VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: GERRY BURKE
By Megan Maynard
Our STPS Volunteer Spotlight of the Month is Geraldine (Gerry) Burke.
Gerry has been a valued volunteer for 16 years. Prior to retiring and moving to Melbourne, she worked as a senior legislative analyst (education) for the New York State Senate with her degrees in secondary education, social studies, and political science. Some of her favorite pastimes outside of work included downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, and travel. Most recently she has enjoyed line dance classes, genealogy, pool aerobics, walking, and church functions.
While still living in Albany, Gerry read “Beach House” by Mary Alice Monroe and learned all about loggerhead turtles. The timing could not have been more perfect because she soon moved to Melbourne. She still remembers coming over the causeway and seeing the iconic Indialantic sign showcasing a loggerhead turtle. After her move in 2003, she didn’t waste any time and attended an STPS turtle talk after seeing a flier. As many volunteers will say, “she was hooked!”
One of her first volunteering efforts was attending the Coconut Point beach cleanups. Since 2011, she has been the STPS Beach Cleanup Coordinator for the original south site at Coconut Point Park, then in 2015 she added STPS Beach Cleanup Coordinator for the north site at Cherie Down Park. To add to that, she is acting liaison with the Keep Brevard Beautiful organization.
Gerry loves how the beach cleanup events bring a real sense of purpose to her life. She gets the opportunity to talk to the public about sea turtles and STPS and the importance of the work they do. She meets people of all ages: school groups, parents with children, work colleagues, tourists, and students earning volunteer hours. The diversity amongst the volunteers and guests is vast. With all of her endeavors, it is no surprise that in 2012, Gerry was awarded the STPS Volunteer of the Year.
Her main goal moving forward is to recruit more volunteers for the north team. Beach cleanups are a “come if you’re able” for the general public, but to be a formal team member requires a commitment including travel time to the site and roughly 2.5 hours for the cleanup. Currently, the site captain, Mike Klapperich, needs more team members. With no strict signup policy, attendance can range from 10-40 people. Having more committed members would allow our monthly cleanup volunteers to get to the beach sooner. Gerry is grateful to have enough south team members to enable her to visit her Albany family during July and August.
Gerry’s commitment is commendable, and she hopes to continue her efforts, as well as participate with the Night Krawlers crew on night walks, and the STERP response team.