VOLUNTEER OF THE WEEK: Bill Justice asks, ‘How can I help?’

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2022

By Vera Ann Fedell | The Vicksburg Post

This week’s Vicksburg Post Volunteer of the Week is Bill Justice, who volunteers at the Vicksburg National Military Park and with the Rotary Club of Vicksburg. Justice is from Western Maryland, near the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields, which led to his interest in the Civil War and the National Park Service. While working on his degree in history at American University, he started working for the NPS as a summer job. Forty-six years later, he retired in Vicksburg. His wife, Barbara, is a Park Ranger for NPS. She worked at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum in the 1990s and now works for Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, La. 

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I’ve worked as a volunteer with a lot of organizations. Most recently, I’ve coordinated the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s involvement in the city’s Spring Cleanup Day. Rotary is a volunteer organization with an international reach and volunteer programs throughout the world. Our motto is “Service above Self.” I also volunteer on almost every project the military park and the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park holds. It’s a very special place.

How long have you been volunteering?

My first volunteer project was a cleanup as a Boy Scout. My family has been active volunteering their time for projects and organizations we support for as long as I can remember. Our parents led by example.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering?

I have several. The most recent is cleaning the headstones at the Vicksburg National Cemetery and meeting people I’d never met who I still see at the Two Mississippi Museums. A big part of that memory is coming back a week later and seeing all those gleaming white stones. 17,000 headstones in one day is an accomplishment. I’m proud to have been a part of that. 

Paired with that is the morning of the Spring Cleanup last year. The headstone cleaning in the park was the same week so we weren’t sure how many people would show up. The turnout was great and we got a lot done. Successfully carrying out those two major volunteer projects within days of each other is a real achievement for the community. It was inspiring to see those two projects completed.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Volunteering for something you care about is rewarding on so many levels. Seek out an organization whose mission you care about and give them some time. Ask, “How can I help?”

What are your tasks while volunteering?

That depends on the need of the organization or project. I’ve picked up trash, built a brick floor, painted a lot of things, met and talked with people, handed out programs, helped people through tough times and inventoried photographs, just to name a few.

What have you learned from volunteering with these organizations?

Working for the National Park Service, I’ve been involved in some amazing volunteer programs. One of those is the program at Vicksburg National Military Park. The best programs are designed to meet the needs of the organization as well as the needs of the volunteers. That match helps all involved be successful. There are always people working behind the scenes to achieve that success. Laura Beth Strickland, Ashley Gatian and the staff at the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Taylor Hegler and the staff at Vicksburg National Military Park and Bess Mitchell Averett of the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign do a lot of work behind the scenes to make volunteer programs and events successful. They and all those who do that work deserve our recognition, too. 

Any additional comments?

Your time is the most valuable thing you can give. Even a little time well spent can make a huge difference. When you look around Vicksburg, there are people doing that everywhere: in churches, schools, youth groups, the park, everywhere. We have the Americorps regional headquarters here as well, one of the largest volunteer service organizations in the country. This community is supported by volunteers at almost every level. Be a part. 

If you have the time and the freedom to travel there are needs all over the world. The floods in Eastern Kentucky have created some specialized needs that you might be able to help with. Most people throughout the world need clean water and sanitation. There are needs everywhere. Don’t just show up; work with an organization that is coordinating volunteer efforts.

If there is a volunteer who should be featured, please submit their name and contact information to volunteer@vicksburgpost.com.