Over winter break, I had the opportunity to drive the van for an event that the Illinois River Watershed Partnership was hosting, a leadership summit for upcoming environmental stewards. There was a group of about 30 students present, and IRWP’s Education and Outreach coordinator had planned an event to take them to several different locations in the area for a field trip. The trip included a national park, a new installation for water recreation that is currently being built, a wastewater treatment plant, a couple of hiking trails and a lake. At the lake, the kids got to hike and were encouraged to pick up litter along the way.
I decided to stay behind during the lake hike to make sure that anyone who wanted to could get in or out of the vans because it was cold that day. Some of the kids came back early and were picking up trash around the vans so I got out to help. We were having fun and actually getting a lot of trash up around the trail entrance.
It wasn’t long before some other people pulled in and parked near us. They skipped rocks on the lake and talked among themselves for a while. It was a family with an older man and several children. The older man noticed us up on the hill and came to introduce himself. He asked if we were volunteering and I told him about the summit. He asked his grandkids if they would like to help us and they enthusiastically jumped in to help.
We all picked up trash for a while and filled up a river bag with trash. The man was so sweet and seemed actually very thankful that we let him and his family help us. It was a very sweet experience. Before we packed up, the man asked if he could take a photo with us and we obliged, of course. He sent the photo to me later that day and it summed up the wonderful feeling of getting to do environmental work with strangers. It was a very wonderful day.
Jodi Nimmo is currently an undergrad at the University of Arkansas studying Sociology, Sustainability and Gender Studies. She is the lead organizer of a student group on campus and an active volunteer at Tri Cycle community farms as well as with other non-profits in her community. Jodi will be working with the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to build rain gardens in the watershed community and educating the community about the importance of keeping water clean.