These Members Are The Real Deal When It Comes To Volunteering For Friends of Acadia And The National Park


In the annals of retail marketing , a transaction involving “two for the price of one” is considered a very favorable deal. In fact, the only thing sweeter would be two for the price of none.

So, it is no surprise that one area couple’s dedication to putting in hundreds of unpaid hours a year helping to preserve and protect Acadia National Park can be thought of as the gold standard.

FOA members Ellen Gellerstedt and JC Camelio are the real deal when it comes to volunteering for Friends of Acadia and the national park.

Their desire to give back to a place that has been a spiritual touchstone to them for decades drives their dedication and willingness to put in hours of long, hard labor.

Ellen enjoyed a career working as a pediatrician. JC worked in television news at an NBC affiliate in Rochester, New York where the couple met.

JC Camelio and Ellen Gellerstedt (Photo Courtesy Ellen Gellerstedt)

Ellen began visiting Islesford regularly in the 1980s and later introduced JC to Downeast Maine. Eventually the couple purchased a home on the island and moved to Maine permanently.

Ellen cared for patients at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for 16 years. While on Islesford JC began volunteering for Friends of Acadia, eventually becoming a volunteer crew leader overseeing drop-ins on the hiking trails and carriage paths. “I really enjoy helping make peoples’ volunteer experiences in the park meaningful,” he says.

In 2013, JC appeared at the park’s Sawtelle Museum on Islesford and asked how he could help. He was quickly put to work taking care of the building and grounds. Those efforts earned him the nickname “The Lawn Ranger.”

In 2014 he won the William Otis Sawtelle Award, which recognizes dedication to preserving the history of the Cranberry Isles. He has also worked in the park’s sign shop.

Ellen eventually began volunteering at the Wild Gardens of Acadia. “It was really a way for me to get back into biology,” she explains. She also did course and field work to get her certificates as a Maine Master Naturalist and a Maine Master Gardener. JC has also continued to explore new interests, earning a master’s in fine arts in photography at the Maine Media Workshop in Rockport.

During 2020, both focused their attention on the Wild Gardens. In addition to making sure visitors were properly spaced, other duties included raking pathways each morning and helping to schedule other volunteers.

According to both Ellen and JC, volunteering in the park offers invaluable rewards. “It’s the perfect way to stay connected with nature,” Ellen explains. “There’s a shared sense of camaraderie,” says JC. “The work is enormously satisfying. Many of our best friends were made after meeting them volunteering. “It’s all about friendship, mutual interest, and giving back.”

“Friends of Acadia is grateful for the many hours that Ellen and JC have contributed to the Wild Gardens and the stewardship of Acadia’s trails and carriage roads,” says Stephanie Clement, FOA’s Conservation Director. “Their dedication and commitment are exemplary and were a huge help during this pandemic year.”

Both Ellen and JC plan on continuing to volunteer for Friends of Acadia and the park in the future. and Ellen says she may branch out. “I might want to help out on the trails too,” she explains.

According to Ellen, folks don’t need to be experts in any given subject to begin volunteering. In fact, many older volunteers choose to do tasks different from their careers, although management and production skills learned in almost any organization translate well while serving in the park.

“People never know where they will find a new passion,” Ellen notes. “Just pinch your nose and jump!”

EARL BRECHLIN is Friends of Acadia’s Communications Director.