For the last 15 years, Roberta Woods has volunteered with the Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department two to three times a week. Ten years ago the budget for park maintenance was cut and the volunteer program was expanded to help fill in the gaps and give folks a sense of ownership over the parks.
The Park Stewardship Program is designed to connect individuals with nature through volunteering, safe and healthy parks, and education. Depending on the season, volunteers do weeding, planting, or removal of invasive species like. As a marine ecologist, Roberta brings a strong sense of environmental protection and restoration knowledge to her work.
“In Olympia, there are more parks than you can count. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the outdoors,” Roberta says, “the most enriching part for me is helping kids to get a sense of where they fit in the natural environment.”
Volunteering offers Roberta a chance to give something back to the environment she has worked to protect and also lends her expertise to the agency she serves. “Volunteering is a way to feel good about yourself,” she explains, “it helps me feel better mentally and it’s a good way to get over the winter blues...no matter how dark it is, it’s still brighter outside and it’s nicer to be active,” she says, “plus, you get free endorphins from the physical labor!”