Your dedication is what makes New Hampshire Granite State Ambassadors great. Thank you for taking advantage of these opportunities.
by GSA Marty Wagner, Comfort Inn Concord Class of 2011
When the first pieces of the interstate highway system were built in the 1950s, no one could have imagined the number of vehicles that would take to the roads nor the number of people that would travel to New Hampshire by automobile. On holiday weekends, and some summer weekends, as many as 600,000 of our closest friends cross our borders to enjoy all NH has to offer. I feel like I’ve met at least half of them at the State Welcome Centers. This article is intended to tell you more about being a volunteer at these Centers, and perhaps meeting some of these nice folk yourselves.
I volunteer regularly at the Hooksett North and Canterbury Welcome Centers, and have also put in shifts at the Hooksett South and Seabrook Welcome Centers. Whenever I’ve mentioned my volunteering history to other GSAs, there have always been questions about my experiences. Below are some FAQs which I have been asked by other GSAs in my 6 years of volunteering at these Centers.
What do GSAs do, and what does the staff do?
In each of the Welcome Centers, the staff and I seem to have worked out a rhythm of who does what. The GSA’s job is generally to cover the brochure racks or general area and approach people to see if they need help. If they’re looking at brochures or looking around a bit aimlessly, it’s time to take the initiative and speak first. Often when I ask visitors if they need help finding something, they first say ‘no’ and then immediately follow that up with questions. At that point, the conversation has begun, and another fun experience as a GSA is underway.
The staff generally operates from behind the desk. At the centers where they have printers, it is the staff who researches things online based on a question they’ve received from a visitor or the GSA on duty. They often print out that type of information as well as driving directions when asked for those. Staff in Hooksett are also responsible for issuing various licenses, but GSAs are not involved in that task at all.
Staff at other State Welcome Centers are responsible for maintaining the facility which sometimes means that the GSA is the one covering the front counter area alone for short periods of time during the shift. However, if something comes up which requires their help, they are nearby and easily accessible.
I’d like to think that the staff and I are backup for each other since we all bring various knowledge to the centers. I’ve gotten to know some of the staff so we know each other’s specialties and interests, which only helps the visitors overall. Many times visitors benefit from a discussion with two of us for ideas and recommendations.
By the way, how each center keeps GSA records may vary slightly from place to place; it’s clicker counters in Hooksett and marking the tick sheets in Canterbury. My rule is ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans.’ It’s their ‘house’; I’m the temporary visitor so I follow their rules.
When is the best time to volunteer?
I volunteer year-round at the State Centers, although I go less frequently during the quieter winter months and more often during NH’s high season from Memorial Day through the end of October, followed by the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Their shifts are generally Thursday through Saturday at northbound centers, and Sunday and Monday on southbound centers. To pick a time that will suit you, just think about when the traffic jams occur on the highways. The norms change with weather forecasts and holidays, of course, but generally, the busy times, particularly from Memorial Day through Labor Day and then during foliage season, are:
Thursday afternoons when people get a head start on the weekend. (northbound)
Fridays from noon until about 9 p.m. (northbound)
Saturdays from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. (northbound)
Sunday from early afternoon to 9 p.m. (southbound)
Monday mornings when people travel to avoid Sunday travel (southbound)
Is there a place for GSAs to sit?
The short answer is that yes, there are places for GSAs to sit at the State Welcome Centers. However, in order to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of their computer systems, the State prefers that only employees be behind the counter. That does not preclude GSAs from finding a nearby bench or chair to sit on between helping visitors. During busy times, I never have enough time to sit, but the option is always available to me if I need it no matter how many people are passing through the centers.
What types of questions or interactions can you expect?
I could write a book in answer to this question, as could any GSA about the places where they volunteer. The short response is expect anything and everything from…… where are the bathrooms to…. the lakes really freeze enough here in winter so people can walk on them? It was February, and when I told this particular man about bob houses, ice hockey tournaments and car racing on Winnipesaukee, he wanted directions to go there that very day. He was from Egypt and had never seen a frozen pond or lake. How cool is that? I didn’t believe it two years later when I had a similar conversation with another visitor, this one from Brazil.
At all four State Welcome Centers where I’ve worked, there are always people who are just planning for their next vacation to NH. They’re looking for ideas and brochures to back up those ideas, whenever possible. Another constant is lost people trying to find the way to their destination or the way back to where they started. One of my favorite questions related to directions was: “Can you tell me the difference between Hampton and New Hampton? I’m supposed to be at one of them, but I’m not sure which one.” He laughed heartily, as we stood in Hooksett, not particularly close to either place. We asked a few questions and decided Hampton Beach was his destination. Staff printed directions for him and he was gone.
