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Two older adults stand holding a plaque together.

Morris and Kathy are this year’s winners!

Our Zoo is blessed with an incredibly dedicated and hard-working volunteer team who keep everything running smoothly. We are consistently looking for ways to show our appreciation to this magnificent cohort of 541 individuals (and counting). One of those ways is our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Our 2024 event thanked volunteers by serving dinner, providing refreshments, presenting service awards and showcasing behind-the-scenes photos and video from the past year. However, the biggest award of the night is our Volunteer of the Year award. This year, with so many impressive volunteer nominations, we decided to select two winners for this prestigious award. Congratulations to Kathy Woods and Morris Susaneck! Read on to learn all about these two, and why they’ve chosen to devote their time to serving their Zoo.  


Why did you decide to volunteer at the Zoo? 

Kathy: I was actually a part of the volunteer build, working on the boardwalk at Wild Florida. Afterwards, I felt that I was part of the Zoo, and I wanted to stay and be a real part of it. 

Morris: When I got laid off from the Space Shuttle Program after 26 years, even though I was applying to over 400 places for a job, it was suggested that I start volunteering at the Zoo to keep me busy while applying for jobs. The job hunt was unsuccessful, but volunteering was one of the best decisions I made. I now volunteer five days a week. 


What do you gain from volunteering at the Zoo? 

Kathy: I gain a ton of knowledge and a greater understanding of conservation for the animals. 

Morris: Everything… In addition to all the knowledge about the animals and the fun of volunteering here, I have gained a new group of great friends. I also gained a purpose for myself in my retirement. 


What do you think the volunteer program adds to the Zoo experience?  

Kathy: There are volunteers in all areas of the Zoo, and we are the eyes and ears of all that the Zoo is about and what we accomplish here. 

Morris: The volunteer program adds a lot to the experience. Part of our responsibility is to interact with the guests, giving them knowledge that enlightens them. It is one thing to see our cute bloodhounds in the barnyard, but it is another to share their history with the guests when they ask why they are in the Zoo. We want the guests to leave happier than when they arrived. 


Tell us about your work with the Zoo. What does a typical day look like for you? 

Kathy: If I’m the day captain in the afternoon, my shift is checking in the volunteers on the shift and making sure they are equipped with a radio for any necessary things that they need. I also will continually walk the loops of the Zoo checking on the volunteers to see that everyone is enjoying their day. I check if anyone needs a break or if anyone needs to be replaced. I also interact with guests while I’m walking through the Zoo. I can see things I typically don’t see on my Monday morning shift on the Giraffe platform. 

Morris: Mondays, I am in the Lands of Change cleaning up the kangaroo yard, helping with kangaroo feeding, and monitoring and helping the guests in the Lorikeet Landing. Tuesdays, I volunteer from home working on various things like end of month reports, retention statistics and anything else the staff requests. Wednesdays, I am in the Barnyard cleaning up or monitoring and instructing the guests on visiting and petting the animals. And, of course, answering questions that the guests have. Thursdays, I do the same as Tuesdays. Saturdays, I am in the volunteer office processing and scanning documents related to the volunteers, such as area checklists.  


What’s your favorite type of shift to take on? 

Kathy: I don’t mind any shift, as long as my work schedule allows. 

Morris: All my shifts are great. It is like asking which of my two daughters I love more.  Of course, when it comes to the animals, my favorite is Puff the Nigerian dwarf goat in the Barnyard. 


What would you say to someone considering joining the Zoo’s volunteer team? 

Kathy: I would encourage them to join and explain the process. I would tell them how great it is to be here. 

Morris: I have said it many times. If you are looking for wonderful experiences, great knowledge, fabulous volunteers and outright fun, volunteering at the Zoo is the place to be. It all starts on the Brevard Zoo webpage.