THAYER -- One local woman knows how important volunteers can be.
Caroline Sutherland has been the coordinator of the Thayer Chamber of Commerce Tourist Information Center and Rail Road Museum since it opened in April.
"There have been four women, Mary Vaughn, Mildred Cornelius, Viola Scallion and Pat Johnson who volunteered their services at the center all summer. Without them I could have not have made the Tourist Information Center a success," Sutherland said. Mildred Cornelius served as the first coordinator for the Tourist Information Center.
She said attendance at the Center is up from last year. "Last year, the first year the Tourist Information Center was open, just over 1,600 people visited the center. This year we have had (as of Oct. 25) 2,502 people visit the caboose," Sutherland said.
Sutherland said new signs directing visitors to the Tourist Information Center is one of the reasons she thinks more tourists have visited this year. She said if she is offered the job next year she hopes to have more signs showing directions to the Tourist Information Center.
People from across the U.S. and foreign countries have visited the Center this year.
"This summer we had three couples from Manchester, England, come to the Tourist Information Center. We also had a young lady in her mid-20s from Denmark come to the caboose," Sutherland said.
She said one morning as she was coming to work she saw a motor home parked near the Tourist Information Center with people waiting for her. "There was a man and his family. He was 73 and was born in Thayer. His father had worked as a pipeliner and his family left Thayer soon after he was born. He said he made a vow that whenever he could he was going to get back to the place of his birth, and he did. He now lives in Pennsylvania," she said.
The Tourist Information Center offers not only local tourist information but information about surrounding attractions in Arkansas and Missouri. "Highway 63 connects with I-70 in Iowa. We get a lot of folks passing through on their way to Branson. We get a lot of requests for information about Kansas City and St. Louis," she said.
The Center offers a lot of train information and memorabilia donated by local folks. It also offers a lot of Thayer memorabilia including, post cards, shot classes, mugs, Oregon County maps, as well as Arkansas and Missouri maps. "And oh yes, let's not forget a wonderful publication called Escape supplied by the South Missourian News," Sutherland said.
Sutherland said she wants local people to know the caboose is here. "I just want our people around the area to know we are here and what we have to offer," she said.
The Tourist Information Center opened in April and will remain open through Nov. 30, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Sutherland said next spring she would probably be looking for additional volunteers to help the caboose stay open.