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Volunteering Brings Countless Benefits to the Volunteer

For one reason or another, “volunteer” is a word that can bring up conflicting emotions. Sometimes it can make folks cringe, bringing about memories of being “volunteered” for something you didn’t want to. A bad volunteer experience could have left you feeling taken advantage of by someone asking too much with too little in return. Many of us can conjure a memory of a room full of people being asked to volunteer for a role…and we hear crickets, no one wanting to step up. We’re all busy, can’t take on any more responsibility, and we especially can’t do it “for free.”

The flip side of this coin, however, is the proud volunteer who so willingly gives up his time for a cause. We all know somebody who simply glows, having found that perfect volunteer opportunity. What makes these folks so happy to be working so hard “for free”?

The benefits that a culture of volunteerism bring to a cause or community can be easily seen, but there are also countless benefits to the volunteer as well. 

The Passion Project

Volunteering can be a way to exercise a passion, to bring something to your life that you might not find in your day-to-day. You might not be lucky enough to be working your dream job, but chances are there’s a corresponding dream volunteer gig that you could do on the side. To work on the things you truly love, even occasionally, can bring a level of fulfillment and meaning that will make you glow, too. Not to mention, the experience gained could help bring you closer to the job opportunity that you’ve been longing for. 

Learn New Skills/Professional Development

Often times, that dream job requires specific skills or experiences that you don’t have just yet. How do you break the “I need experience to get a job to get the required experience” cycle – volunteer! Internships and other hands-on volunteer roles can be the best and fastest way to learn a new skill directly from an expert. Unlike a classroom experience, volunteering allows you to see the day to day of a role and learn exactly how a particular skill-set fits into a job or organization. Plus, you now have connections with people working in the field, and they’ve seen your dedication and potential. 

Personal Connection

Another benefit of volunteering that cannot be understated is the chance to connect with new people – with like-minded people who share similar passions. In a world where technology seems to be leaving us connected but isolated, volunteer events can be downright therapeutic as we come together to get our hands dirty in the name of something bigger than ourselves. Whether that dirt comes from playing with homeless puppies, fixing food for the hungry, building a home, or planting a tree in actual dirt, strong connections are made when we work with others toward a common goal. 

Of course we hope you’ll want to volunteer to dig in the dirt with us at Charlotte’s Quest! If you’ve got a passion for the outdoors, gardening, working with children, or teaching others about these things that you love, then we’ve got a volunteer role for you. We even have administrative opportunities that can allow you to contribute to our mission in climate controlled comfort. But we do know that these things are not for everybody, and that is totally okay.

Regardless of where your passions lead, we encourage you to seek out a volunteer opportunity that you will love – you’ll be amazed at the personal sense of growth and gratification that comes along with giving back to your community. 
To learn more about our Volunteer Team, contact Vicky Crouthamel at volunteer@charlottesquest.org or connect with other volunteers by joining our Friends of Charlotte’s Quest Facebook Group.

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New Park Entrance: 2019 Scout Projects

Joey Sviatko's Eagle Scout Project

Here at Charlotte’s Quest Nature Center community volunteers are the heart of our operation.  Our gardens, trails, field trips, programs and all facilities are lead and maintained by dedicated volunteers. 

Over many years, several Scouts have implemented unique and valuable Eagle Scout projects in our park. We work with the Scouts to match their interests, ideas and skills to potential projects. We aim to provide the Scouts the opportunity to complete a project they are proud of, and from which our community can benefit.

It only takes a short walk around the park to find examples of Eagle Scout projects there. Eagle Scouts have mapped, designed and marked trails, poured concrete walkways, and built picnic tables and benches. Our taxidermy display was assembled by an Eagle Scout! Last year local Girl Scout Carissa Poore chose to revamp our garden to be more accommodating to pollinators to achieve her silver award.  Most recently, the entrance fence was completely rebuilt as two separate Eagle Scout Projects! Upon visiting the park, you will be welcomed by a fresh, bright and beautiful entrance. Joey Sviatko from Troop 9 installed the first stretch of fence and installed the new sign in February 2019. The other side of the entrance was most recently completed by Max Debenham from Troop 320 in May 2019. The complimentary projects turned out even more beautifully than we had hoped and now our park entrance is more welcoming than ever!

To check out the many other projects that have been created by Eagle Scouts at Charlotte’s Quest, click the link below for a full document created by Ellen Rugemer a former Board Member at CQ and Scout parent.

https://1drv.ms/w/s!Agi9hdCqkpC6gbowA9jujkSP8plToA

We asked Joe and Max about their volunteer work at Charlotte’s Quest and how it has impacted them. Here is what they had to say: 

CQ:Give us some highlights of your time as a Scout.

