Kasey’s Korner…..Kasey Hovik
We live in strange and challenging times. We continue to struggle through the worst pandemic in 100 years while forest fires, floods, devastating storms destroy property, and lives are lost. The ugly divisiveness that is a part of local and national politics wears us down. Our natural world and wildlife face extreme peril because of climate change and pressure to maximize short-term profits at the expense of long-term habitat conservation. Given the enormity of these problems, it is very easy to get discouraged and even depressed because it feels like there is nothing we can do. There are no quick fixes and small rural nonprofits like Umpqua Watersheds lack funding and volunteers compared to our friends in Eugene and Portland. So why bother?
Over the last ten years, my natural optimism and determinism have continually been renewed because of the work of our AmeriCorps members. They come from all over the country to our small community and immerse themselves in our efforts to make a difference for the beautiful Umpqua. They work for less than minimum wage and often reside in communal housing. Most qualify for food assistance programs. All our AmeriCorps have had 4-year college degrees and three have master’s degrees. I take great pride that they chose Umpqua Watersheds when any one of them could have taken a position with much larger organizations. They chose UW because of the passion we have for our mission and our dedication to supporting them in the process of their service. From the beginning, we make a commitment that we will roll up our sleeves and work with them and will do everything possible to ensure their service with us enables them to attain the lofty goals they set for themselves when they made the decision to become an AmeriCorps member.
I am so grateful and proud of all the AmeriCorps members I have been privileged to supervise and mentor over the last decade. The last year has been the most challenging by far, because of the pandemic and we are so incredibly fortunate to have had Ryan Kincaid as our member. She worked hard to ensure her service with UW was a success and that we achieved all the objectives of the work plan we created at the beginning of the year. A big part of our environmental education program was in-person classroom instruction. Since this was not possible, she developed alternatives by starting a book club, creating a first-ever virtual teachers workshop to provide resources for teaching environmental education, launched a radio program called “Living Downstream” where she interviewed many people who are working to make a positive difference for the environment and our community, created the “Eco Innovations Challenge” program where several people, including kids, were challenged to put forth an idea on how they could help solve an environmental problem. In addition, she continued our tradition of engaging the community with covid-safe river cleanup events. Each week Ryan would update me in zoom meetings on her work and I looked forward to our time together because her energy, enthusiasm, and dedication gave me hope and inspiration.
At the end of July, I always feel sad because our AmeriCorps members’ service with UW is ending and they will leave our community after making such a big difference here. Hope springs knowing that they will bring their energies to other endeavors. This year is different because Ryan has chosen to stay on with Umpqua Watersheds in a different capacity thanks to a grant from C. Giles Hunt Foundation. She will be our first Director of Education and Outreach. While it is only a quarter-time position to start, I know that Ryan will be able to accomplish a lot during her 10 hours each week.
We are also very excited and grateful to Jerry Mires for his donation so we are able to welcome our newest AmeriCorps member, Jane Maloney. Jane is a New Jersey native who bounced around New England before landing in Roseburg to work with Umpqua Watersheds. She has a BS in Environmental Science from St. Michael’s College in Vermont. While there, she was an instructor for the Adventure Sports Center, leading rock/ice climbing and backpacking trips. After college, Jane worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston, leading youth trail crews on the Bay Circuit Trail, where she developed a strong interest in community outreach, conservation, and environmental education.
Jane is excited to serve as the Environmental Education and Outreach Leader as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She looks forward to developing educational programs and engaging with the Douglas County community, and she hopes to make a positive impact at Umpqua Watersheds. In her free time, Jane enjoys hiking, climbing, reading, and making all kinds of art!
To return to the question I posed at the beginning, “So why bother?” Because individually and collectively we can make a difference. Our AmeriCorps members have shown us time and time again and they have been drawn here because of what Umpqua Watersheds is doing. It’s not easy being green. We have a lot of work to do together. Please continue to volunteer and to support Umpqua Watersheds financially and we will continue to make a positive difference for the environment, our community, and in the lives of young people who travel from afar to serve.
Advice From A Raindrop
to make a difference? Tell me
about it. You think you’re
helpless, at the mercy of forces
beyond your control? Been there.
Think you’re doomed to disappear,
just one small voice among millions?
That’s no weakness, trust me. That’s
your wild card, your trick, your
implement. They won’t see you coming
until you’re there, in their faces, shining,
festive, expendable, eternal. Sure you’re
small, just one small part of a storm that
changes everything. That’s how you win,
my friend, again and again, and again.
KIM STAFFORD, OREGON POET LAUREATE