87-year-old nearing volunteer milestone

Adele Coplen
Adele Coplen is just 20 hours away from reaching a volunteering milestone.

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – She’s been a dedicated volunteer for decades in Albuquerque. Now, an 87-year-old woman is determined to reach her 4,000th volunteer hour, to earn a special recognition. After 24 years, New Mexico’s Museum of Natural History never ceases to amaze Adele Coplen.

“This is beautiful,” she gasped, walking into one of the museum’s exhibits. “We have talking dinosaurs,” she pointed out, smiling.

The 87-year-old volunteers there at least once a week. Her favorite exhibit to volunteer in is Cretaceous. “At this time 75 million years ago, we were an ocean,” she explained.

A retired nurse, Coplen loves to learn, and enjoys to share what she knows with others. Coplen started volunteering there in 1990. She put in hundreds of hours, then stopped coming after her husband died.

“When I came back, I realized that the museum didn’t need me, I needed the museum,” Coplen explained. “I need the people. I can’t sit at home and crochet and knit, I did that in my 30s and 40s I’m not gonna do that again.”

She turns 88 next month, and needs a hip replacement. But her priority is to reach her goal. She’s just 20 hours away from putting in 4,000 volunteer hours.

“And I have until the first of December to get it because this is when they accumulate the hours for the awards,” explained Coplen.

When she gets to 4,000 hours, she’ll receive a new pin for her lapel, and a very special honor; a Presidential Call to Service Award, which includes a letter from the President.

“Oh, that’s a goal I’m reaching for, so even though the arthritis is killing me and I can hardly walk, I can’t wait to get that letter from the President.”

That special recognition, and sharing the museum’s wonders with guests, make it a place for Coplen worth coming back to as long as she can.

“They say oh thank you so much, that’s my pay, the smile on that person’s face, you can’t buy that, they don’t sell that in stores,” said Coplen.

Coplen volunteers at the museum on Mondays from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. She’s just one of hundreds of volunteers there. Museum officials told News 13 their volunteers put in more than 47,000 hours just last year.

Coplen hopes to reach her goal of 4,000 hours by October, that way she’ll be ready for the special volunteer award ceremony in January.

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