Team Leader Taylor Deely’s MCC Experience

“This summer my Crew has been working hard to improve drainage and erosion on the AT. From stone stairs and water bars to turnpikes and retaining walls, we build structures that will last decades using hand tools such as rock bars, mattocks, mash and Spaulding hammers, and our favorite, the grip hoist. 

Working on a team is rewarding, challenging, and full of unforgettable moments. We swim in the lake after work, cook potatoes over the fire, work ourselves silly, summit mountains, laugh through hail storms and downpours, wind and sunshine, mosquitos and flies. This crew has built a community that is a safe space to grow, learn, fail, recover, and succeed. We constantly work on communication, healthy balances, and providing opportunities to take on leadership roles. 

This crew is from all over the place. From Maine to Indiana to Nova Scotia we have members of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels. Together we work towards a common goal and that’s what blends us together so well. 

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I have been serving with MCC since 2014. MCC provides me with stability, adventure, constant personal growth, and meaningful work that is so desperately needed to conserve all of what Maine has to offer. I’d like to thank the members on my Crew (Emily LeGrand, Asa Kerr, Anna Smedley, Ian Van Twistern, Will Lightfoot, Joy Fitzgerald) for their continued dedication, hard work, and positive attitude. Peace!”

-Taylor Deely

The Principles of Leave No Trace By MCC Field Team Member, Keva Pariyar

Here at MCC we care about conserving the environment! If you have done any sort of camping, hiking, or backpacking you have probably at least peripherally heard of Leave No Trace (LNT hereafter); but what is it and why should we follow the principles of LNT? There are seven principles of LNT, and after a little explanation of each hopefully it will make sense as to why we follow them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare

Sometimes spontaneity can be fun, but if you are headed into the backcountry that can spell disaster. Before heading off on an adventure, make an itinerary and give it to family or friends so someone knows when you should be back. While you are at it, make one and put in on the dashboard of your car with emergency contact information in case you should’ve been back 2 days ago and still aren’t. Do things like look at the weather so you can dress appropriately, and always bring rain gear because if you don’t there WILL be a surprise storm. Make sure that you have enough water and food. If you are like me and are constantly hungry, maybe some extra snacks too. Finally, at the risk of sounding like my mother, double check that you packed everything you thought you were going to.

  1. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

LNT1First things first, what is a durable surface? Durable surfaces include rock, gravel, dry grasses, snow, and, of course, already established camps and trails. With that definition out of the way, the principle becomes pretty easy to follow. Hike and camp on those surfaces. If that is absolutely not possible, try to disperse so as to not form trails or camps. Repeated use of the same area will have a larger impact, think water creating canyons because it is running on the same spot eroding away at rock.

  1. Dispose of waste properly

This principle is simple enough. If you brought it in, you should bring it back out with you. This includes trash like wrappers, food waste and some less desirable items like used toilet paper. On that note, trash isn’t the only kind of waste. If you need to go to the bathroom make sure you are 200 feet away from the trail, camp, and any potential water sources. For solid waste, dig a cat hole. What’s a cat hole you ask? It’s a hole that is 6 to 8 inches deep. When you are finished with your business, fill the hole in with dirt and mark it with sticks or a rock so other people don’t try to dig a cat hole where yours is. This is a time when X does not mark a desirable spot. If you have to do dishes or wash yourself, the 200 feet from water rule still applies. Strain food waste out and scatter the soapy water.

  1. Leave what you find

You know when you see a really cool flower, rock, or leaf on the trail and you want to bring it home? Please, don’t! If you take it, the next person won’t get to see it. Take a photo, or just live in the moment, allowing the next person the opportunity to see the thing and think it’s equally as cool as you did. Furthermore, it could be of historic importance or value (look up who to contact for that and help preserve history!).

  1. Minimize campfire impacts

LNT2It’s the end of the day of hiking and you are settling in at camp; but what’s camp without a fire, right? While I am completely of that camp (see what I did there), fires have huge impacts on the environment. First, only make a fire where it’s permitted. Some parks allow them, others don’t (this goes back to principle one, know if you will be able to have a fire). Use fire rings, pans, or mound fires in places that you are allowed to make fires. Maine also has a rule that you have to buy the wood where you burn it, this helps stop the transport of invasive species which is a whole other issue that we will get into at somepoint.

