St. Paul mom named Science Museum’s volunteer of the month

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Deb Pleasants is the Science Museum of Minnesota’s featured volunteer of the month. “I am passionate about what I believe in — each person has to give back to the community in order to make the world better,” Pleasants affirmed. “So I try to choose the organization that I give back to that reflects my values.”

Pleasants has been a special exhibit volunteer one day a week for the past year, since the museum’s “Race: Are We So Different?” exhibit. The Science Museum is not the only organization that Pleasants chooses to give back to; she also volunteers at Women’s Advocates, Inc. in St. Paul (a crisis shelter for women experiencing abuse) and at her seven-year-old son’s school as needed.

Pleasants is one of the hundreds of people that make the Twin Cities the number-one metropolitan area in the country in volunteerism. On the state level, Minnesota ranks third in the country.

According to the rankings done by The Corporation for National & Community Service, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area has the highest volunteering rate of the cities ranked. Based on a three-year average from 2004-2006, Minneapolis-St. Paul had an average volunteer rate of 40.5 percent compared with the national average of 28 percent. The Twin Cities had approximately 945,000 volunteers who volunteered an average of 44 hours each.

Giving back to the community is Pleasants’ second passion — her first passion is spending time with her family. Originally from Chicago, Pleasants has been a St. Paul resident for 20 years. She worked as a probation officer up until 2000, when she became a stay-at-home mom. Her husband is a doctor, and along with their seven-year-old they have three older children.

Family time together is the ultimate priority for the Pleasants family. They enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, cross-country skiing and hiking. She and her husband are members of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club (named after the early 20th-century African American world champion bicycle racer).

At the Science Museum, Pleasants’ primary responsibility is to educate guests, and she often does that with hands-on activities. For example, at the Pompeii exhibit, she played games with kids to show them the types of games kids played in the ancient Italian town before it was destroyed by a volcano. Visitors to the Science Museum are likely to benefit from Pleasants’ enthusiasm and her zeal to ensure that their experience is positive.

The Science Museum volunteers receive extensive training, and Pleasants delights in learning. She shares her knowledge about the exhibits with visitors: “I help them understand more about what topic they’re seeing.” And, she also teaches her younger son much of what she has learned.

“Anyone who has the time to volunteer, whether at the Science Museum or elsewhere, will benefit. The ideal volunteer is one who is open to help and to be a larger part of the community,” Pleasants asserts.

Heather Cox, director of volunteers at the Science Museum, expressed the museum’s appreciation for Pleasants’ contribution, as well as of all their volunteers, to the museum, and her continued passion for the exhibits. With respect to the value of volunteerism, Cox said, “Volunteerism transcends limited resources, budget cuts and personal despair — it engages hope and possibility. When investment is made in developing volunteers, the individual’s and the communities’ needs are better met.”

For information about the Science Museum of Minnesota Volunteer Program, go to their website, www.smm.org/volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, contact the volunteer department at 651-221-4703 or volunteer@smm.org.

Jennifer Holder welcomes reader responses to jyholder@msn.com.

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