With a small staff, the St. Joseph Buffer and Aquatic Preserves could use any help they can get.



With a small staff, the St. Joseph Buffer and Aquatic Preserves could use any help they can get.

So in step volunteers.

The Buffer Preserve hosts volunteers, allows them to hook up to the facility’s services and in return asks for a little bit of work.

While many of the volunteers help with upkeep and cleanliness, the Buffer has found two particular volunteers with a very particular skill set.

For the past two years a husband and wife team, Patricia Caruana and Carl Janish, have used their skills in sales to benefit the Buffer while on retirement.

“I was retired and I was looking for something to do,” Caruana said. “You can only sit around and do nothing for so long.”

The Buffer hasn’t been Caruana and Janish’s first volunteer effort for a park.

While working on their RV at St. Andrew State Park in Panama City Beach, the couple was approached and asked to volunteer for the park.

“I kind of tripped into it,” Caruana said.

So Caruana and Janish went to work as what Caruana called “facilitators” and quickly produced results.

Caruana credits her background in sales as key to her success and said that she doesn’t get discouraged when people say no.

“We just go back another day when they’re in a better boat,” Caruana said.

That work has paid off, especially for the Buffer Preserve.

So far, and with a month left of volunteering, Caruana and Janish have raised over $75,000 worth of auction materials for the Buffer’s Fall and Winter Bay Days, in October and February respectively.

That number doubles what the couple raised for the events last year.

With over 200 different companies and organizations sponsoring the event, Caruana has been blown away by community support.

According to Caruana, she has hardly ever received a "no" from local businesses and organizations and when she has received a negative response that answer changed on her second effort.

Even when someone couldn’t offer a gift or prize, Caruana said they were more than happy to become a Friend of the Buffer through a donation.

“I love this community,” Caruana said. “It’s low-key and pristine just like the area.”

Caruana and Janish haven’t limited their door-to-door effort just to Gulf County either.

The couple has received donations from as far away as Panama City Beach and the shelves at the Buffer that hold the sponsor's cards and information have filled up and needs to be extended, said Caruana.

When asked what makes the Buffer so special Caruana had a quick answer.

“Just go outside and look,” Caruana said. “I mean it’s just beautiful here. I enjoy coming here because if you go to St. Andrew State Park there’s so much activity going on you really can’t enjoy the nature as much as you do here.

“Here you can take a ride or walk in the preserve and you don’t hear a sound, it’s just really pristine and quiet.”

With the donations gathered by Caruana and Janish, staff at the Buffer hopes to maintain the pristine nature of the Buffer through the Friends group.

Through the Friends group, the Buffer adds property through purchases and covers things that the state of Florida cannot provide.

According to Sandra Chafin, the Buffer’s administration assistant, all the volunteers provide a great service to the Buffer, with Caruana and Janish providing a service that is above and beyond what the staff or the Friends group could provide themselves.

With a record already set Caruana doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“I am here to the end of August, so hopefully I will get even more (donations),” Caruana said.