Riveredge Volunteer Feature: Mark Vollmers

You may recognize Mark Vollmers for any number of reasons. Perhaps you’ve seen him acting in a movie or a commercial…otherwise you might have heard him singing with Vocal Tapestry, a group that sings folk songs from around the world. At Riveredge, you’ll most likely recognize Mark as the man behind the pancake griddle during Maple Sugarin’ Season.

Around the turn of the millennium, Mark’s wife Estelle invited him to make pancakes during maple sugarin’ field trips at Riveredge. Estelle was an environmental educator who became a volunteer Teacher Naturalist at Riveredge when she retired. After Mark retired in 2003 he began flipping even more flapjacks.

Following Estelle’s passing in 2009, Don Gilmore invited Mark to help with maintenance on Tuesdays at Riveredge, and Mark continued to pitch in more as his schedule permitted. At 20 years of volunteering, we gladly consider Mark a lifer at this point.

Thank you for choosing to spend your time with all of us at Riveredge, Mark – here’s a sap toast to another 20 years of pancake Maple Magic!

Riveredge is Seeking Homeschool Education Volunteers

For a decade, Riveredge Nature Center has hosted a premier Homeschool Program helping families add science, environmental education, and inquiry-based outdoor exploration to their home curriculum. In the current Covid-19 landscape, the Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program is seeing unprecedented registration, and has even added an extra day of homeschool scheduling. As a result, Riveredge is seeking additional volunteers to aid in homeschool education efforts.

Homeschool volunteers help inspire young learners about the great outdoors. Every other week on either Monday,  Wednesday, or Friday, homeschool students come from all over southeast Wisconsin to Riveredge Nature Center to learn about science and the environment. Homeschool Assistants are responsible for aiding our education staff in keeping the group together while outdoors, supervising for short periods, helping students with their activities and crafts, and creating a safe, positive environment for students. Consistency is preferred, must be able to hike up to 1 mile on unpaved terrain. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shifts are available. Each shift is from 8:45am-12:15pm. Please follow this link to complete our volunteer application and receive training. As these volunteers will have direct interaction with children, a background check is required.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Volunteers are protected by a mask requirement for themselves and all guests of the program while indoors or unable to social distance 6ft apart. Additionally, Riveredge can provide clear face shields for volunteers who would like to wear them. Learning tools are wiped down between volunteers and cleaning spray is available to volunteers to re-wipe any area if guests touch surfaces. We have separate enter and exit doors to keep traffic flow going in one direction. If you have additional questions regarding our COVID-19 procedures please feel free to contact us.

For additional information, please contact Kacey Tait, Riveredge Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Instruction Manager (also copied in this email) at ktait@riveredge.us or (262)375-2715 x13.

Volunteer Spotlight: Curiosity Driven by Community, Flowers, and Phenology

Pat Fairchild has been a volunteer for more than 15 years at Riveredge. Back then, she was seeking a flexible volunteering opportunity that worked with her hectic work schedule. The Tuesday Habitat Healer crew was the perfect fit. Whenever able, she’d show up to plant seedlings, snip invasive species, or help with other outdoor conservation work.

Curiosity Leads to New Knowledge and Skills

In order to learn about the flora she saw, Pat asked a lot of questions from fellow volunteers and staff members. “Everyone is so helpful and generous with their diverse knowledge,” says Pat. Being a visual learner, she started photocopying pictures of the species she saw blooming along the trails and posting the pictures on the Visitor’s Center wall for others to learn from as well. But one day a copy store employee told her that wasn’t allowed due to copyright…even if it was for educational purposes. So Pat bought a camera and began shooting and developing her own photographs to post on the wall.

While the Visitor’s Center was closed in spring due to Covid-19 concerns, Pat continued her weekly wildflower walks and we’ve been posting her phenological flower observations to the Riveredge Blog. “It’s great – I get out of the house, see the flowers and get some exercise. I’m a person who needs a purpose…I don’t just go out walking for no reason,” says Pat. “The flowers help me have a reason to get outdoors.”

Connection to Community and the Land

In addition to being a Habitat Healer, Pat has also been an interpretive naturalist and helps us raise Lake Sturgeon. Additionally, Pat also makes the time to volunteer with Interfaith, the American Cancer Society, and the Saukville Community Food Pantry.

The combination of community and love for the land is what keeps Pat coming back to Riveredge. “There are so many volunteers at Riveredge who have dedicated so much time and effort to making this place what it is – some of the people who started this place are still involved!” Pat says. “This land gets in your bones,” she smiles, “And you keep coming back.”