Penguin feeding sessions and leads Penguin Encounters, educational small-group experiences where participants meet an endangered African Penguin up close.
During the National Aviary’s closure, Steffenauer remained connected to the National Aviary and to her fellow volunteers. She returned to her volunteer position when the National Aviary reopened.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to keep learning as a volunteer. I enjoy talking with our guests, helping them to learn about the birds, and sharing what goes on behind the scenes with conservation, education, and training,” Steffenauer says. “I came back to the National Aviary as soon as I could, and I felt very comfortable returning with the safety measures in place. My first day back I walked around and was so glad to see the birds again and get back to docenting.”
The National Aviary is accepting volunteer applications for select positions which provide opportunities for volunteers to responsibly engage with Aviary visitors in free-flight habitats while following safety guidelines set forth by the CDC and Allegheny County Health Department.
The COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the National Aviary. Despite a three-month closure and capacity restrictions limiting earned revenue, the National Aviary continues to provide uncompromised, high-quality care for the more than 550 animals that call the National Aviary home. The National Aviary’s volunteers have been integral in helping the Aviary to operate as efficiently and as safely as possible, and to provide an immersive and enjoyable experience for guests. Individuals can contribute to the care of the National Aviary’s flock by visiting aviary.org to make a donation.