Earth Month: Celebrating Our Volunteers & Stewards

Here’s to the Earth, Stewardship, and Volunteering Together Again

Devyn demonstrating how to plant native grass plugs in post-fuels managed restoration site (pile burn).

By Devyn Friedfel – Pepperwood’s Natural Resource Specialist

I remember the first volunteer workday I ever hosted at Pepperwood. It was cold, wet, and the wind was blowing hard. As I stood there, chilled to the bone and waiting for anyone at all to show up, I thought to myself who in their right mind would come out to volunteer in weather like this just for the fun of it? The smell of freshly brewed coffee and sweet-smelling sticky pastries helped distract me from the idea that my first ever volunteer workday would be a total flop. After all, someone was going to have to enjoy those pastries, and it was looking more and more like that person was going to be me.

I was resigned to my fate when at 8:50 am, the first set of smiling faces began to emerge through the fog. Fifteen minutes later the Dwight Center courtyard was chock full of the echoing sounds of excited chatter and boots scuffing the ground. By 9:10 the fog had transitioned into a sideways blowing rain event, yet there in front of me were eighteen smiling, joyful, unphased humans eager to steward the land together. My first volunteer workday was inspiring. It filled me with a deep respect for the Pepperwood community – those who roll up their sleeves, undaunted by inclement weather or hard work, and who share in the labor of love that is land stewardship.

But to be clear, you don’t have to be enthusiastic about bone-chilling rain to be a great volunteer. Volunteering is about taking your skills and gifting them toward what you believe in for the sake of the community. We have volunteers who take photos, organize our herbarium, help out with long term research like our phenology or coverboard projects, bake cookies for volunteer workdays, help out with educational activities and hikes, and those who help Sonja and I steward the land. What they have in common is their love and support of this place and Pepperwood’s mission.

Post-Kincade Fire volunteer workday. Credit – Ian A. Nelson

In times of need our volunteer community has been there to help. Even now it makes my eyes a little watery to think about the volunteer support we had after both the Tubbs and Kincade Fires. Hundreds of people showed up when we expressed the need. These workdays are my favorite part of my job. Our ability to carry out and teach land stewardship is greatly expanded because of the incredible support we get from our volunteers. But however you support us, I thank you. And I know the land thanks you too.

February 2020 was the last time we were able to host a community volunteer event. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; all I know is that not having our community here for a year has further deepened my already profound appreciation for our volunteers. I feel the day is nearing when we can all be together again, and I’m getting excited at the prospect of holding community volunteer workdays. When that day comes, I will be waiting with fresh coffee and pastries to see the first smiling faces emerge through the fog.

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