Collin and Becky Stuart, of Yardley, have been named the 2017 Volunteers of the Year by the Friends of Washington Crossing Park.
Though they’re often on-hand to help with park events, the Stuarts spend most of their volunteering time coordinating the animal program at the Thompson-Neely House and Farmstead in the Upper Park.
“Collin and Becky’s constant commitment to our animals and their willingness to organize the animal care volunteers goes above and beyond,” says Joe Capone, executive director of the Friends of Washington Crossing Park.
Rolling Up Their Sleeves
When the Stuarts moved to the area in 2013, they had little experience working with farm animals. “We visited the park as newcomers to the area and saw they needed volunteers in the animal program,” Becky says. “We’ve always liked barn animals and walking out in the country, so we thought it would be interesting.”
What began as feeding and watering the 16 sheep and goats that call the Thompson-Neely Farmstead home grew into greater responsibility in 2016 when the animal care volunteer moved away from the area.
In addition to feeding the animals and mucking out the barn once a week, the Stuarts now recruit and train volunteers, do occasional repairs on the facilities, and provide support during veterinarian visits.
“It’s pretty physical work,” Collin says. “The sheep aren’t aggressive, but they’re 140 pounds of muscle and they can really jostle you during feeding time. It’s a lot more than just petting the animals!”
Becky notes that new volunteers are always welcome and emphasizes that newcomers do not need prior experience with farm animals. Just one free day a week, physical strength, and dedication.
“It’s a really good group of volunteers caring for these animals,” she says. “People who love animals are friendly, and it’s peaceful to spend time among these animals and the buildings.”