Monday, March 12, 2018

Calling the Next Generation

By Beth Sullivan
Avalonia is a pretty amazing organization. It is kept running by the hard work and dedication of a volunteer army. Last year alone, Avalonia stewards contributed about 1,600 hours of volunteer time (that doesn’t include meetings, research, office and administrative work). And that is only what was recorded. We know for a fact that so many of our volunteers never record and submit their volunteer time.
The government provides a value for such volunteer time and that amount equaled about $45,000 in 2017. Again, that is only for the volunteer land stewards who actually recorded their time.
It is probably also true that the average age of most of Avalonia’s volunteers is a bit north of 60. And, I will say, we are just great! But where is the younger generation? That seems to be a question asked by many volunteer organizations. Certainly those younger people are truly busy with very active and obligation-filled lives: young families, jobs, aging parents. Most of us have come through those stages and are freer to give our time and energy. Our time is more flexible, even if our joints are not. We are looking for ways to attract and engage those who will come after us, who will continue the mission, and all it takes, into the next decades.

A GNCE team cleaned up Paffard Woods roadside walls.

An outreach effort at the Stonington Farmers' market was a great success.

Connecticut College students return to Avalonia

One way I have been involved, for the last six years, is by working with the Connecticut College students in the Goodwin-Neiring Center for the Environment (GNCE). In their second semester of sophomore year, their main focus has been making a connection with Avalonia. The intent is to let them see some of the inner workings and challenges of trying to keep a land trust running successfully. It isn’t all fun, trail clearing and tree hugging. It is a lot of work and in areas that they never really thought about. Areas like governance, finance, fund raising, development, membership, and outreach are all essential to the growth and success of the organization. It has been my privilege to work with these great students, to introduce them to Avalonia, and also to help them develop projects of their choosing, that will help Avalonia in one way or another, while giving them an opportunity to get their eyes opened a bit, to other aspects of land trust operations.
This year there has been a greater emphasis on outreach and membership building. Most of the projects are dedicated to this in one way or another. Over the next two months, you will be introduced to these students, as you have been for the last several years. One student will actually take over the blog writing (lucky me.) and give insights into what his peers are doing.
These students understand the need for fresh energy and ideas. While this student population will not necessarily be residing in this area after graduation, I hope that their insights can give us the boost we need to reach out to those generations coming after us.
Stewardship work isn't always easy...

but it can be fun.

A special GNCE team worked on Collier preserve as a community service project.

Enjoy their stories

They will be posted as part of the blog series and on Facebook as well. Please comment or write to Avalonia and let us know what you think. Tell us how you think we can engage the next generation. And if you are by chance of that younger age set, please let us know how best you can help while still juggling your other obligations and busy lives. Every person makes such a difference. Our challenge is to make sure we utilize every person who offers.
While we older-but-still-active group are doing ok, we welcome the energy and enthusiasm of those who can help us out and then take the reins when we are ready to give them up.
Getting into the community is so important.

Engaging the very youngest nature lovers is truly necessary.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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