Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over two hundred volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitor Center, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. We’ve asked some of Oakland’s volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve lived in the Atlanta area for most of my life, and for most of that time, Oakland has been my favorite place. (You might say it’s my favorite “haunt,” if so inclined.) I have an educational background in historic preservation and worked in the outreach program at the State Historic Preservation Office for six years. Like many in the Atlanta area, I’ve since changed lanes to work in web development, but history remains among my foremost interests. When I’m not at Oakland, you might find me loitering around other historic places, checking out the incredible array of food on Buford Highway, or hanging out with my wife Yancey and our two dogs and two cats.
How did you get involved in volunteering at Oakland?
I first started volunteering at Oakland in December of 2003 while an undergraduate student at Georgia State University. Oakland was a perfect fit—it fulfilled my interest in history, gave me a place to hone my skills as a budding photographer, and satisfied my late-teen Gothic sensibilities.
Why do you volunteer at Oakland?
In a city/world that is always changing, Oakland is a rare link to a past that otherwise might only be read about in books. More personally, Oakland provides a welcome respite from the constant flux of modern life. Though the cemetery has remained relatively unchanged, my understanding and appreciation of it have steadily deepened. Even after 15 years of volunteering, I discover something new every time I visit. I think that it is a special place, and I volunteer in order to do my small part to help it continue to flourish.
What do you do at Oakland?
I lead tours, staff the Visitor’s Center, and help out with special events. In 2018 I started guiding the Malts & Vaults tour, focusing on the history of brewing in Atlanta.
Everyone has a unique, interesting story to tell. I may be biased, but I’ve never met more engaging people than at Oakland.
What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
First and foremost the people—the other volunteers, those who come to visit from all over the world, and the 70,000 residents. Everyone has a unique, interesting story to tell. I may be biased, but I’ve never met more engaging people than at Oakland.
What is your favorite Oakland experience/memory/moment?
While there are many candidates for this answer, nothing can top the life events that occurred over several years at Oakland: reconnecting with my high school friend Yancey when she took my tour, asking her if she’d like to get married, and then having our wedding reception in the Bell Tower.
If you would like to volunteer Historic Oakland Cemetery, please email Director of Programming and Volunteers Richard Harker at firstname.lastname@example.org.