Volunteer Profile: Henry R. Desmarais

Page updated on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:56 PM

"I also feel a much closer link to the City of Alexandria itself…it’s fun to interact with visitors and help them learn a little bit about Alexandria’s early history."

- Docent, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
- Docent, Carlyle House Historic Park Museum
- Board Member, Alexandria Historical Society (AHS)

Q: How did you first get involved with this organization and begin volunteering?

When my older son was getting ready to go off to college, I decided I would have more time to devote to other activities. I had developed quite a passion for early American history and was familiar with the Carlyle House and its wonderful gardens. So, I toured the museum again one Sunday afternoon and asked about volunteer opportunities. My experiences at the Carlyle House, and the contacts made there, ultimately led me to join the Alexandria Historical Society and sign-up as a docent at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Also, I decided to sign up for the Apothecary Museum because I have a medical background and thought being a docent there would be a good fit for me and diversify my involvement with the city’s museums.

Q: How long have you been volunteering?

Carlyle House: 2002 to present
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum: 2007 to present
Alexandria Historical Society: Member, 2005 to present; Board Member, 2007 to present

Q: How many hours per week or month do you volunteer?

About 12 to 15 hours per month.

Q: What do your volunteer duties involve?

  1. Giving tours at two city museums and learning more about early Alexandria history in the process.
  2. Helping with Alexandria Historical Society programs and related matters. (Recently helped develop a new AHS brochure and have been focusing on membership recruitment and retention issues.)

Q: What is the best part of volunteering at this organization?

I have gotten to meet a lot of wonderful people, including the professionals who manage and staff two of the city’s museums, and the many docents who volunteer their time. I also feel a much closer link to the City of Alexandria itself. It’s also fun to interact with visitors and help them learn a little bit about Alexandria’s early history.

Q: What have you learned from your volunteer experience?

I have learned a great deal more about Alexandria history. I have learned how hard professional museum staff must work in order to support their docents and provide effective and enjoyable programs for their communities. I have learned that volunteering can be a very rewarding experience.

Q: What would you recommend for others who want to get more involved in the community through volunteer work?

Don’t be bashful about visiting one of the city’s museums to learn more about the museum and about volunteer opportunities. Each site is different and may interest different people. Museum professional staff and docents will be more than happy to answer your questions. Even if you have a full-time job, like I do, you can still find plenty of opportunities to volunteer even if it’s only for a few hours, one weekend each month. You will find it a very rewarding experience.