Volunteering is Fun!

photo by Peter M. Fredin

This month’s volunteer profile features Doug Holthaus.

“When I first visited Santa Fe in 1974 while on a business trip, I stumbled upon El Rancho de las Golondrinas purely by accident,” says Doug Holthaus. “It was love at first sight. I was struck by its beautiful landscape — especially the tunnel of towering cottonwood trees, the spring-fed ponds and acequia, and the wonderful historic buildings. Most of all, I was impressed by the friendly and enthusiastic volunteers and staff. Little did I suspect that retirement would bring me back to the Las Golondrinas family thirty-three years later.”

Doug was born and raised on the family farm in northeastern Iowa, twenty miles from the movie site of Field of Dreams near Dyersville. “Our farm looked pretty much like the one in the film,” he says. “Rolling hills of corn, oats and alfalfa for as far as you could see, along with dairy cows, pigs, chickens, sheep —plus an orchard and a huge garden. We pretty much were self-sufficient. We also exhibited purebred Holstein dairy cattle at local, state and national shows, winning several blue ribbons and trophies in the process. And although growing up on the farm was lots of hard work and long hours, it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Leaving the farm for college when he was eighteen, Doug earned a B.A. in journalism and a minor in sociology. He also was awarded a fellowship to pursue post-graduate work in American Studies and Folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Doug spent his early years as a writer, photographer and editor in the agricultural communications field at jobs in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville and Philadelphia. In time, he transitioned to more general-interest consumer titles and joined Meredith Corporation in Des Moines (publisher of Better Homes and Gardens — and, just recently, the new owner of Time, Inc. and its stable of well-known publications).

As Editor-in-Chief of Meredith Publishing Services for fifteen years, Doug managed a large staff of editors, graphic designers, stylists, and free-lance writers that produced publications and marketing programs for many Fortune 500 companies.

During the last five years of his career, Doug was Editor of WorldTraveler, a monthly 100-plus-page magazine produced for Northwest Airlines (now part of Delta Airlines). The magazine, published in both English and Japanese, was circulated worldwide via the seat pockets on all Northwest Flights. “It was the best job I ever had,” says Doug.

After vacationing in the Land of Enchantment annually for more than thirty years, Doug retired, moved to Santa Fe in 2006 and (surprise!) became a new volunteer. “I love volunteering at Las Golondrinas. There is such positive energy and camaraderie,” he says. “I especially like the fact that there’s the flexibility and opportunity to interpret sites anywhere on the Rancho.”

“Although I like the fun and excitement of volunteering during festivals and special events, I particularly enjoy working weekdays when the Rancho is more peaceful and I can spend more time with guests,” says Doug. “It’s also easier to time-travel and imagine what it must have been like to walk in the footsteps of persons who actually lived and worked here 300 years ago.”

In addition to contributing more than 2,400 volunteer hours to Las Golondrinas since 2007, Doug is a docent at The Santa Fe Opera, where he has led backstage tours for six seasons. He also enjoys do-it-yourself home maintenance and remodeling projects, cooking and, of course, history.


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