Virginia Aquarium Volunteers Answer the Call

Virginia Aquarium Volunteers Answer the Call

During this incredible, history-making time in the world we have all likely done a lot of reflecting on what truly is important to us.  It has also been a time, even with orders for social-distancing and business closings, for people to find new and unique ways of communicating that they care.  Three of our wonderful volunteers have demonstrated that the Aquarium is important to them in giving of their time and unique skills to meet an urgent need, and we are so grateful!

Nancy Lang, a member of the 757MaskForce, said it beautifully when she said, “Every face a mask covers is important.”  In order to continue providing safe and impeccable care for our animals and to be prepared to safely reopen for our guests, Aquarium staff and volunteers needed face coverings…and a lot of them. Our Volunteer staff reached out to a few individuals and, without blinking an eye, Doreen Cote, Nancy Lang, and Helen Ernst jumped to their sewing machines to help.

Among the three of them, they have decades of sewing experience, so a face covering here or there out of thin fabric would not cause them to break a sweat.  However, the Aquarium needed more than 200 for our team and the animal husbandry staff required face coverings made from special medical-grade fabric.  This did not dissuade the women.  While Ms. Cote took on the task of making the face coverings for frontline and administrative staff, Ms. Lang and Ms. Ernst teamed to tackle the more than 60 medical-grade coverings.  The Aquarium provided the medical-grade fabric, but we are additionally grateful for the generosity of Ms. Cote, who purchased and donated all of the materials for the 200 face coverings she made.  

These women have already given the Aquarium a combined total of more than fifteen years of volunteer service. They have volunteered with important fund-raising events like our annual Sensible Seafood Fest as well as with scouting and educational programs. They have engaged with guests both on the floor and on our boat trips and given countless hours to less glamorous behind the scenes office work. These women are amazing examples of the incredible individuals we are fortunate to have selflessly partner with us. And even though our doors were temporarily closed, the important work within the Aquarium continued and so did the invaluable work of these volunteers.

As we prepare to reopen, many things will be different.  There will be new procedures and policies implemented to keep everyone safe, some temporary and some perhaps not.  Everyone (10 and over) working in and visiting the Aquarium will be required to wear a face covering, and thanks to Doreen Cote, Nancy Lang, and Helen Ernst, Aquarium employees are prepared! 

To learn more about our new procedures and important information you need to know before visiting, click HERE.  You can also stay up to date on the most recent announcements on our social media platforms. If you are interested in learning how you can volunteer with the Virginia Aquarium, click HERE.


Doreen Cote purchased the material for and made 200 face coverings for frontline and administrative staff.

Nancy Lang partnered with Helen Ernst (not pictured) to make 60 medical-grade face coverings for our animal husbandry staff.




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