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Soil Scientist Volunteers for Lasting Community Change

National volunteer week is here, and the theme is Volunteers Improve Today for Tomorrow for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). While there are many unsung heroes volunteering their time to the NRCS through the Earth Team Volunteer program, Amanda Bragg, NRCS Resource Soil Scientist in San Angelo, serves her community through volunteerism.

After graduating from Texas A&M with a Bachelors in Agronomy and Masters in Soil Science, Bragg began working for the NRCS in the spring of 2004 as a field soil scientist. During her career with soil survey, she spent many hours travelling, surveying and mapping soils, often with little time to even make friends, due to her unpredictable work schedule. After a few promotions and moves, travel became less frequent and she was able to turn her new-found time elsewhere.

"Suddenly, I had spare time and a predictable schedule. A friend from high school who lived in Abilene invited me to a mixer for new potential Junior League members," Bragg said. "Junior League has offered an outlet for spare time while improving the community and expanding my social network."

Upon Bragg's relocation to San Angelo, she remained active in the Junior League. Over the last seven years, she has served in many positions with the Junior League including chairing committees and serving on the Board as Recording Secretary and currently as Community Vice President. In 2013, she was awarded Active of the Year for her service and commitment.

Bragg actively participates by providing more than one hundred and fifty hours of community service each year. A lot of her time is spent on service that benefits youth. For example, she has volunteered at the West Texas Boys Ranch with meal preparation and playing board games. She helped prepare 200 bags for children removed from their homes by Child Protective Services through a project called Hope Totes this year. She participated in National Adoption Day, helping to celebrate the children and their newly adopted families. She has assisted with stuffing countless bags for school children in partnership with the Concho Valley Food Bank serving more than 800 students per week during the summer months. She has also volunteered with the Student Closet program providing clothing to more than 600 children during the 2017-2018 school year.

She has also assisted the elderly by volunteering for a Valentine's Day event for residents at a local retirement home, providing snacks, flowers, and decorations. She assisted with small projects at Sonrisas, which provides therapy to persons with physical, emotional, and mental challenges through a carefully structured program of equine activities. She has helped remodel the living areas for four MOSAIC homes, which serves adults with special needs.

For the last two years, Bragg has served on the Event Leadership Team for the Tom Green County Relay for Life. Although she assists with many aspects of the event, she is in charge of the Luminaria Ceremony which honors and remembers loved who have battled cancer with white bags with their names and a lit candle.

While Bragg volunteers to serve her community, she also serves local farmers, ranchers, and employees by being a zone specialist, assisting with projects throughout the state. She also volunteers to teach the Master Naturalist and Master Gardener clubs. Last year, she assisted with preparing the program and volunteering her time to host a group from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that was learning about soils, conservation, and farming practices in in Texas. Efforts like these are often on weekends and require travel.

Amanda added, "I love my job with the NRCS. Providing service by helping the farmers and ranchers in this area of the state help the land has many rewards. When I'm not at work, I enjoy using my free time to make a difference by giving back to my community."

Soil Scientist Volunteers for Lasting Community Change, Donnie Lunsford, NRCS, Public Affairs Specialist (2018, April)