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Volunteering on Cumberland Island

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Love history and nature? Want to take a break away from the hustle and bustle of city life? Here’s a neat opportunity! You can be a Plum Orchard Caretaker for up to 2-3 months. Cumberland Island is a 20 mile long island off the coats of Georgia and Florida. It is a natural barrier island with beautiful beaches, marsh lands and open fields. The island was a Spanish and English colony, which later became a prosperous cotton plantation. The island is largely a reserve, owned and maintained by National Park Services and there is absolutely nothing commercial on the island (except for the Greyfield Inn, which is a private property).

copyright Go Eat GiveBuilt in 1898, Plum Orchard is a 20,000 square foot, Georgian Revival mansion that was constructed by Lucy Carnegie for her son, George and his wife, Margaret Thaw. Peabody and Stearns designed the home and its various additions. This “simple house” consisted of 21,724 square feet, swimming pool and squash court. The estate and surrounding area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Cumberland Island National Seashore has maintained the mansion and decorated it with original furnishings, so visitors can get an inside look into how it was to be rich and famous in the South. Today, some of the rooms are used to host the volunteers.

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Volunteers at Plum Orchard are required work a minimum of 30 hours per week in exchange for living at Plum Orchard.  The volunteers must provide maintenance around the house, help with tours 5 days a week, and serve as an emergency contact for visitors to the island.  The position is very competitive and usually filled months in advance. The listings for open volunteer positions, when they are open, can be found at www.volunteer.gov/gov.

There are also other volunteer position on the island, such as for Cumberland Island Research Volunteer and Cumberland Island Museum Docent. While the Plum Orchard position offers free housing, others require applicants supply their own housing, often through a RV or motor home. It’s also a nice retreat for campers who are passionate about nature and history.

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to 70+ countries across 6 continents. She is also the founder and editor of 'Go Eat Give' and author of 'Beato Goes To' series of children's books on travel.