A Zeal for Helping

Matthew Grulke

Matthew and his mom, Linda, at the Zoo.

Zoo Pride volunteer Matthew Grulke has a passion for shredding paper. Twice a week, Grulke sends pounds of recyclable scrap paper through the machine in the Zoo Pride office. That’s because he knows that his favorite animals, the orangutans, like to sleep on and play with the piles of paper strips. Primate keepers at the Milwaukee County Zoo depend on shipments of shredded paper to keep their charges busy and happy.

Matthew, who has Down’s syndrome, joined Zoo Pride, the Zoological Society’s volunteer auxiliary, in September 2007. It all started when he got a seasonal job at the Zoo last summer. “I picked up trash in the cafeteria and stocked the gift shops,” he says.  “It was fun.” Matthew wanted to help out at the Zoo when his job ended. So he and his mother, Linda, decided to volunteer together. “This is a great place to be,” says Linda. “I’m here to support Matthew, but I’ve always wanted to join Zoo Pride.”

Matthew has endless energy for his tasks. He shreds paper. He stuffs envelopes. He volunteers at events such as Breakfast and Lunch With Santa, carrying crates of beverages and helping with cleanup. The Grulkes, longtime Zoological Society members, have always liked coming to the Zoo, adds Linda. Matthew loves exploring the park and learning about animals. He is happy to share that bats eat mosquitoes, for example. A student at the West Allis Community Based Transition Program, Matthew also volunteers at his church’s food pantry and at a nursing home. Why does he like helping out? “It’s important to give back to your community,” he says.

Meet other volunteers here.