A Welcoming Community

Check out Juliet’s experiences in Missoula during her first week of service;

Seeding at Jeannette Rankin Peace Park on National Public Lands Day
Seeding at Jeannette Rankin Peace Park on National Public Lands Day

When I learned that I would be writing a blog after only a week of service, my first thought was that I couldn’t possibly have enough to write about. Well, here I am at the end of the first week, and I find myself needing to pick and choose experiences to share. I blame Missoula. There are just too many fun and interesting things to do here, and I have never seen a community so dedicated to attending events that support one another, local businesses, and green initiatives. My first week of service happened to fall on the city’s annual Bike Walk Bus Week, and the amount of folks who participated in the week’s community events was stunning. It didn’t take long for me to fall under Missoula’s spell. I went the entire week without commuting by car, a trend I plan to continue into the winter by riding the bus. I attended a fundraiser for a local bike shop. I volunteered at a local park on National Public Lands Day, and I helped lay mulch at the 8th Street pocket park, one of Missoula’s certified wildlife habitats.

Volunteers mulching at the 8th Street Pocket Park in Missoula
Volunteers mulching at the 8th Street Pocket Park in Missoula

With the goals of expanding National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program in Montana and furthering the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative (shameless plugs), I have already begun to realize that this sense of community may be my biggest asset. After describing to a new acquaintance what having a certified wildlife habitat entailed, she eagerly pledged to go door-to-door to tell her neighbors that they should certify their already wildlife-friendly yards. I have experienced multiple others saying, “count me in!” when they hear about the initiative, or, in the case of one kind person, chase my supervisor and me down while we are leaving a neighborhood council meeting to tell us to sign her up as a volunteer.

I have also discovered that AmeriCorps roots run deep in Missoula, and these wonderful people are a welcoming community within themselves. It seems as though I meet at least one new AmeriCorps member every day, and instantly a connection is formed. I had the pleasure of being invited to dinner at the home of a FoodCorps alumna this week along with other past and present Energy Corps members, and have met numerous VISTA and Conservation Corps members throughout the week as well. Everyone I have met so far has been friendlier and more excited to help than I could have ever anticipated. I have a feeling that this deep-seated community mentality is going to be very helpful in achieving my service goals this year, and I can’t wait to take full advantage of everything else this amazing city has to offer.

Juliet S.Juliet Slutzker received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan in 2012 and earned an M.S. in Biology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in May 2015, where she studied conservation of stream animal populations. As a Teaching Assistant she gained valuable experience in outdoor and environmental education. As the Sustainability and Habitat Educator with the National Wildlife Federation, Juliet’s primary duties are supporting existing member schools of the Eco-Schools USA program by recruiting and training volunteers, researching funding opportunities, and presenting resources on NWF’s education programs. Additionally, Juliet works to expand participation in the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative and provide presentations, workshops, and outreach regarding the initiative.

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