Earth Team Volunteer Program Success Story
Franklin County Earth Team Volunteer Program Benefits Everyone
The Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District and the NRCS office in Franklin County, Maine, have demonstrated an outstanding Earth Team Volunteer Program in their office. Because of their commitment to conservation and the Earth Team Program, they received the Chief’s Field Award for the 2007 Earth Team Program.
During the past five years (Fiscal Years 2003-2007), Earth Team Volunteers combined to provide more than 7,700 hours of assistance to conservation in Franklin County; 1,700 of those hours were in Fiscal Year 2007 from 29 individuals. Duties involved everything from office assistance to field surveying to outreach and education activities, while the ages of volunteers ranged from high school students to senior citizens.
In addition to having local citizens who interested in conservation volunteering their time and talents, the Franklin County office, located in Farmington, Maine, also works with many groups and organizations to obtain volunteers. Working with such, the office obtains assistance to reach their conservation goals while the groups, organizations and volunteers are taking steps towards reaching their goals. Groups and organizations that the office works with include Upward Bound, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), National Able Network (ABLE), and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). They also have some volunteers from businesses that encourage their employees to do community service through volunteer work, rewarding the volunteer or the entity who the volunteer serves.
The Upward Bounty Program at the local University of Maine campus serves over 60 high school students. The program’s goal is to generate in disadvantaged, high potential participants the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school. This involves assistance in a program of academic instruction, college, financial aid and career counseling, tutoring, community service and cultural activities aimed at high school success and college enrollment.
SCSEP offers employment training to low-income persons age 55 and older in Maine and four other states. SCSEP participants earn at least minimum wage while working up to 20 hours a week in eligible host agencies. Participants contribute to their communities while gaining valuable experience that will assist them in finding unsubsidized employment.
ABLE is a non-profit agency working to serve individuals, families and communities by bringing together qualified job seekers and businesses. They provide the training, personal skills and job search techniques that help people enter or re-enter the work force, at every age and skill level.
RSVP recruits and interviews volunteers who are at least 55, matching their skills, talents, interests, and time availability to appropriate volunteer assignments, while improving the quality of life for both the volunteer and the community.
Volunteers from SCSEP, ABLE and RSVP are usually longer term and volunteer more hours than many of the other volunteers providing assistance to the office. Of the 1,700 hours of service provided by Earth Team Volunteers in FY 07, more than 1,100 of them were provided through volunteers from three programs.
Most of the volunteers work as office assistants and on outreach and education activities. They assist with telephone answering and taking messages; publication and newsletter printing and distribution; and assist with fund raising, material preparation and arrangements for outreach and education events such as Conservation Field Days, Agricultural Day at the Fair, and the Regional and Mock Envirothons. They also assist with the District’s Annual Meeting and annual Shrub Sale while Upward Bound volunteers assist NRCS with field surveying.
NRCS District Conservationist Paul Hersey said that the best way to get volunteers involved is by letting the community know how the program is making a difference. Hersey also stated that their office has been successful because of their ability to keep volunteers coming back. “We keep our volunteers because we respect them,” said Hersey. “We also try to keep in mind what they enjoy doing and what they are good at when we give them assignments.”
Every year the Franklin County office recognizes their Earth Team Volunteers at the District’s Annual Meeting. They feel it is important to recognize them in front of everyone they work with, other conservationists and members of the community so that everyone knows how important they are to the conservation effort. They are presented with a certificate from the NRCS State Conservationist and a token for their services.
District Conservationist Hersey said that without the volunteers less would be done in their office. Some of the outreach programs would not take place, and the office staff would not be able to spend as much time providing the technical assistance required in the county. They are an important part of the office’s conservation team. But equally if not more important is that they are playing a big part in improving the volunteers’ quality of life, no matter what their age. In fact, one of the volunteers from the ABLE program was hired by the District.
Maine State Conservationist Joyce Swartzendruber recognized the Farmington Field Office and the Franklin County SWCD with an Earth Team Volunteer Program Special Recognition Award at their 2007 Annual Meeting. With over 7,700 hours of volunteer hours in the last five years, the Franklin County office has a very successful program. Their use of special programs not only helps the agency and the community, but also the needs of the volunteers.
As a result of the “helping hands” of all of these volunteers, the conservation efforts of the Franklin county conservation team are much further ahead towards ensuring a quality environment for future generations.