The sparkling Hudson River was almost as bright as the smiling faces of the children onboard the historical sloop that sunny May afternoon. During my week as an onboard volunteer educator on the Clearwater, my donation of time was rewarded over and over with the bounty of nature’s beauty and the positive relationships I formed on the boat.
As the volunteer coordinator at Teatown Lake Reservation, and as a volunteer myself, I have seen how volunteer experiences can change lives. Whether they are children or adults, volunteers have new experiences, support causes they believe in, grow as a person and a citizen, and feel a sense of pride for a job well done.
As inhabitants of one of the most ecologically diverse and beautiful natural areas on the east coast, we all have a responsibility to give back what we can. But many people think that volunteerism is just for people who cannot afford to give money to an organization. The truth is, volunteerism is for everyone.
Recently I learned of the results of a recent study done by Volunteering In America, a resource for trends and statistics in volunteering. The study found that New York State rates last, after every other state, on the percentage of people who identify themselves as volunteers. Only 20% of the respondents identified themselves as volunteers in New York State.
The lower Hudson Valley has a wealth of outdoor volunteer opportunities, some of which are listed below. A convenient way to find a volunteer opportunity around you is to visit The Volunteer Center of United Way website. You can search opportunities by age, location, schedule and type. Whether you can help for a day or a year, giving of your time not only helps your community, but it also enriches your life by creating lasting memories and connections with your community. However you decide to volunteer, thank you. You are helping cultivate a healthy planet and a healthy you!
1) Work Hard on the Trails: There are a number of organizations that provide volunteers with the opportunity to get their hands dirty preserving miles of local hiking trails. One such organization is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. This non-profit organization trains volunteers to take care of over 1,800 miles of trails in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan region through ongoing workshops and trail crews. Volunteers also help off-trail with administrative and fundraising tasks. You can join the Hudson Hills and Highlands Community Trails Program, which provides assistance to trail crews in Westchester and Putnam counties. Trail crews meet on Wednesdays at Teatown Lake Reservation. Additional trail crews are available to join all throughout the New York/New Jersey metro area. Contact Leigh Draper firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on volunteer opportunities.
2) Help Your Community: There are many local nature preserves, nature centers, and parks that could use your help. One close to my heart is Teatown Lake Reservation, a nature preserve in Ossining, NY
that uses over 250 volunteers each year to assist with its educational
programming, trail maintenance, administration, and special events. Of note is its teen volunteer leadership program, Teens in Teatown, which provides ongoing training and weekly volunteer opportunities for teens age 14 to 17. For more information, contact me at email@example.com.
The Trailside Museums and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park
offers volunteer opportunities assisting with education as a tour leader, event volunteer, or greeter. For more information, contact Chris O’Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, many of our National Audubon centers use volunteers on a regular basis. Check out www.audubon.com to find a national Audubon
center near you.
3) Help A County Park: Another popular volunteer outlet is provided by the Friends of Westchester County Parks. This organization supports the 18,000 acres of Westchester County Parks and offers volunteer opportunities for students, scouts, and all others who are interested
in helping with ecological restoration, environmental monitoring, removal of invasives, and other important county park projects. Every April, the Friends group and the Parks department team up for a Pitch In For Parks day, where hundreds of volunteers help at their favorite county parks. This year, Pitch In For Parks is on April 15th from 9 to 3. For more information on this day, visit westchestergov.com/parks.
4) Help Your Watershed: We are so lucky to have the amazing Hudson River as our backdrop. There are many organizations that are devoted to preserving the Hudson and its watershed through volunteer action. Clearwater, founded by Pete Seeger in 1969, works to preserve and protect the Hudson River in many ways. They offer volunteer opportunities for teens and adults to have week-long experiences as onboard volunteers, sailing on the sloop Clearwater or the Mystic Whaler. Clearwater also offers
opportunities at their annual Great Hudson River Revival, this year on June
16-17 at Croton Point Park. For more information, email email@example.com.
You can also join Riverkeeper in advocating for the Hudson River. Riverkeeper is a watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries. Riverkeeper recruits volunteers to be “Ambassadors” of the Hudson, who represent Riverkeeper at events,
festivals, and in their local communities. For more information, contact Dana Gulley, firstname.lastname@example.org.