Joe: Philmont Scout Ranch Cimarron, NM July 2019. West Point Camporee May 2015. Annual Father-Son Campout to Gettysburg. Earning Eagle Scout. 

Max: Some of my favorite moments in scouting is my first camping trip and first summer camp experience. 

CQ: Why did you choose to do your project at our park? 

Joe: I chose CQ as my Eagle Scout project site because I spent a lot of time as a Cub Scout as a member of Pack 665 and we spent a lot of time at Charlotte’s Quest. I wanted to give back to a local place where I was familiar. 

Max: I love Charlotte’s Quest. They allow the scouts and cub scouts to use the park for scouting and I wanted to give back.

CQ: What part of your project challenged you the most? 

Joe: The planning portion of the entrance beautification project was the most difficult. I had to plan and rework designs several times to get it right. 

Max: The part that challenged me the most was not being able to do everything all the time.

CQ: What did you learn from leading a group of volunteers to complete your project?  

Joe: Leading a group of volunteers wasn’t as hard as I thought. Everyone really wanted to help me and showed up strong both work days. The biggest challenge was learning how to do some of the tasks so I could lead by example. I was fortunate in that all my helpers were willing to show me the ropes; I learned how to run a plumb line and set posts and install fencing.

Max: I learned from leading other volunteers that leading isn’t just about telling people to do things, but to help with the work and show them how to do things.

CQ: How did the community support your project?

Joe: The Troop 9 community supported my project with donations. They also bought my tee shirt and hoodies fundraiser. Lowe’s gave me a large discount on supplies and Sunbelt Rentals donated an auger. These businesses really came through for me. 

Max: The community helped with the project by first giving me the project then giving me advice on how to make that idea better.

CQ: How do you feel your work will benefit the community and the park? 

Joe: It was gratifying to see all the hard work pay off with such a nice fence and sign. I’m glad people will see this improvement when they visit CQ. Hopefully other scouts will see the project and be inspired to maybe complete their own Eagle Project at CQ. 

Max: I think the work I did will greatly affect the community [and the park] because it looks newer, and now the gate is open most of the time and people won’t be discouraged to enter the park.

Charlotte’s Quest owes a great many thanks to the local Scouts of the community! Their leadership and dedication to our park gives us an educational and welcoming connection to the outdoors despite our busy schedules. We hope to carry forward our close relationships with local Scouts and follow the younger scouts as they grow and experience our park as a favorite place, surrounded by examples of dedication and generosity by their trailblazing elders.  The good news is, we continue to have great opportunities for Eagle Scouts or Girl Scout Silver projects as our wish list of fun and purposeful projects never ends! 

We hope that our community treasures the time and skills that these scouts have brought us as much as we do!  You are encouraged to visit our park and explore for yourself.

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How Volunteering Helps Our Community Thrive

Charlotte’s Quest is so lucky to be situated in the heart of the Town of Manchester. We still have a small-town feel that can be so easily lost in today’s hustle and bustle and urban sprawl. The annual 4th of July parade and carnival is always such a quintessential reminder of the wonderful sense of community that a town like ours can foster. 

We have always been an organization that is of and for the community, almost completely dependent on volunteers to carry out our mission. Some of our Board Members have been dedicating time to Charlotte’s Quest since its inception over 25 years ago. They do it because they love it, but also because they see how this community service positively impacts their town.

Yes, volunteering with Charlotte’s Quest helps keep the nature center up and running, and our organization benefits greatly from these efforts. But the bigger picture is that our community members have hiking trails to explore, programs to learn from, and fun family events to enjoy.  Charlotte’s Quest is certainly not the only game in town – volunteers support our schools, operate the pool, rallied together to build a skate park, and so much more. This town, and so many others, would not be recognizable if you took away everything that has come out of volunteer service.

A community in which residents voluntarily jump in to contribute to the greater good stands to gain so much from the collective efforts of everyone involved. We gain a sense of pride in our neighbors and our hometown, and we teach our younger generations what it means to be part of something larger than ourselves. This is one reason why we are so excited by the ongoing and growing scout involvement at Charlotte’s Quest – not only do they help make the park a more beautiful place, but we get to watch these young community members understand the powerful impact they can make when they choose to dedicate their time to a worthy cause. 

So as we gather this week to celebrate in wonderful, small-town fashion, take a moment to look past the rides and games to the people that surround you. Maybe you don’t recognize them all, but chances are good that many of the folks you see have had a hand in making our town what it is. Let’s all do our part to keep that spirit of community service alive!