During our snowless winter of 2015-2016 when there was no skiing, many of the February vacationers still came to NH, but they were looking for recommendations to help keep themselves busy during their stays. Being in snow country with no snow is a challenge, but we came up with some ideas.
In May of this year, the Canterbury Welcome Center helped a busload of Romanian visitors. Only one or two spoke English, but we offered them maps and brochures, and they were appreciative . Then the guide himself, also from Romania, asked for ideas of where to stop in the White Mountains as they drove to Quebec. We made a couple suggestions, he seemed happy with the options, and off they went.
Beautiful Saturday afternoons in summer are likely to bring out people who have decided it’s a good day for a ride, and they now want to see as much as they can. I once spoke with a woman who wanted to walk the Flume, drive across the Kanc, visit Diana’s Bath, and do some shopping in North Conway. It was a great plan but it was also 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and she was headed back to Boston for the evening. I estimated the travel time for her, and when she saw the difficulty, I helped with an alternative plan.
In the Fall, questions are mostly about finding the red leaves, of course. I’ve developed a couple routes people might take depending on the traffic and how adventuresome they are. I loved it when one man came up to the counter one day and said, “I only want to go on back roads with my camera.” He was a professional photographer, and we found him roads that were just grey lines on the map. Another visitor, while not a professional, was every bit as serious about her photography craft. “I’d like to take a foliage picture reflected in a lake.” Staff and I put our heads together to give her some ideas which had an added challenge because it was about two weeks prior to the peak season. As you all know, finding red trees is not an exact science.
It was in late Fall when a woman and her husband appeared with all kinds of questions about what they might see and do in the White Mountains. We had been discussing it for a while when she added that they wanted to take the Cog that day, too. “That’s great,” I said as I looked at her flip-flops and her husband’s shorts. “You might want warmer clothing though since it’s currently 23 degrees at the top and only 12 degrees with the wind chill factor.” Unfortunately, they didn’t have any warm clothes with them, but there were still lots of other alternatives for them to pursue.
I, of course, have also had some questions that stump me although I always provide the best answer I can. At the top of that list was one asked on the Friday night of Columbus Day weekend: “Why is there so much traffic tonight?” Tough one.
Do the State employees want us as the State Centers?
I was reluctant to include this question, but since I’ve been asked this at least twice, I decided to just put it in black and white. The State employees at the Centers have always welcomed me to their Centers, and treated me kindly. We’ve gotten to know each other a bit and share stories like anyone you work with. It’s neat, too, that almost all of them have been through GSA training now, so they really understand how our mission fits into theirs. Pictured below are part of the Hooksett crew: on the left is Meaghan, Hooksett North and South supervisor, standing with Andrew who works on the northbound side of the highway.
I hope this little bit of information about the State Welcome Centers gives you better insight about volunteering there. Those of us that do it, really love it. Choosing a time to volunteer is key, so keep in mind……traffic jam time usually means plenty of action, and lots of variety. The other most important thing is to be ready to approach people in the Centers to offer your assistance.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or any of the Centers. They’re waiting to meet you, as are some of those 600,00 closest friends arriving here by car!
Sign-ups open Friday, May 26, 8am
On Tuesday, June 27th, 10am, a group of 30 GSA volunteers has been invited to visit and tour the Seacoast Science Center in Odiorne Point State Park, Rye NH.
Uniform: full GSA uniform - khaki shorts/skirts are allowed.
Information and Enlightenment Credit (IEC): You will receive 1 IEC for attending this tour. You will not accumulate any volunteer service hours since this is an educational opportunity.
Requirements: GSAs who have accumulated at least 50 hours, with 15 of them in the past 6 months can attend. We ask that you only sign up for 4 tours a year at the official opening date/time. Once a tour has been open a week, any eligible GSA can sign up to attend regardless of how many tours they've been on.
On June 9th, 6am, any GSA who has volunteered at least 15 hours in the past 6 months can sign up if there are openings.
On June 15th, 6am, any GSA with at least 6 hours in past 2 months can sign up if there are openings.
All GSAs attending will receive free admission into the state park. Please tell the folks at the gate that you are with NHGSA and here for a hosted tour.
A representative from Odiorne Point State Park will also be joining us for a talk.
Bring your lunch to picnic on the grounds. There is room inside and outside.