  1. Respect wildlife 

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Wildlife is just that, WILD. Use the rule of thumb; if you close one eye and put your thumb in front of whatever the creature is, your thumb should completely eclipse the animal. Other things you shouldn’t do include: feed the animals, try to pet the animals, and follow the animals. Another consideration is to stay away from wildlife during times like mating, nesting, and raising their offspring. Take a picture if you can, but avoid flash and shutter sounds as they can be disturbing to the animals.

  1. Be considerate of other visitors

Often we go out into nature to get out of the hustle and bustle of daily life. Blaring music and talking really loud diminishes the serene quality of nature that many people are seeking so be aware of that. Share the trail with others, simply move over so there is enough room for them on the trail.

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For more information on Leave No Trace visit: https://lnt.org/

Alumni Spotlight: Chuck Davis

We love hearing from our Alumni! For this blog post we are putting a spotlight on MCC Alum Chuck Davis! In 2008 Chuck was an Assistant Team Leader working at Acadia National Park and Mt. Blue State Park. In 2010, he was a Team Leader for a summer team working at Bradbury State Park, Mackworth Island, and Portland Trails and finally in fall 2010 he was a Team Leader working at Acadia National Park, Caribou MTN/Donnell Region, and Cutler State Park. Chuck is now working at L.L. Bean as a Systems Analyst!

My dreams became reality, but I also gain new skills and above all new friendships that will last my whole life.”

How did serving with MCC affect your personal and professional growth?

“Serving in the MCC help me become a better leader. When I became in ATL in 2008, it was my first time being in a leadership position. My communication skills and decision making skills were put to the test and help become a leader in my position today. In 2010, I was the team leader and it was my first time being responsible for a crew and their wellbeing. All these skills I have really started with working with the MCC.”

What is your favorite memory with MCC?

“There are so many memories; it’s hard to just pick one. In 2008, one of the best memories I can recall is when it rained 28 of the 31 days in July and we were all soaked, tired and just wanted to not work. We all decided to go to one of the team member’s homes that was less than 30 minutes away from where we were staying at MT Blue State Park. The team member’s parents cook us a huge meal and it really lifted everyone’s spirits up. In 2010, I had the pleasure of being a Team Leader for two teams. The first memory was from my summer team. During the second to last week before the season was done I got a few teams to come together to climb Tumbledown Mountain. We all made it and after we were done we drove back to my house and had a big BBQ and everyone camp in my backyard. One of the best memories from my fall team was when we work in Cutler State Park. We were able to stay in a cabin at Cobscook State Park. We had so many laughs and made pretty extravagant meals.”

What was your reasoning for joining the MCC?

“I joined because I love the outdoors and love to be able to fix trails, so others can enjoy without damaging the trails too much. I also joined because I wanted to gain leadership skills that would benefit me the rest of my life.”

Why should prospective members join?

“To this day I still tell people or you want to get out of the normal routine and do something different go do a summer or fall season with the MCC. If you love the outdoors and having a lot of laughs, then this is the place for you.”

 

Volunteer Shoreline Restoration Day

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On Saturday, June 10th, MCC Environmental Steward Robin Gropp coordinated a Volunteer Shoreline Restoration Day at Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in Orland to help restore the shore and protect the waters of Alamoosook Lake. Volunteers came together to plant native shrubs and improve beach access.

35079895400_f85eb39835_oThe event was an amazing success and Robin thanked the 42 volunteers for attending and for their help accomplishing the following:

“We planted 75 hearty native shrubs to stimulate bank revegetation and stabilization along 300 feet of shoreline. Installed 2 sets of sturdy rot-resistant steps that will provide designated and durable access points to the lake. The steps were completed in the days following the event by resident Hatchery volunteer superstars Dan Barna and Dave Folce along with District staff. The final products look and feel great. Logged 187 hours of cumulative volunteer time, which enables continued grant support for more projects throughout the watershed in the coming two years.

These measures help to block polluted runoff from entering our lake, and to maintain a stable and healthy shoreline for continued public access.”

