Vero’s Heroes: Jane and Wayne Bushnell

For this dedicated couple, volunteering is more than just a day in the park

Next time you’re at Sebastian Inlet State Park, look for volunteers Jane and Wayne Bushnell and say hello. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Next time you’re at Sebastian Inlet State Park, look for volunteers Jane and Wayne Bushnell and say hello. Photo by Kelly Rogers

Jane and Wayne Bushnell have been married 57 years. But, despite the fact that both are committed members of the Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park who spend many hours on park property, they laugh that while volunteering they are “almost never in the same place at the same time.”

The Pennsylvania natives first relocated to coastal New Jersey, where Wayne had his own business as a charter fishing boat captain. That experience serves him well as he works “park watch” for four hours every Friday, and part of his volunteer job is explaining fishing regulations to park visitors. 

Wayne signed up with the Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park six or seven years ago, and Jane followed about a year later. They have lived in Sebastian for 20 years and appreciate having a beautiful state park just a few miles from their home.

Jane, who is retired from the insurance business, mans the McLarty Treasure Museum, a state facility on park property, every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., greeting visitors, taking admission fees, answering questions, and tending to the gift shop. Wayne also pitches in when needed as a docent at the museum.

All proceeds from the McLarty gift shop go to FSISP, a citizen support organization that plays an important role in fundraising for situations in which the park rangers incur expenses not covered by the state. The Bushnells mention a few examples of items FSISP has purchased for the rangers: tools, two golf carts, an ATV motor, and AEDs (automated external defibrillators) for medical emergencies. The group has also funded building and equipment repairs for the park.

FSISP’s monthly Night Sounds concerts at the park’s pavilions are another key fundraiser in which the Bushnells are instrumental. Working in conjunction with volunteer coordinator Jackie Baker, who is responsible for booking the bands, Jane books the food trucks and handles all of the interactions with them, including procuring their insurance documentation. Jane and Wayne both work the gate; for each concert, they arrive at least two hours in advance.

Due to a shortage of volunteers, the eight members of the FSISP board find themselves shouldering the bulk of the group’s labors. Jane serves as secretary, while Wayne is president. “I was treasurer for five years, and that was very demanding,” he says. “When they elected me president, I became more like a coordinator.” He also tends to some mundane but essential tasks, such as buying firewood, ice, bottled water, and soft drinks for the park.

In January 2023, Wayne was named Volunteer of the Month for District 3, which includes 12 state parks.

Jane says, “I’m closing in on 2,000 hours and he’s probably closing in on 3,000.” Together, they estimate, they put in about 40 to 50 hours per month. Jane also delivers for Senior Resource Association’s Meals on Wheels one day each week.

The Bushnells’ joy in volunteering is palpable. “One thing I like the most is the people who come here,” Jane says. “It’s fascinating. We get people coming from all over the world to this park.” Interacting with the children is particularly gratifying for her. “The kids are like gold,” she smiles. “They can just crack you up!” She gives a treasure hunt game to all the children who visit the McLarty Museum, and their excitement upon seeing the exhibits is contagious. 

So, the next time you’re at Sebastian Inlet State Park, look for Jane and Wayne Bushnell and say hello. You may even decide to ask them where to sign up! 

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