You are invited to stay and explore the park and it's coastline. There is a Footprints in Time self-guided Audio Tour around the park that takes about an hour. Do the entire 3 miles or a portion. http://www.seacoastsciencecenter.org/explore/odiorne-point-state-park/
Karen Provazza, Director of Marketing
Seacoast Science Center
570 Ocean Blvd. Rye, NH 03870-2104
From 95 North or South Take exit 5 on I-95 North or South to the Portsmouth Traffic Circle. Take Route 1 By-Pass South to Beaches/Hampton and continue south to Route 1. Turn left onto Elwyn Road. At the roundabout, go half way around and turn onto Route 1A South. Continue for 1.8 miles and look for our sign.
Sign ups are open
Tour Date: Thursday, June 8th 9am - early afternoon
Join me for a day filled with history at two of my favorite museums in the Lakes Region, the Wright Museum of WWII and the NH Boat Museum.
GSA staff: Kelly Bryer email@example.com
How many can attend? 30 GSAs
Hours requirements: You must have at least 50 volunteer service hours to attend, with 15 of them in past 6 months.
We ask that you only sign up for 4 tours a year at the official opening date/time. Once a tour has been open a week (and it has!), any eligible GSA can sign-up to attend the tour regardless of how many tours they’ve been on.
On Tuesday, May 30, 6am if there are openings, any hours restrictions are reduced to 15 in the past 6 months.
On Friday, June 2, 6am, if there are openings, any GSA with at least 1 shift in the past month can sign up.
Uniform: wear full GSA uniform
Difficulty: easy - We will be walking through the museums. There is an elevator in the Wright Museum and the Boat Museum is on one level.
9-11am Wright Museum. The Wright Museum is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the contributions and enduring legacy of WWII-era Americans. Yes, the aircraft and tanks in the photo work! They are nationally known for its collection of over 14,000 WWII items and memorabilia representing both the home front and the battlefields. On our tour we will visit the 1939-45 Time Tunnel; tanks, weapons and uniforms; and WW II photos, quilts and paintings.
11:15am-12:30pm NH Boat Museum. NH Boat Museum exhibits feature the boating history and heritage of NH’s lakes and rivers. They have many events, programs & hands-on activities as well as vintage Boat Rides on Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the Millie B. Our NHGSA Board Member, Fred Clausen of Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages has a beautiful model toy boat collection which will be part of a featured exhibit, "Big Dreams, Little Boats Mid-Century Model Toy Boats". Fred will be joining us to personally share his collection.
12:30pm - have lunch and explore Wolfeboro on your own
Wolfeboro is a wonderful town filled with wonderful restaurants and shops. We encourage you to take some time to explore the waterfront and Wolfeboro after our tour.
Michael Culver, Executive Director
Wright Museum of World War II
77 Center Street, Wolfeboro NH 03894
Lisa Simpson Lutts, Executive Director
NH Boat Museum
399 Center Street, Wolfeboro Falls, NH 03896
Wolfeboro Chamber http://www.wolfeborochamber.com/
Fred's collection on display at the NH Boat Museum
Sign-ups open May 5th at 8:10am
"The only source of knowledge is experience", Albert Einstein
Tour Dates: Monday - Thursday, June 19-22, 2017
We would like to invite eligible GSA volunteers for a free tour of New Hampshire's most popular tourism region – on the 2017 White Mountains Educational Tour!
Eligibility: Must not have done this tour in past 2 years. This is a 4 day/night commitment. This tour does not count towards your annual 4. If you have signed-up for more than 4 monthly GSA tours at the scheduled opening time, you can still sign up for this FAM tour.
Any active GSA (35 hours in past year) with over 500 hours can sign-up to attend.
If there are open spaces the requirements change to:
On May 12th at 8am, any active GSA with over 250 hours can sign-up to attend.
On May 18th at 8am, any active GSA with over 100 hours can sign-up to attend.
This free, fully-escorted tour is designed for information specialists who work directly with the public at Welcome Centers, Chambers of Commerce, regional associations AAA Offices and other selected venues. The 2017 tour will be Monday - Thursday, June 19-22, 2017.
You will learn first-hand about the 17 White Mountains Attractions and the region that is so popular with our visitors.
This White Mountains Educational Tour is sponsored by the White Mountains Attractions Association, and is designed to help you learn about, and experience for yourself, the natural and man-made attractions in the region.
A detailed itinerary and other information concerning the trip will be sent to participants later in May.
As in the past, the WMAA will cover the cost of admissions, receptions, meals, transportation and lodging during the tour. You will be responsible for gratuities.
We look forward to having you with us on this fun and educational opportunity!
White Mountain Attractions Association
# GSAs attending: 6 (may open up more seats)
You must wear your GSA uniform the first day and your GSA tag there-after.
You must be physically able to do a lot of walking, and be active from breakfast through dinner, for 4 days. This busy tour is not for the faint of heart. You will be traveling by bus.
You can sign up to attend beginning on May 2nd at 8am.
