Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Charlotte Ziegler

Just over a decade ago, Charlotte Ziegler visited the website of the B&O Railroad Museum in search of information about the annual Day Out With Thomas event for a friend with a young grandson. Charlotte soon noticed that the B&O had volunteer opportunities available, and after a few brief, unsatisfying stints at other institutions, she was eager to find out if the B&O was a good fit. Charlotte, who retired in 2006 after a long career in marketing & public affairs for the U.S. Army, saw volunteer work as a way to continue keeping her mind active and engaged. “I retired after 30 years,” Charlotte explains, “but my brain didn’t. It keeps going. It still is.”  Charlotte quickly scheduled an interview and was delighted to learn that at the B&O, she would have the freedom to apply all of her skills — wherever and however she best saw fit. Before long, Charlotte became one of the museum’s regular Tuesday volunteers. Over time, the B&O began to call on Charlotte when in need of her unique skill set which includes costume design — a hobby she describes as her “first love.” Charlotte is suddenly glowing as she recalls being asked to design princess costumes for the museum’s Royal Adventure Days event and tells me that the gown she considers her “particular masterpiece” is that of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, for which she had to create a custom fabric pattern to match the one from the movie. Perhaps surprisingly, Charlotte confesses that when she first began volunteering at the B&O, her interest in trains was quite minimal and mostly limited to fond childhood memories of setting up a model village under the Christmas tree each year with her mother — a holiday tradition which Charlotte has continued to uphold throughout the years. Fortunately for the museum and all who attend its annual Magical Holiday Express event, Charlotte shares that yuletide joy each year by assuming the role of Mrs. Claus as she has done since 2010 and which she considers to be her absolute favorite part of volunteering at the B&O. Charlotte also puts her marketing background to use by distributing B&O press releases to the multitude of media outlets she has organized into a spreadsheet at home. As if the aforementioned contributions weren’t enough, Charlotte leads museum tours and is radiantly proud of currently being the only woman volunteer to do so. Charlotte recalls a guest once condescendingly raising doubts about whether or not she was indeed a volunteer at the museum. “Girls like trains too.” she replied. As the simplest responses often do, Charlotte’s answer resonates. The world of trains and railroad history tends to be predominated by men, however Charlotte notes that the guys with whom she volunteers have never been anything short of utterly genial and welcoming towards her. In fact, Charlotte affectionately refers to her crew of fellow Thursday volunteers as “The Rat Pack” and, through delighted laughter, adds “I guess that makes me Angie Dickinson.”

Inspired by Charlotte's story? You can apply to volunteer at the B&O today!

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