With only a few days left until the present partial government shutdown becomes the longest in U.S. history, more than 800,000 federal workers and the critical areas they support are nervously entering uncharted territory.
Signs of the stress cracks are everywhere, from GoFundMe appeals from financially strapped employees to shuttered museums and zoos. The impact on the national parks are even more glaring, with overflowing trash bins, locked bathrooms, litter, and even graffiti and damaged trails scarring the landscape. With furloughed park employees absent and no resources available to protect the parks, residents like Dakota Snider of Yosemite Valley say it's a free-for-all.
"It's so heartbreaking," she told CBS News. "There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I've seen in my four years living here."
A volunteer's car filled with trash collected at the shuttered Joshua Tree National Park. (Photo: National Parks Conservation Association/Flickr)
Marcus Lemonis, a self-made billionaire, philanthropist and host of the CNBC reality series "The Profit," is tired of waiting on Washington to act. He's rallying his employees and others to help make a difference.
During a Jan. 8 live stream on Facebook, Lemonis — owner of Camping World, the the nation's largest retailer of RVs and RV accessories — launched a campaign to not only offer part-time work at his hundreds of dealerships and retail stores to furloughed park employees, but he also offered a considerable force of volunteers to help clean up parks in need.
"If you are watching this video and you work at a national park and you're furloughed right now, I am offering some hours at our Camping World locations, our dealership locations our Gander locations around the country," he says in the video. "Give you a couple hours here and there to try and fill in some of the gaps."
In addition, Lemonis is also calling on park officials to leverage the volunteer activism that's woven into his company's culture. In 2013, Lemonis launched The Good Samaritan Program, which enables his team of more than 7,000 employees to enjoy 32 paid hours per year volunteering for causes they're passionate about.
"I've had a lot of employees reach out to me," he adds in the video below, "and what we want to do is if you are at a national park today and you need additional labor or additional help, our employees are willing to volunteer their time inside of their program and probably in addition to that, to come help you clean that up."
Lemonis has a long track record of taking action when it's clear that time is of the essence for those in need. Most recently, after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, he chartered a cargo plane and loaded it with supplies; all the while decrying the lack of organization to help those clearly suffering.
"It’s very difficult to find out what people need in Puerto Rico," he said at the time. "I couldn’t be more frustrated by the lack of news coverage on social media ... I don't want to see any pictures. I don't want to read any horror stories. What I do want to hear is ideas and solutions of things that could be sent down there in addition to money."
How to take up Lemonis' offer
If you're either a park employee in need of some extra paid hours or helping hands, here's how to reach Marcus and his team for assistance:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you need employment, in the body of the email share your name, address, contact info and the Camping World or Gander store or dealership closest to you. (Search for Camping World stores here and Gander stores here)
- If you need assistance, in the subject line of the email type "Need volunteers at [insert park name]"
According to Lemonis, his team will be monitoring requests coming through this address throughout the shutdown.
"We're trying to do our part and preserve the integrity of the national parks and the people that work there," he says. "We're all proud to be here, we have a beautiful country and beautiful land and these national parks need to be preserved and we want to be part of that process."