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Additionally Robin thanked all the partners for helping make the event a success:

“We would also like to again thank our many project partners who made this event possible, and with whom we collaborate with on many similar projects throughout the Alamoosook Lake Watershed and Hancock County. Check out the links to their websites below for information about what they do and upcoming events:

The project measures aim to stabilize the eroding banks, focus public access to durable locations, and serve as a filter for soil and pollutants which would otherwise run straight in to the lake. To learn more about keeping your lake healthy and protect your favorite lake, pond or river. You can listen to WERU’s Maine Currents: Avoiding and Mitigating Watershed pollution that originally aired on June 13th. The radio broadcast has guest speakers:

  • Zack Steele, Exec. Dir. Hancock Cty. S.W.C.District
  • Chip Stubbs, Alamoosook Lake resident, past president of the Alamoosook Lake Association
  • John Wedin, Watershed Stewart for the Ellsworth, ME Water District
  • Art Grindle, Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District

and interviews with Robin and members of the Maine Conservation Corps from the volunteer workday event.

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Maine Conservation Corps is thankful that Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District is such an amazing partner and we were happy to be part of such an successful volunteer event. It is inspiring to work with so many dedicated volunteers who care about the community, environment, and impact they can create.

 

Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

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MCC Training Coordinator Amie Daniels with Alumni Jackie Stratton now of Coastal Mountain Land Trust

The Maine Conservation Corps (MCC), an AmeriCorps program through the Maine Commission for Community Service, housed in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was thrilled to connect with an abundance of MCC Alumni who identified as students, teachers, community organization and nonprofit leaders at the Unity College Environmental Career Fair.

As an AmeriCorps initiative, MCC is part of a nation-wide effort to bring volunteerism and positive impact to communities throughout the US. When taking on a term of service, dedicated individuals who are 18 and older dedicate anywhere from 300-1700 hours of volunteer capacity to identified areas of need. Once someone begins their term of service, the ever expanding network of Alumni continues to grow and make valuable connections.

This network of past members was ever-present on Unity’s campus, as current MCC Training Coordinator, Amie Daniels, met with dozens of  MCC alumni having served as recent as 2016 all the way back through 1998. “We had set up our table of information and were excited to be present with so many Environmental enthusiasts and organizations around us.” Daniels remarked, “Further than that, we were thrilled to discover that the table right next to us was actually being represented by MCC alumni, Jackie Stratton, who had served as an Environmental Educator just a few years back.” Stratton is now the Stewardship Project Manager for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust and relates her acquired skills, efforts and successes of her current position to have stemmed from her service with MCC. Continue reading Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

The Maine Conservation Corps attended the University of Maine Orono Campus Career Fair on Wednesday, February 1st as one of over 150 employers ready to connect with students seeking summer internships, part-time exposure to an area of their studies, or full time employment to transition into society after graduation.

As the largest Career Fair in Maine, this all day event was made possible through the UMaine Orono campus Career Center, who organized, advertised and prepared students in all levels of their education path, to attend the employment event. The Career Center, a free and readily accessible resource for all Orono students, is open every day for ongoing efforts to produce confident, capable, student-lead successes toward their next steps.

Beginning as early as their freshman enrollment, the Career Center is made available and begins to build a connection as a skill-building support system for UMaine students. Through classroom presentations, an introduction to the various resources available at the Career Center is exposed with an open door policy for students to meet one on one with certified career counselors. Students are then able to create content for their resumes, participate in mock interviews and incorporate the feedback of their counselors to strengthen output, as they continue to meet, practice and target their efforts toward successfully connecting with employment opportunities. Continue reading Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

Community Warmth – MLK Day of Service

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Photo: Courtesy of Kennebec Journal
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Sorting Clothing & Boots for Addie’s Attic, Augusta
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Photo: Courtesy of the Kennebec Journal, MCC MLK Day Appreciation Station

 

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Environmental Steward Maggie Lynn!
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Photo: Courtesy of CMP, a donation drive center of the community fueling our efforts

Maine Conservation Corps Puts Citizenship & Service in Action

The Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) led a diverse group of volunteers to add donated warm winter clothing within the Augusta Community Warming Center (AWC) to be distributed through Addie’s Attic. United in volunteer service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, on January 16th MCC’s volunteers were joined by hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country on this national day of service.

AWC, an initiative of United Way of Kennebec Valley, is housed as part of a community resources hub within St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Almost completely volunteer driven, an ongoing collaboration of several programs offers hygiene products, a food bank of both fresh and nonperishable items, clothing for all ages as well as a safe space for coffee and conversation, all under one roof. The essence of volunteerism keeps a cycle of giving present, as these essentials are continuously collected and connected with those in need.

