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.
“It’s so long ago that sometimes it’s hard for me to remember how I first heard about volunteering with the Forest Preserves. I knew about restoration work for years but when I was working, I didn’t really have any free time. I always thought in the back of my mind that this is something I’d like to be doing. I would see ads in the paper every now and then for volunteerism but it wasn’t until I retired that I went on a tour given by Friends of the Forest Preserves at a couple different preserves, and I just saw them in a different way. They talked about volunteer workdays during the tour so I thought ‘Hmm, maybe you should do that now’. I got started, enjoyed it, and have been coming back ever since. When I first started volunteering, I didn’t know anything about prairie plants. I’m more of a woodland type person and I still don’t know that much about prairie plants, but I know a whole lot more than I used to. I find them very appealing and interesting.
“Ted Stone is just one of several places that I go because I have so much fun. So it’s Ted [Stone Forest] on Friday, Sundown Meadow on Tuesday, wherever the workday is on Saturday, and occasionally on a Sunday if I still have any energy left over. But there is a tremendous need and it’s very rewarding for me. I initially just started with one workday per month and then realized that maybe I could do more. After a while, for me, it pretty much became addicting. But I mean, even three hours a week would be very helpful and a lot of fun for the person who’s doing it. You meet so many nice, like-minded people. It’s a lot of fun.”
“I used to own property in Indiana where I did a lot of restoration work on my private land, but it just got to be too much to handle. It was like over 60 acres so I sold it a couple years ago. I kind of miss it so I thought volunteering here would be a good way to come back to doing some of the things I used to do on my property. I’m working full time but I’ve got some free time now on the weekends so I thought I would give back and do this. It’s one of my interests and hobbies so I plan on helping quite a bit in the future. I like the fresh air. I like the physical work. I like knowing that you’re making a difference even if it takes a while. But when people look back 50 years from now they’ll say, ‘Oh wow’. Every little bit helps. A lot of volunteers helped bring this back and it’ll look a lot different in the future than it does now; at least I hope it does. Our efforts live on into the future. I would encourage people to realize that the Midwest is a unique place and we have a really precious resource. You have to make efforts to preserve it, bring it back and restore it. I think we take it for granted that this is the way things used to be but it isn’t. Just get involved.”
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 all throughout 2019. 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!