As part of KPCC's "Season's Givings" series, Kitty Felde talks to a volunteer at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
Kitty Felde: I'm Kitty Felde with Season's Givings. 2004 was a rough time for retired Air Force veteran Myrna-Lynne Whitney. Her parents died that year, and so did Ronald Reagan.
Myrna-Lynne Whitney: I was really down and friends brought me to the Reagan, to the library for my birthday. And I loved President Reagan. He was my commander-in-chief some of my time in the Air Force, and different friends said, "Why don't you start working there?" I lead tours. And then I work a lot of special events.
Felde: On this day, Whitney is escorting special guests from the VIP parking lot to an auditorium at the Reagan Library. They're here for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's address to about a thousand invited guests – including former California governor Pete Wilson.
Whitney: Hi, sir, how are you?
Pete Wilson: Nice to see you.
Whitney: Nice to see you!
Wilson: Thank you.
Tony Chauveaux: We have about 320 to 330 volunteers on our rolls.
Felde: Tony Chauveaux is deputy director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
Chauveaux: There's an interview process and certainly a background check because we're a presidential library and museum. And then there is about an eight-week training period.
In addition, there's an extensive reading list. Books on President Reagan, books on Mrs. Reagan from different viewpoints.
Felde: Why so much homework? Tony Chauveaux says it's the ever inquisitive museum visitors.
Chauveaux: Because they ask all sorts of questions, most of which are not addressed in the labeling on the museum floor.
Felde: So how important are museum volunteers?
Chauveaux: The bottom line – and we remind them of this as often as we can – is that the Reagan Library cannot remain open were it not for the service that they contribute to us.
Felde: Air Force veteran Myrna-Lynne Whitney says she's proud to serve.
Whitney: We really get such a cross-section of people here and I really enjoy that. And I guess the biggest thing I enjoy is sharing President Reagan with everybody 'cause I admired, respected, loved the man. And when I give my tours, a lot of people say to me, "You make him come to life."
Felde: Myrna-Lynne Whitney usually leads tours every Wednesday morning, though she says she usually spends several days a week volunteering at the Reagan Library. Not that she minds.
Whitney: The only thing I truly, truly regret is I never had the opportunity to meet him.
Felde: If you're interested in volunteering at the library, go to ReaganLibrary.com and click on "Contact Us."