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Presenting: Open Hours

Charlotte’s Quest Nature Center was brought into existence by volunteers who were dedicated to serving our community.

Today, we serve:

  • local schools and preschools by hosting field trips,
  • the local home-school community and kids younger than school-age with nature education programming by Timbernook,
  • the local scout community by offering our park as a safe meeting place, and
  • volunteer-minded folks by making service opportunities available.

Now we want to expand our reach even further, making it easier to access Charlotte’s Quest even when there are no programs or special events scheduled.

Have you ever wondered “What’s inside that little building?!” We get that a lot.

It has long been a dream of the Manchester Parks Foundation to make the Nature Center available to the public on a regular basis.

For years the Board has grappled with the cost of hiring a staff person, but even after receiving support from the Town of Manchester and loyal members of Charlotte’s Quest, our funds fall short. We have been thus far unable to make that dream a reality.

A recent shift in focus has lead us to realize the answer was in front of us the whole time – VOLUNTEERS!

As of now, we have the Volunteer resources available to open the Nature Center from 10am to 12pm to the public, most Saturdays this Summer. Keep an eye out on our Facebook Page for more information or stop by the park on Saturdays between 10am and 12pm to catch us there!

Thanks to a growing team of volunteers, when you visit the park, you will also have access to the resources within the Nature Center. Our sincere hope is that the growing Charlotte’s Quest community takes advantage of this new opportunity!

Kids love to explore the many textures of the natural items we have collected in the Touch-Table, play with puppets and models, and see the animals in the display. Adults can even learn something new as they peruse our bookshelf of nature knowledge (P.S. The Touch-Table is fun for everyone!) .

Back to Basics

To tackle this obstacle, we reached back into our volunteer-heavy history, and pulled out a somewhat weathered idea…

Some of you loyal members may remember that years ago, the Nature Center was open for a few hours each Saturday afternoon. A handful of board members volunteered to open the Nature Center and greet visitors. As Board members were inevitably pulled in too many different directions, both related to CQ and their personal lives, these open hours took a necessary back seat and eventually became a thing of the past.

We are attempting to revive this idea by reaching out – to begin with – to dedicated members of our Board. It is important to the long-term sustainability of open hours, however, that we expand our reach beyond the eight Board members to other volunteer-minded members of the Charlotte’s Quest community. If you appreciate our efforts and think that volunteering for open hours might be right for you, please let us know!

To learn more about or join our Volunteer Team, please contact volunteer@charlottesquest.org or complete this survey. Your participation in any Charlotte’s Quest initiative supports environmental education in your community.

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Weekly Weed Series: The Japanese Barberry

Coming straight from the Carroll County Forestry Board by way of Bethany Slaughter, here are some great tips on how to identify and control Japanese Barberry in Maryland, as well as the ways in which it threatens our local ecology.

 

Barberry is native to China and Japan, then was introduced as an ornamental plant. The seeds are eaten by mammals and birds, spreading it throughout the eastern U.S. The berries of this plant are also edible with a bitter taste and a hint of sweetness. You could try using them with other fruits in pies or jelly preserves to add a tart flavor.

 

How to Identify the Japanese Barberry:

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The Ecological Threat:

Japanese Barberry produces a large number of seeds as well as rhizomes to form new plants that shade out and displace native species. The thorns and dense foliage also provide refuge for small mammals that host the deer tick, the carrier of Lyme and other diseases. That makes this species a human health hazard.

Likely Habitat:

Japanese Barberry can tolerate a range of conditions but grows best in sunny, fertile, moist, and well-drained soil. It spreads from gardens to natural areas that are suitable for its growth and establishment.

How to Control:

Do not plant or encourage the planting of this species. Some garden supply dealers and landscapers have agreed to stop selling Japanese Barberry. When removing this species, pull out the entire plant including the roots to prevent regrowth.

 

Join us next week when we explore Oriental Bittersweet.

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Weekly Weed Series; What You Should Know About Invasive Plants

At our recent Community Plant Swap, the Master Gardeners supported native plant selections and discouraged attendees from picking up those few “invasive” plants that were found in circulation. Valid advice though it is, why should we choose native, non-invasive plants for planting and avoid exotic invasives? Even further, what should we do when we find ourselves dealing with a garden (or yard!) take-over? Read on for expert information regarding invasive exotic species, how to identify them and what the best way to control their growth.

What is an invasive exotic species?

