When I asked Dick Fox why he loves to volunteer at Shenandoah River State Park, his response was “We're invested in the success and well-being of the park!”
Meet the Fox Family
Wow! What a response. So with that I introduce the Volunteers of the Month for October 2014 – Dick Fox, Jinny Fox, and their dog Jake.
Shenandoah River State Park Manager Tony Widmer said“I used to see the Fox’s on walks [at the park]. I would go for a walk after work and almost always run into Dick and Jinny. They spoke about retiring here because of the park, and they did!”
“When we retired in 2007 and prepared to move to the Shenandoah Valley, we fell in love with the park and bought a house nearby,” said Dick Fox, volunteer at Shenandoah River State Park. “It became our 1600-acre backyard playground, with miles of shoreline along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and over 24 miles of fantastic trails.”
Dick, Jinny, and their granddaughter Hannah doing what they love – hiking
So how did he go from hiking trails to being a volunteer?
“We started out in 2009,” said Dick. “We volunteered at the summer Junior Ranger’s children’s program at the park. Later that year we were invited to attend an informational meeting hosted by Gaston Rouse (Director of Community Engagement and Volunteerism for Virginia State Parks) concerning the formation of a Friends Group at the park. We walked out officers in the newly formed group consisting of the four people who attended the meeting!”
“When starting our Friends Group at the park they were the first ones I contacted to join,” said Tony. “We have had a very successful Friends Group because of their dedication to the park. They are the best kind of folks to have in our park.”
The trio (Dick, Jinny, and their dog Jake) are avid hikers!
“We try to cover each of the trails once every week or so,” said Dick. The park has more than 24 miles of trails. “Our golden retriever Jake’s full-time job is ‘wildlife habitat and waste surveillance’!”
Jake's first day on the trails at Shenandoah River State Park
“Recently, Jake became a ‘registered therapy dog’ and we visit nursing homes together and the local hospital to be with folks who need to experience God’s love through a wonderful dog,” said Dick. “We also visit the local library and elementary schools to participate in reading programs, where Jake avidly listens and provides a loving presence to the kids.”
Jake is ready for a jaunt down the river!
According to Jennifer Saik, the volunteer coordinator at Shenandoah River State Park, Mr. Fox is a wonderful park volunteer.
“Mr. Fox is always ready to help out with any tasks that need to be completed, even on really short notice,” said Jennifer. “He is very dependable and always has great ideas about how to improve things. But most importantly, I love his sense of humor. He is always making people laugh and likes to play practical jokes. One example is when I came in to work one morning and there was a new ‘snake’ in Twitchy’s cage (who was our Rough Green snake that had escaped weeks before)….of course, it was fake. Nice try, Mr. Fox!”
Dick Fox with Jennifer Saik at Shenandoah River State Park
In addition to all the hiking they do, Dick tries to get out kayaking once a week on the Shenandoah River.
Dick, is 66 years old and has been married to his beautiful wife, Jinny, for 39 years! He retired after 37 years with the U.S. Government. He served as a nuclear engineer with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Jinny is an avid history buff who supervised interpretation at George Washington’s “Pioneer Farm” at Mount Vernon. Jinny loves to work with her hands and avidly pursues interests in gardening, sewing, spinning, weaving, and crafts of all kinds. Each year she participates in a “Sheep to Shawl” contest with a handful of friends from Mount Vernon, where they shear a special sheep from the estate, spin its wool, and weave a shawl in a timed contest with other sheep and wool lovers.
Together they have two grown children and three grandchildren.
“When our children were four and seven we traveled with World Vision to Ecuador to meet our sponsored child,” said Dick. “It was an amazing trip and a challenge to be over 11,000 feet in the Andes.”
Dick has traveled through Europe; Jinny is not big on airplanes but has been through much of the United States.
“Together our travels have focused on places to camp or curl up in a cabin in a natural setting,” said Dick.
Dick Fox, enjoying Shenandoah River State Park
Upon moving to Front Royal, Dick started a genealogy search on his ancestors, most of who lived in Luray, Virginia. for seven generations. He discovered several ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and others who aided the Continental Army in the American Revolution.
“We like to do most of our volunteer work along with our daily hiking and exploring activities in the park and nearby areas,” said Dick. “I also volunteer with the Shenandoah National Park to explore and document old graveyards and other historical cultural sites in the forest.”
While at Shenandoah River State Park with the suggestion from Jennifer Saik, the couple does trail surveillance on their regular hikes along with light trail maintenance.
“We move anything that has fallen on the path we can lift,” said Dick. “We report downed trees which are then removed by the park staff and other volunteers.”
Dick and Jinny are active participants in the Friends Group and get involved in as many Friends activities as possible. Volunteering never feels like work to them.
The Shenandoah River State Park Friends Group
“We love the people who work here as well as the setting, so volunteering to help out the park feels very natural,” said Dick.
“All the people in the Virginia Clean Waterways.
“He is really good at making new volunteers feel really welcome to all activities and takes a strong leadership role in the group,” said Jennifer.
Dick has been the “site captain” for the annual river clean-up for the last six years.
Dick and Jinny's haul from the 2014 River Clean-Up
“It turns out that the Annual River Cleanup usually falls within a day or two of our wedding anniversary,” said Dick. “So, we’ve learned to allow these two events to be celebrated together. Two years ago I accidentally dunked Jinny in the river when the canoe tipped over as she was reaching for some trash. No animals or fish were injured during the incident.”
Virginia State Parks' loves our volunteers, we could not do what we do without you!
If you would like to learn more about volunteering at a park near you, click here.