Now Hiring Michiana: Niles Scream Park
NILES, Mich. -- In what many call the “Great Resignation,” in which a large number of employers throughout a variety of industries are struggling to maintain a staff and hire new employees.
In this new series, Now Hiring Michiana, I get a closer look at the jobs throughout Michiana that make our community great.
The series starts with a deep dive into what it’s like to volunteer at the Niles Scream Park.
For 49 years, the Niles Scream Park has brought haunts to southwest Michigan, bringing in generations of families to Niles. But in order to operate the 44-acres of frights, park manager, Aaron Smith says it needs roughly 250 volunteers each season.
“I would say volunteering makes a big impact in our community regardless of where you choose to do it,” said Smith. “But one thing that makes a difference with us is it’s a lot of fun!”
The volunteers’ hard work goes right back to the community. Since records were taken in 1996, the park has donated $2.2 million, donating $125,000 in 2021.
“We’ve also often been called the mini United Way for the amount of donations we’ve made to the community,” said Smith. “Hours are donated back to their group that they are working towards and last year, there were over fifty different groups out here making money.”
Smith started as a volunteer in high school 18 years ago. Over the years, he’s seen other volunteers stick around and bring in younger generations. His 18-month-old is a little too young to volunteer, but Smith says he is still surrounded by family.”
“There’s something very special about it,” said Smith. “It’s something that’s hard to explain, but when we all come back, it’s like seeing your family that’s been distant for many years even though it’s only been a couple of months.”
But for makeup artist, Jamie Taylor, it really is a family affair.
“My kids are out here now,” said Taylor. “My son facepaints right behind me. My other son, he’s old enough to start volunteering to work on the hayride this year. And he was born in 2008, so all he knows is this place.”
She started at the park with her husband in 2008, a perfect fit given their backgrounds in special effects makeup.
“Some of these people are like family, and then we have a lot of people that have been out here for generations,” said Taylor.
If you’re interested in volunteering, visit Niles Scream Park's website and click "Join the Family."