Invasive exotic plants are ones that have been introduced by people from other continents or ecosystems, whose introduction causes economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.

How did they get here?

Many were brought here intentionally for ornamental use, erosion control, or wildlife habitat. Others were brought accidentally or as byproducts of human industry; in transporting goods in the hulls of ships, by carried seeds.

How do invasive exotic species take over?

They have a lack of natural enemies to control their populations, because when they are brought to a new ecosystem, their predators don’t come along. They can also be spread by prolific seeding, which is when they are dispersed inadvertently by animals and humans. Some invasive species can even spread by stolons or rhizomes underground, making the roots hard to remove. Most of them green out early, which shades out native plants and improves their own chance of survival. Deer also play a role in the spread of invasive species by only browsing on native plants, preventing them from growing.

 

 

Why do we care?

After the loss of habitat through development, the encroachment of invasive exotic plants causes the most harm to our native species. Development is something we are always going to be doing, while the spread of invasives is something we can prevent. These invasive weeds crowd out native plants that are important to the ecosystem. Our native animals suffer when the native plants they depend on are no longer around. Getting rid of these non native plants will improve forest quality by allowing the native plants to grow, which provide food and shelter for wildlife. Healthy ecosystems also help provide clean air and water for people, as well as filter the soil. A forest may look healthy with lots of older native trees, but invasives in the understory will eventually affect the overstory by preventing new trees from growing.

What can we do?

Learn how to identify and remove invasive species by reading the Weekly Weed articles and becoming a Weed Warrior! Most counties have one of these programs to do invasive species control and keep their forests healthy. The Carroll County Weed Warrior program was initiated by a Master Gardener, Carolyn Puckett, in 2010. Anyone can be a Weed Warrior! There are currently over 400 volunteers in our database who have removed over 40 acres of invasive plants. We work mainly at Bear Branch and Piney Run Park, but are always looking for new places to work and new groups to network with. You can help change the forest from being covered with invasives, to providing food and shelter for wildlife! Contact ccforestryboard@gmail.com for more information.

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Energy Efficiency Looks Great


Our Building Overhaul isn’t just about looks. We are excited to be updating the nature center in ways that not only make it more educational, comfortable, and welcoming, but also more energy efficient! The best part is, the steps we are taking are all things that could be easily implemented at home – significant energy savings can be achieved even without a major renovation. Small changes can add up to make a big difference, especially if we all pitch in.

LED Lighting

Next time you’re in our nature center, take a minute to look up and admire our sleek, new LED lighting. While LED bulbs do cost more than other options, the higher up-front investment is paid back through long-term energy savings of up to 65%. These lights are brighter despite using less energy than our old fluorescent tubes, and could last up to 25 years – here’s to never having to change the light bulbs! A change like this is a win for the environment and a win everyone who is making the switch to household and business LED lighting.

Ductless HVAC System

One of the most significant upgrades is the building’s heating and cooling system. We used to have a series of fans and portable AC units that struggled to keep the building cool, and an electric fan heater that was very loud and certainly didn’t do anything to help keep the electric bill down. A new ductless heating and cooling unit is a perfect solution for our space – very quiet, energy efficient, and programmable so that we can optimize use according to when we will be in the building. A similar system could be a great choice for a home renovation or HVAC replacement.

Other Green Practices

The Charlotte’s Quest team will also be re-vamping and highlighting some existing green features.

  • Our compost bins – used to convert food and yard waste to useful fertilizer – are ready to be put to use.
  • When the weather warms up the rain barrel will once again be collecting rainwater so we can use it in the gardens.

During your next visit, we hope you check out our green features and perhaps be inspired to try some at home!

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2 days, 40 Volunteers, Some Dirt, and Lots of Love

Charlotte’s Quest has been feeling the love from hardworking volunteers, and it shows! Over the course of two work days, nearly 40 people came together to give our grounds a major overhaul. Projects included everything from garden maintenance, to cleaning and staining benches, to fresh paint on our building.

BGE demonstrated their commitment to the community by not only supporting these events through our Green Grant award but also getting their hands dirty working with us last week. Boy Scout Troop 665 – frequent visitors to the fire pit and council circle – paid it forward by cleaning and weeding the campfire area.

From the beginning, Charlotte’s Quest has been built on community service. Many features and displays are the results of scout projects, donations, and the like. We are thrilled to have our neighbors involved with our current updates to keep this long-standing tradition of volunteerism alive.

THANK YOU to all those who lent us your time and talents, it means the world! We look forward to continuing our updates throughout the winter months and sharing them with you come spring. Stay tuned!