New Year’s resolution: Become a volunteer

December 10, 2012

Is volunteering for you?

Do you like being outdoors in a beautiful natural setting or would you like to spend some time in a garden?

Sequoia Riverlands Trust would love to have you as a volunteer at Kaweah Oaks Preserve or Dry Creek Preserve!

If you’re thinking about doing some volunteering in the New Year, here are some tips for finding that perfect volunteer spot.

1. Identify the causes you’re passionate about.

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(Kids at Kaweah Oaks Preserve)

Do you feel strongly about a particular problem or issue? Just to think, “Oh, well, volunteering would be a nice thing to do,” isn’t really enough. You might start, but will you stick with it? If you feel strongly about something, such as nature, open space, animals, homelessness or helping children, then that is a very good sign and the start of a great volunteer experience.

2. Determine how much time you have.

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(Nature guides showcasing preserve on walk)
Do you want something that is short and infrequent? Or could you donate a certain amount of time each week or month? This is something you’ll want to share with the nonprofits you talk with. There are volunteer opportunities that can fit any time commitment, from being a Girl Scout leader for a school year to registering attendees at a charity event for a few hours.
Nonprofits have become quite adept at tailoring volunteer opportunities to fit our modern lifestyles. For instance, Sparked, a website that helps people engage in “microvolunteering,” matches volunteers who just want to devote snatches of time to their causes with nonprofits that have suitable projects.You may even be able to use work time to volunteer. Many companies have employee volunteer programs, days of service during which teams of employees help a cause, or even loan out “skilled” volunteers to help with sophisticated projects at charities. You can even find a way to use your professional skills to benefit others through a matching service like Catchafire.

3. Contact relevant organizations.

Look up the organizations in your locale that deal with the issues you care about. Contact them and ask if they have any volunteer opportunities. You can also get an idea of what volunteer opportunities are out there by visiting the many online volunteer matching services.Your local media are also great resources. Community newspapers and the websites of your favorite TV stations often have news or listings of volunteer needs right in your neighborhood. Be sure to encourage your neighbors and friends to tell you about their volunteer experiences and how they got involved.Contact one to three organizations and then visit them in person. Ideally, you’ll meet with a volunteer coordinator and get a good idea of how the nonprofit works, the kinds of volunteer opportunities that are available, and how good a fit it is for your goals. It’s a good idea to volunteer for a small project before getting extensively involved. If it doesn’t work out, you can move on. Finding your right volunteer match can make the difference between being a volunteer dropout or a happy, dedicated one.

4. Look for a volunteer opportunity that will be fulfilling.

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Volunteer work should not be entirely selfless. It is important that you enjoy what you are doing so that you will continue doing it. Think about what you like to do. Are you a “take charge” kind of person? If so, you won’t be happy knocking on doors or stuffing envelopes. Look for leadership opportunities at nonprofits, such as serving on a board of directors, helping with fundraising, or organizing an event.

On the other hand, you might not want something intellectually challenging. Perhaps you have enough of that in your own career and would like to so something simple but meaningful. Maybe you would enjoy cleaning up a vacant lot, planting a garden or signing people up for a charity run.

5. Match your skills to the volunteer opportunity.

Make a list of the things you are good at so that you can share them with the volunteer coordinators that you talk with. People who are sophisticated with computers, for instance, are in high demand at nonprofits. But your skills might be a facility with people, ability to do detailed work such as keeping meticulous records, hands-on ability such as carpentery or sewing, a talent with the written word, or public speaking.

6. Be prepared for a challenge.

(Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation”)

Boredom and impatience with the process are the biggest threats to a fulfilling volunteer experience. Some nonprofits will be disorganized and ill prepared for volunteers. Don’t stay with that kind of situation. If they deserve you, they will be ready to use you effectively.

If you work for a high-powered corporation, you may get impatient with the way things are done at a nonprofit. Try to refrain from telling them how to do their job.

If you work with things instead of people, you may have to rethink how you operate. Working with people and their problems takes a different and more patient mindset.

7. Expect personal growth.

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You may be challenged by having to deal with people who are less educated than yourself, from different backgrounds, and who have a different ethnic background. For sure, your stereotypes will crumble as you witness the dignity of all people no matter their circumstances.

These challenges are healthy ones and will result in your own personal growth if you persevere rather than run away at your first glimpse of life as others live it.


