The Forest Preserves boasts a large network of volunteers doing incredible work all across the County like restoring habitat, monitoring plant and animal populations, patrolling our trails, supporting special events and so much more. Though many volunteers fly solo, like Trail Watch volunteers, or work in small groups, like stewardship volunteers, each individual belongs to this larger, like-minded community of people who love nature and care for the Preserves.
Juan Cruz & Isabel Jaro
Juan: Mr. Billington, the Site Steward here at Bemis Woods, is also our professor. He likes to promote the volunteer work in the Preserves. It’s a good way to get some extra credit or just a few more points if you didn’t do too well on a test.
Isabel: It’s also very, very helpful, not just for the class but for the environment. I’m happy to help out, even if it’s not for extra credit. I live in North Riverside so I’m nearby the forest but I’ve never actually been to Bemis Woods.
Juan: Yeah, I never knew this was going on in Cook County and I have lived here all my life. I didn’t know there were invasive species like Buckthorn in the forest preserves before today. It’s good to give back. Even if you’re not a big nature person. We had a productive morning and it’s pretty chill out here with the fire. I actually feel like sitting down and just watching it now.
“During my first ever stewardship workday at Orland Grassland, we were pulling White Sweet Clover. Pat Hayes always has something fun going on, and on this particular day she was giving a prize for whoever pulled out the longest root. The prize was a specialty root beer, and I won!
“I have no idea where my love of nature comes from to be honest, but it grows upon itself. When you walk away after a workday with a sense of calm, it’s like, why wouldn’t you come back? Nature’s just got so much to offer. And there is a sense of mission here. We’re getting the grassland back to the way it used to be. Pat always talks about that and it’s great to be a part of that restoration effort.”
Inspired by the photo blog Humans of New York, Kris DaPra and Joanna Huyck of the Volunteer Resources team will be working together to introduce you to your fellow volunteers. You’ll get to know the names and faces of the people (like you) without whom the preserves could simply not exist. We hope that you’ll enjoy this ongoing project, and we look forward to interviewing YOU at an upcoming workday, on your monitoring route, during your Trail Watch patrol or anywhere else you make a difference. Thank you for being a volunteer!