When people hear the word ‘volunteer’ a lot of things may come to mind. For me, volunteering as a way to give back to my community and to help make an impact.
I am a high school student in Clayton, NY. I recently started volunteering for the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), an organization that conserves land in the Thousand Islands region. At first I thought of it as something I can do in my free time, but I soon realized it is much more to me than just a hobby. I feel I am already helping make a difference, by creating flyers and writing this article to help others understand what volunteering is all about.
The benefits of volunteering are endless. I have already met so many nice people, all of whom are in love with the Thousand Islands area and their community. Knowing this made me realize that there are still so many new people to meet and new experiences waiting for me right here in the Thousand Islands. I find this funny, knowing that at times I sit at home and complain to my parents about how I’m bored.
I guess since I have lived here all my life, I’ve just always taken the area for granted. I’ve never appreciated the opportunities I have right in my own community, such as fishing, hiking, adventuring through nature, or even just enjoying the beautiful scenery - things I never thought of as a privilege before. Through TILT, I am actually starting to feel like a part of my own community, not just a random person that happens to live here.
Volunteering not only gives me a sense of achievement, but has also helped me to discover a new range of interests and hobbies, such as writing and designing flyers, things I would normally only do if necessary for a school project. Even though I am still in high school, I find time in my schedule to volunteer. TILT is extremely flexible with how many hours I volunteer, whether it is just an afternoon, or five days a week. No matter how long I am volunteering with TILT, I always leave happy knowing that I did my part in helping the community.
Over the years, TILT has relied on and appreciated its volunteers. These volunteers have helped in a variety of ways, and I was excited to find out that many of them have been teens (like me!) and young adults. I thought I would follow up with a few of these young volunteers to hear their thoughts.
Jack Grobe, from Ontario, NY is a college sophomore in Canada, has spent most of his summers on Grindstone Island with his family. With TILT conserving almost half of the land on the island, Jack, along with his younger siblings Macaire and Parker, has become “up close and personal” with the mission and activities of the land trust. He works for Clayton Island Tours during the summer, but volunteers for TILT any chance he gets: “Volunteering offers the chance for someone who loves this area to take part in interacting with it and preserving it for future generations.”
Jack is a regular volunteer during TILT fundraising events, and last summer he assisted TILT trustee, and Grindstone resident, Ken Deedy with leading the popular mule tour TILTrek on the island.
Annie Bober, a Senior at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, MA. told us. "For the majority of the summer I did a summer study program abroad so I arrived at the river in mid-August. I was looking for something to fill my days but I since I only had two weeks left before school started I didn't think I would find anything.. I reached out to TILT because of a family friend, Marty Yenawine. A few days later I was put in touch with Corinne, interviewed, and started working the next day! It didn't take long to get used to the swing of things because I did something different everyday! I appreciate how flexible and friendly everyone I had the pleasure to work with was! An added plus was that when I got home everyday there was still enough sun to sit outside or go swimming. Regardless of the amount of time you have TILT is a great opportunity to pursue."
Smith Hambrose, a high school sophomore from Philadelphia, PA, spent a little over a month last summer volunteering in the TILT office as the KidsTrek intern. She reflected on her experiences in an “Intern Diary” posted on the TILT website: “Being outside and doing what I really enjoy sounded like the perfect summer job. I’ve met new people, worked an event, and been to [four] KidsTreks - which are always the highlight of my week. I find everything I do interesting, and am always looking forward to coming into the office. With the most beautiful view of the River from my desk, it’s safe to say I never want to leave work. Working on the River and in nature is hardly work at all!”
For people of any age interested in volunteering for TILT in the upcoming season, there will be a Volunteer Open House on Friday, April 5th from 5-7 pm at the TILT office (135 John St, Clayton). TILT staff will be there with information about the opportunities to volunteer both in general (with photography, trail monitoring, etc.) and during a specific TILTrek.
These volunteer TILTreks range from installing gull exclusion grids on TILT’s shoals to protect the Common Tern nests, to planting trees on Arbor Day, to helping at the Community Picnic at Zenda Farm Preserve, to cleaning up Potters Beach at the end of the season. Like me, you will find that volunteering for TILT is a great opportunity to do something proactive in your community - and I’m sure you’ll have fun while doing it!
I personally feel that TILT is a great place to volunteer, especially for teenagers and young adults. Even volunteering in a small way is proactive, such as helping out at the TILT office once a week - every little bit helps! For me, the feeling of achievement I get is something that not only makes me want to continue volunteering, but also makes me want to get others involved as well!
My advice to others interested in volunteering is to know that at the end of the day, you will feel accomplished and motivated to continue volunteering and being part of your community. The sooner you start getting involved in your community, the sooner you will be more content with yourself, knowing that you have helped make a difference.
Message from TILT: If you’re interested in volunteering for the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), please contact Corinne Mockler, Coordinator of Education and Outreach, at 315-686-5345 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about our volunteer opportunities can be found at our website: www.tilandtrust.org.
By Nicole Gokey
Nicole Gokey is a student at Thousand Islands High School who has been living in the beautiful 1000 Islands area for all her life. There are many activities she has an interest in: Playing soccer, swimming, and just experiencing everything that the Thousand Islands has to offer. She has been volunteering for the Thousand Islands Land Trust for a short time and plans to continue. She says she is excited to see what’s in store for her in the future.