Volunteers have been an integral part of Schlitz Audubon since we opened in 1971. Their work helps us realize the three pillars of our mission: conservation, visitor experience, and education. In 2019 alone, 1,064 volunteers donated an amazing 21,740 hours to the Center!
Volunteers and Conservation
During the early years, volunteers played a significant role in land conservation. One staff member guided a small group who improved our land by planting native plants and removing invasive species when the Center was closed on Mondays. They came for reasons beyond restoration, including enhancing their knowledge and finding a community. This group developed a tremendous camaraderie, and became known as the Monday Marauders, starting the tradition of sharing Monday meals.
Currently, land stewards serve four days a week, with more than 225 individuals volunteering annually, and a core group of about 30. Veterans can now see the results of their decade’s long labor. “Today, we’re not just fighting to stay one step ahead of invasive plants. We share the staff’s larger vision of oak savanna and long-term plans to support wildlife like the Blanding’s turtle,” says Judith Huf, who has volunteered for close to 20 years.
Citizen science began when birders began keeping records of sightings in 1974. Today, volunteers gather vital data on a large variety of animals and plants on our land, informing conservation decisions made by the Center and other scientific organizations.
Volunteers and Visitor Experience
Volunteer contributions extend far beyond conservation. Front desk volunteers are crucial in helping people enjoy their visit by sharing key information about our programs, building, and trails, while providing other visitor services. Much of what people experience at the Center is made possible by the work of the Ray Team. This close-knit group began in the 1980s and is named after beloved volunteer Ray Jensen. Talented volunteers assist our staff in a wide range of projects to maintain our building and grounds, including painting, fixing equipment, and constructing boardwalks.
More than 40 volunteers see to the essential daily needs of the birds in our Raptor Program and assist staff in presenting hundreds of educational programs in the community each year. Others lovingly care for our reptile and amphibian ambassadors, ensuring that these animals live healthy and enriching lives.
Volunteers and Education
Visitors often experience the Center through our environmental education, which volunteers have increasingly helped staff provide to people of all ages and abilities.
Volunteers assist our Nature Preschool teachers in instilling a love of nature from a very young age, while Summer Camp and Homeschool volunteers engage participants in these special offerings. Since the beginning of the SPARK! Program five years ago, volunteers have brought the joy of nature to people experiencing cognitive changes such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Nature Ambassadors provide education through guided hikes, introducing visitors to resident reptiles and amphibians, and by sharing their knowledge of our ecosystems.
It is hard to capture the depth of volunteer contributions to the Center over the last half century, and we know they will continue to be an important part of our future. We give a heartfelt thank you to our indispensable volunteers for the donation of their talents and time!