Monday, June 12, 9am-11am
Large Conference Room, 3rd floor
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
24 MHT GSA volunteers can attend.
Please join me for this planning / work-session meeting. We will be discussing the resources in the booth, frequently asked questions, mentoring, desk book, etiquette, what to do while on duty... and then we will be streamlining all the piece meal information in the booth into one format that works for everyone.
This meeting will kick off a new quarterly round-table series. From 2-3pm, before each Quarterly Management Update meeting, I will meet with GSA airport volunteers to talk specifically about our booth operations.
I'm not sure how quickly these meetings will fill. Sign-ups will be open all the time (like the Quarterly Management Update meetings). If you want to come and you keep finding the schedule full, let me know.
CAR POOL REQUESTS - email Kelly@nhgsa.com to make the connection.
Ginny L can give a ride from Concord area
Join us for an educational tour of the Castle in the Clouds and The Loon Center in Moultonborough on Monday, May 15th at 10:15am. We anticipate the tour ending around 2:30-3ish. In fairness to our hosts, you must attend the entire tour. The Sanctuary has a great trail system if you want to take a walk by the lake.
First you will be welcomed to Tom and Olive Plant’s mountaintop estate, Lucknow, built in 1913-1914 high in the Ossipee Mountain Range. The house is an unusual example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England, and also features a number of technological innovations of the early 20th century. The Castle overlooks the Ossipee Ring Dike which is an extinct volcano. The outline is easy to make out.
Lunch will be in the carriage house and is being offered for the discounted rate of $10 pp (we prefer that you purchase lunch). The views from the carriage house are spectacular!! We do need a minimum of 20 pre-ordering to offer the cold cut buffet with chips, fruit, water and lemonade lunch option. Lunch must be ordered by May 5th. You may bring a picnic lunch if you would like. To order lunch at $10/pp, please email Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please bring cash.
Here is my list of lunch orders:Tim A, Kelly B, Angella C, Sandra C, Marge F, Ray F
Joyce H, Virginia L, Connie L, Patty M, Diane M, Mary M, Irene M,
Mary O, Kathryn S, Pat S, Susan S, Marlene T, Faye T
Elise M, Roz W, Gretchen Z, Liz Z
After lunch we will head down the road to The Loon Center and Markus Wildlife Sanctuary on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee for a tour and program. We may do a light nature walk.
How many can attend: 30
Uniform: Full GSA uniform
Who is eligible? Any active GSA who has volunteered at least 50 hours (with 15 in the past 6 months).
We ask that you only sign up for 4 tours a year at the official opening date/time. Once a tour has been open a week, any eligible GSA can sign-up to attend the tour regardless of how many tours they’ve been on. 10 days before a tour, if there are openings, any hours restrictions are reduced to 15 in the past 6 months.
Information and Enlightenment Credits (IEC): This tour will earn 1 IEC. Because this is considered a learning experience, no volunteer service hours will be accumulated for attending.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Start location: 10:15am (plan to arrive at 10:00am to park and use the restroom). Feel free to walk around and take in the views.
We will meet at the carriage house. There are a few handicap parking spaces right at the carriage house.
Directions: We will be using Ossipee Park Rd - NOT the main gate (the Bottling Company drive - the back entrance to the Castle). Please use 586 Ossipee Park Road, Moultonboro for GPS.
From I-93 North take Exit 23. Take Route 104 east towards Meredith. At the end of Route 104, turn left onto Route 3. At set of lights, turn right onto Route 25. Continue on Route 25 into Moultonborough. Turn right onto Route 109. Stay left onto Route 171. Take the first LEFT after Routes 109/171 split when coming from Conway/Meredith, OR 1.8 miles past the Castle's front gate located on your RIGHT, when coming from Tuftonboro/Wolfeboro.
Castle in the Clouds
Route 171, 455 Old Mountain Road, Moultonborough NH 03254
Lunch: $10/pp at The Castle in the Cloud's Carriage House
1pm ish we will head to The Loon Center and Markus Wildlife Sanctuary.
183 Lees Mill Road
Moultonborough, NH 03254
Special thank you to GSA Marlene Taussig for helping to arrange this day in Moultonborough. Marlene volunteers for both the Castle and the Loon Center.
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport’s Director, Mark Brewer, will continue his tradition of holding informational meetings with 24 GSAs. The meetings will be held once per quarter from 3-4:30pm in the Administrative Offices Conference Room on the 3rd floor at Manchester Airport. Sign ups will be taken, as usual, on a first come first served basis. This calendar is always available.