The MLK Day of Service hosted by MCC enhanced the importance of providing warm winter clothing through AWC as well as Addie’s Attic, a year-round program within the resource hub, run solely on donated clothing items. MLK Day donations were collected from community placed boxes at Camden National Bank, CMP, Doc Hollandaise Restaurant, Penney Memorial Church, Hannaford as well as the MCC main office in support of this effort.

Volunteerism is a constant within the walls of St. Mark’s, and was heightened with the presence of MCC serving in an array of roles. As a day of reflection, connection and gratitude, MCC also offered a chance for those receiving warm clothing to hand-write a thank you card to any of the various organizations or volunteers involved. With neighbors helping neighbors and the presence of collaboration, it was both a heart-warming and overall warming experience, on the MLK Day of Service.

“Today we answer Dr. King’s call to serve and are making a difference in the lives of those in need,” said Jo Orlando the Director of MCC “A resourceful way to meet local needs, volunteer service is a powerful tool that unites us around a common purpose and builds strong communities. We are putting the core American principles of citizenship and service into action.”

Volunteers varied from High School Students, Veterans, Community Members, Families and MCC Alumni, who spent the Day of Service collecting community-wide donations, sorting, organizing and creating accessibility to warm winter wear in Maine. With over 500 articles of clothing made available for individuals and families, there were 160 winter hats, 75 jackets of varying sizes and 72 pairs of new warm socks. Through these collaborative contributions of donated items and volunteerism, we were reminded how service for others can bring us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved and connected community.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that leads the annual MLK Day of Service. National Days of Service provide Americans with an opportunity to join neighbors and local leaders to tackle community challenges and strengthen the nation.

For more information, visit NationalService.gov or contact Heather Rose for upcoming Volunteer opportunities within MCC at MConsCorps.VOC@maine.gov

Staying Connected: An Ever Expanding Alumni

Maine Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps initiative, is part of a nation-wide effort to bring volunteerism and positive impact to communities throughout the US. When taking on a Term of Service, dedicated individuals who are 18+ dedicate anywhere from 300-1700 hours of volunteer capacity to identified areas of need. Once someone begins their Term of Service, the ever expanding network of Alumni continues to make valuable connections and grow.

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While serving, the Alumni network is available and teeming with interest to get involved in current opportunities. Directly after completing your term, the Alumni network offers support and guidance for translating acquired skills into your next steps toward an applicable career. Lingering over the many years after your term of service, you have an open invitation to continue to be involved with palpable, positive change as a member of the AmeriCorps Alumni.

We encourage you, share your insights, your volunteerism, your interest in making a continuous pledge to be involved. Your part as an Alumni is bright with connectivity, possibility and is available to you, always. Continue reading Staying Connected: An Ever Expanding Alumni

Eddie Grondin’s story: Joining the Maine Conservation Corps was the “best decision I ever made.”

Eddie Grondin of Phippsburg, ME became a Field Team member with the Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) in the summer of 2015, and returned this summer to complete his second term of service. His journey up until he became an AmeriCorps member with MCC was not an easy one, and Eddie was kind enough to share his story with us.

High school was a very rough time for Eddie. He did really well in school, but he made his friends his priority. He was struggling with his parents’ divorce, which is one of the reasons he was spending so much time with his friends. After high school, Eddie lost focus on his future.  “I didn’t make any plans for after high school, I just started working at a grocery store. I knew I wasn’t really doing anything with my life and I didn’t like it. I was going down an obviously bad path, but I never really realized it. I didn’t seek help, and it was all my fault.”

Eddie’s tough times and series of poor decisions came to a head on November 6,, 2014 at 7:30pm, when he lost control of his car, and the crash resulted in the loss of Eddie’s left arm. When he woke up in the hospital and realized he lost his arm, his initial thought was “what have I done?” But Eddie said “it was weird because I felt a calming sensation in the hospital. I realized I got a second chance, and it really woke me up.”

“I wanted to do better, and told myself that everything that happened before this point is history and I now really wanted to do good things with my life. I don’t want my life to be about how I used to make bad decisions.  I did sit at home for a few months, but I was always thinking about what I am going to do and that I had to do something.  The first thing that came to my mind was volunteering. After the accident, so much of the community came together to help me out, and got me back on my feet. I wanted to return the favor.”