Senator visits with Sequoia Riverlands Trust at Kaweah Oaks Preserve

October 30, 2012

Senator Fuller on the Sycamore Trail

SRT was honored to give a tour of Kaweah Oaks Preserve to Senator Jean Fuller (R) Bakersfield last Friday, October 26. Board President Scott Spear and SRT staff talked about conservation easements to keep farmers in business, natural and wildlife habitat projects and our environmental education programs for students. The Senator even tried out our new digital trail by reading the QR codes with her smart phone. Thanks to the Senator for her interest and also her husband Russell and assistant Stephanie Amaral. What a great day!


Seed Contest – Bring in your seeds!

May 24, 2011

Please call Andrew at 737-8637 or bring your seeds to the SRT office as we are in the collection segment of the Lupine Seed Gathering Contest. Frances and Bill Tweed are currently in the lead. Next month look for the Redbud and Poppy seed contests. Thanks again to everyone who has participated to date. These seeds will help us restore native plants where they belong.


Let Us Gather Seeds! – 2nd Annual Seed Gathering Contest

March 3, 2011

California poppy

The wildflowers are in bloom, lighting up the hillsides and roadsides with bold color. As we enjoy every day of this spectacular season, we’d like to get you thinking about helping us collect seeds to create even more beauty.

If you’d like to be part of painting the landscape with more color for the years to come, please keep your eyes on those flowers. Sometime in April, the flowers will eventually go to seed, and we’ll need your help gathering seeds to propagate at our native plant nursery.

Land stewardship is an important part of SRT’s mission. Throughout the year, we grow thousands of native flowers, shrubs and trees that we plant on our nature preserves to help replenish native plant populations.

Bush lupine

Help us scour the hillsides of your neighborhood and collect (legally) the following seeds for this effort: Lupinus albifrons or silver bush lupine, Cercis occidentalis or western redbud, and the state flower, Eschscholzia californica or California poppy. All three plants need to show brown seed pods before they are ready to collect. Please submit seeds to Sequoia Riverlands Trust (427 S. Garden St., Visalia). Label your submissions with the kind of plant, when it was collected and where it was collected (location is very important to keeping local plant communities local). We will then weigh submissions and announce the winner. The seed gathering winner will receive a free SRT membership (or gift membership for a fried) and their choice of an SRT merchandise item (t-shirt, hat, tote bag).

Since this year’s seed collecting contest coincides with the opening of Dry Creek Preserve and Homer Ranch, we will also recognize the winner at the grand opening of the preserves. The new nature preserves will feature a demonstration garden to educate our community about the water-saving beauty of our valley and foothill native plant species.


Volunteers Restore Habitat at Herbert Wetland Prairie Preserve

December 8, 2010

Vernal pool at Herbert Preserve

Last Saturday, thirty five volunteers rallied at Herbert Preserve and gathered in the misty morning with shovels in hand, ready and eager to get to work. The group was diverse—mothers, babies, grandparents, teachers, students, adults—everyone had come to restore the prairie wetlands. All together, they planted 600 plants that day to improve the preserve’s streamside habitat.

Herbert Preserve is one of the last remaining pieces of the natural valley floor. The land there has never been leveled or farmed, though it is currently grazed to promote native plant species.  It is home to spectacular and rare wildlife, such as the badger, golden eagle, and burrowing owl.

Every spring, vernal pools turn the preserve into a vibrant wonderland. Colorful rings of flowering plants surround the pools, which provided habitat for fairy shrimp and frogs. In other parts of the valley, these pools were lost to us when the ground was leveled. Vernal pools only form in the low points of the landscape’s natural undulations.

Special thanks to all of our volunteers! We would also like to thank the teachers from Redwood High School, Pro Youth/HEART, Mission Oak High School, and College of the Sequoia who encouraged their students to lend a hand.


A Testimonial: Landscaping with Native Plants

August 9, 2010

Echium in full bloom with Goldenrod coming up in May

Salvia and poppies in April

“We moved to Visalia in January 2009, went to your plant sale that month and started a native garden area in the backyard, and we love it!  It is gorgeous year round, takes less water, and is self-perpetuating!  I have started incorporating native plants in the front yard beds and throughout the yard, hoping to be ‘lawn-free’ in the next couple of years, and could not be happier with the plants I have bought at your sales.  Right now, my buckwheat is flowering and my goldenrod is over 7 ft tall, and gorgeous!  My native clematis has outgrown its trellis this year and I can’t wait ’til it blooms!  My deer grass is such an ornament and has become a mainstay of my landscaping plans.  And everytime I cut back the salvia, it reblooms. Again, thank you so much, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you and the Sequoia Riverlands Trust as a community resource.”

– Jennifer McGuire

Thank you for your kind words!