Mark considers the GSAs his eyes and ears at the Airport. This helps him better understand any problems and GOOD things that happen at Manchester Airport. He would like to share what MHT is doing in hopes that the GSAs who attend will disseminate the information to other GSAs.
If you attended the previous meeting, please give others a chance to attend first.
January 24, 2017 – Rescheduled to February 1, Cancelled 3:00 PM – Board Room
April 25, 2017 – 3:00 PM – Board Room
July 25, 2017 – 3:00 PM – Board Room
October 24, 2017 – 3:00 PM – Board Room
There will also be a GSA volunteer meeting scheduled from 2-3pm before each of these MHT Management Update meetings. This is a separate sign-up.
Kathleen K, New Hampton - can give ride
Join me on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 11:30am for a tour in beautiful Lincoln NH. RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain has invited 30 GSAs to experience their new luxury resort hotel along with lunch at LaVista Restaurant, a tour and tasting at the Seven Birches Winery which lives inside the hotel. RiverWalk is directly in front of Jean's Playhouse (a long time GSA supporter) so we will be making a stop there as well.
You are encouraged to come up a little early, and explore the Exit 32 White Mountains Visitor Center and the White Mountain National Forest Interpretive Center. As you come down the road towards Jean's, note what our friends at Alpine Adventures have been doing in their back yard. Thrillsville just keeps growing!
Volunteers who have accumulated 50 hours, with 15 of them in the past 6 months can sign up for this tour at the first week.
*** We ask that you only sign up for 4 tours a year at the official opening date/time. Once a tour has been open a week, any eligible GSA can sign-up to attend the tour regardless of how many tours they’ve been on. 14 days before a tour, if there are openings, any hours restrictions are reduced to 15 in the past 6 months. 10 days before a tour, any GSA can sign up.
Start time: 11:30 am at Jean's Playhouse
Lunch: 12:30 - 1:30 Lunch provided by LaVista Italian Cuisine (pizza!) Plan on tipping $2-3.
1:30pm we will split the group in two. Half will visit the Seven Birches Winery and the other will explore RiverWalk - then we will switch.
We expect to be done around 3:30pm but plan to stay until the tour is finished.
CAR POOL: Visit our car pooling page to facilitate rides up. Email Kelly if you would like your car pool requests (need or provide ride) at the end of this post.
Uniform: full uniforms are required.
Purses/Packs: small wallet size bags only.
Difficulty: We will be walking around but nothing extraordinary.
Jean's Playhouse: 34 Papermill Drive, Lincoln, NH 03251 http://jeansplayhouse.com/contact/visit/
You can park at RiverWalk and walk down to Jean's Playhouse if you like to save moving your car. They are in sight of each other.
Special thanks to TotalScope Marketing for making the arrangements for this tour! The owner of Seven Birches, who we will meet, is a principle at TotalScope.
YOU ARE INVITED FOR A SPECIAL TOUR
Thank you for signing up to tour the Bridges House with First Lady Valerie Sununu on Thursday, April 20th, noon-2pm.
You are invited to bring a bagged lunch and picnic on the grounds. We will be staggering tours through the historic home.
Arrival time: Plan to arrive a few minutes before noon.
Uniform: Please wear your full GSA uniform.
There are some very interesting videos and photos on their website.
Address: 21 Mountain Road, Concord, NH 03301
Google Map: https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+Bridges+Houseemail@example.com,-71.539473,17z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x89e26b1189eadffb:0x201f07b49854f7d8!2s21+Mountain+Rd,+Concord,+NH+03301!3b1!8m2!3d43.239676!4d-71.538722!3m4!1s0x89e26b1189eadffb:0xd59311e702c819c6!8m2!3d43.239676!4d-71.538722
Directions: From I-93 north, take exit 16. Turn right off the exit and then turn left onto Route 132 (Mountain Road). The Bridges House will be on your left.
Come down the drive and go through the opening in the bushes. Parking is in the field beyond the mansion.
See you there!
Kelly Bryer, Executive Director
Granite State Ambassadors
"Welcoming the World to New Hampshire"
Mailing: 241 Pine Street, Suite 1
Manchester, NH 03103
(603) 960-0272 cell
Sign-ups are open
Join us as we learn more about the history of aviation in NH.
Tour Date: Tuesday, February 21 (snow date Feb 23)
Tour Time: 10am-noon
Difficulty rating: easy
How many can attend: 30
Uniform: Full GSA uniform
GSA Requirements: Must be an active GSA with at least 25 hours. 3 hours must have been from the past 6 months.
Address: 27 Navigator Rd, Londonderry, NH
Parking: onsite lot
Aviation Museum of NH
27 Navigator Rd, Londonderry, NH
You must be able to attend the entire tour.