“I searched the internet for volunteer opportunities, and somehow wound up on the maine.gov site and found MCC.” Eddie called the MCC office and learned about the trail work the program entails.  “I thought it might be really challenging since I had just lost my arm. I was still trying to learn how to do everything else with one arm. But I liked the program and I wanted to give it a shot.”eddie

Eddie accepted a position on the MCC Field Team, and it didn’t take long for Eddie to realize joining MCC was the right choice. “Between orientation and the first hitch, I knew it was the best decision I ever made in my entire life.” When asked if he had any fears coming into MCC Eddie stated “I didn’t have any fears, I was just worried I would be judged for only having one arm. I wondered how everyone else felt about me trying to do this.” Eddie came into the experience with a great attitude and a lot of confidence.

“MCC gave me a type of life I never had before and it is a type of life I enjoy. There is nothing better than going out into the woods, work on trails, and camp out, wake up and do it all over again. It is hard to get used to, and a bit of a culture shock. There is no phone service, or bathrooms, no stores. But it is simple and satisfying. “

Eddie really enjoyed being a part of a team. “I find it more like being a part of a family. You are spending more time with your team members, than your actual family. They are people I look forward to seeing.” Eddie said his team would describe him as respectful, friendly, and a team player. He was also always willing to talk to the hikers the team encountered throughout the season!

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“Before the accident I always thought that life was so hard, and after MCC I learned that life can be simple. Some days when we were back at camp, and I would think about that one big rock that we couldn’t move. And then I realize that if all I am worrying about is not being able to move a rock…I’m doing pretty good.”

When looking towards the future, Eddie states “I want to change the world for the better. I look at all the negative stuff that goes on in the world, and I don’t think the world needs to live in this much negativity. I want to be the person that brings more positivity in the world.” Eddie remembers his favorite teacher from high school Ms. Madden who really got him hooked on writing, and was a great mentor. “She is one of those teachers that set high standards for her students, and really made you feel you could do something special with your life.”

Eddie shared some advice he would give to others who have experienced a similar loss. “It might feel like a setback, and it is going to be challenging, but just know that you will overcome those challenges, and you will end up impressing yourself more than you impress others. The accident gave me a lot of energy. I was surrounded by a lot of positive people. I was going to prove that I can do even better with one arm.”

We are thrilled that Eddie is a part of the MCC team! Thank you for your service, Eddie!

Volunteer Spotlight: Father-Daughter Team

We would like to spotlight Paul St. Pierre for his volunteer efforts with our Field Team! Paul’s daughter Autumn is a MCC Field Team member, and Paul decided to spend Fathers Day with Autumn’s team in the Moosehead Lake Region. The team had nothing but great things to say about him! He even brought food to share, which is always appreciated!

Here is what Paul had to say about his experience:

What was your favorite part about volunteering with our Field Team? There were so many things that I got to see, learn and be involved in.  If I were to pick my favorite it would be how all th1e people are so different, in so many ways, yet they functioned as one unit.  Each having their own tasks, yet helping others when they saw it was needed.

What project were you helping with?  I had the opportunity to assist Autumn with building a retaining wall.  Many, many tasks were involved in completing this project.  From finding the correct sized and shaped rocks, to locating mineral soil and transporting it back to the trail with the use of just some hand tools and some old dirt bags.  The duty of crushing the rocks with a mash hammer was by far the most time consuming part of building the retaining wall which gave me a greater appreciation for the many trails I have hiked in the State of Maine. I also had the opportunity to remove large rocks from the path and clear the corridor by pulling stumps with the team.

Why do you think the work MCC does is important?  Maine has many beauties and MCC is allowing more people to be able to explore and see what our great state has to offer.  Not only the work that MCC does with the trails is important but the team building and broadening the minds of the team members/volunteers will make our state a better place.  The experience provides members with life lessons that otherwise might never be learned.

How do you feel about Autumn serving in AmeriCorps with MCC?  I could not be more proud, this is a great organization and I think Autumn is great for AmeriCorps with MCC.  The skills that she is learning this summer will help her for the rest of her life and will be shared for generations.  She has built quite a fan base among our friends and family, always questioning how she is doing, how far they have made it on their trail and always wanting to know more about MCC.

Thank you Paul for all of your help! We appreciate your support, and couldn’t be happier to have Autumn on our team!

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An AmeriCorps State Program