Category Archives: Maine Conservation Corps

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

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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

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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Alumni Spotlight: Lucien Langlois

We love hearing from our Alumni! For this blog post we are putting a spotlight on MCC Alum Lucien Langlois! He was an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward in 2015 and served a 900hr term of service (May to November) at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Augusta. Lucien is now working at the DEP as an Environmental Specialist II!

How has your experience with the Maine Conservation Corps helped your career?

As an environmental steward, I gained insight into state agencies and made contacts in various fields. After my term with MCC was finished, I had more clear objectives for my career goals. I use skills that I learned at my host site in my current job.

What is your favorite memory from your time with MCC?

My favorite MCC event was the volunteer event that Portland DEP Environmental Steward Ling Rao coordinated. Environmental stewards and trail team members from MCC, DEP staff, and the public came together to help clean Bear Brook. We had a huge mountain of tires at the end of the day. At my host site I got to work with Leon Tsomides and Tom Danielson, which was always fun and a great learning experience. Thanks to Leon and Tom I was involved in many educational events throughout my term. Bug Maine-ia was my favorite event. We helped elementary age children identify aquatic insects and learn about stream ecology.

What is the most important skill or lesson you learned during your time with MCC?

I wasn’t exactly sure what I should after college. MCC gave me an opportunity to expand my skills in volunteer management, work with people in the environmental field, and grow as an individual, while having fun along the way. I’d like to thank MCC staff Krista, Deidrah, Sara and Jo for all their time and support!

Volunteer Spotlight: Coastal Studies for Girls

This past April, students from the Coastal Studies for Girls, took a trip to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to volunteer with the Maine Conservation Corps AmeriCorps Environmental Stewards, Katelyn Buttler and Emily Greene.

They were working at Skillings field in Scarborough which Rachel Carson NWR is using as habitat for New England Cottontails. It turned out to be a very VERY rainy, muddy, and cold day…but that didn’t stop these motivated girls! Katelyn and Emily were extremely impressed by their positive attitudes and determination as they worked through less than desirable conditions. We would like to feature the students of Coastal Studies for Girls in this Volunteer Spotlight!

We reached out to the Coastal Studies for Girls to see what they had to say about the experience:

Angie Blumberg:

What did you do at Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge? We planted live stakes of willow trees.

What was favorite part about volunteering at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge? My favorite part was having the people in charge be so passionate about what they think is important and really welcoming us to help them.

What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? It was raining and cold and super muddy but to make the time go by we joked around and sang songs.

Why do you think it is important to protect our natural environment? It is important to protect our natural environment so that we don’t lose more and more animals.

Betsy Eames:

What did you do at Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge? We planted live stakes in ditches which we dug as well.

What was favorite part about volunteering at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge? How nice and encouraging the three people were who organized the project.

What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? Staying motivated through the rain. My friends and I decided to sing really loudly.

Why do you think it is important to protect our natural environment? I think many people are unaware of their impact which causes them to leave a negative impact on our natural environment. Our natural environment is crucial for life and happiness and it is something that we need to help because too many people have damaged it.

Coastal Studies for Girls(CSG) is a science and leadership semester school for tenth grade girls. The school brings girls from around the country to the coast of Maine for the fall or spring term of their sophomore year of high school. CSG promotes girls’ aspirations in the sciences, and encourages them to create strong communities and a connected world. For more information, visit their website.

Big shout our to our Environmental Stewards, Katelyn and Emily, for creating such a fun and memorable experience for these girls! Great work!

Earth Day Urban Gardening in Portland

On Friday April 22nd, thirty volunteers came together to celebrate Earth Day at the Boyd Street Urban Farm in Portland. This event was a collaboration between the Maine Conservation Corps and Cultivating Community. The mission of Cultivating Community is to create and sustain greater access to healthy local foods. Their hope is to empower people to play a role in restoring the local sustainable food system.

Throughout the day, volunteers completed a variety of projects: creating pathways in the garden, mulching, trimming raspberry bushes, cleaning out the tool shed, painting signs, etc. There was plenty to do and luckily the rain held off! See a before and after picture of the garden below.

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Kelley Reardon, an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward with the Maine Conservation Corps, coordinated this event with Cultivating Community. “I wanted to do an event with Cultivating Community because I think nutrition and sustainable food sources is crucial for any community. These gardens are a great way to bring peEarthDay_Portland5ople together. We all have something in common- we all need food. “

Starbucks and IDEXX employees were among the volunteer who attended. Kathi Shibles of Starbucks said  “Our CEO, Howard Schulte, is amazing and believes giving back is more important than business. April is community service month, and Starbucks employees are attending thousands of community service events across the country. We enjoy taking care of people who take care of us.” June Hamlin of IDEXX said “IDEXX gives employees two give days. It is a great getting the chance to help, and have the support from your company to give back.” Thank you for choosing to spend your day with us!

Lily Chaleff is a Food Corps member serving with Cultivating Community. She focuses on school gardens and connecting youth with healthy food. She explained that the Boyd St Urban Farms supports the Youth Growers program during the summer. Youth Growers are high school students who help run the garden. They harvest the food and deliver it to the surrounding elderly community. She was excited to see so many volunteers come out to help get the garden ready for the season. “So many people have come ready to work. Everyone was invested mentally and ready to make the garden the best version of itself”

The CorporatEarthDay_Portland3ion for National and Community Service’s monthly theme for April is Environmental Stewardship. To Kelley Reardon, “environmental stewardship means helping to cultivate an appreciation of nature and conservation in your community and within yourself. It is working towards creating a more sustainable environment for the future.” After today’s event, we hope people will be inspired to become environmental stewards in their own community.

MCC Host Site Supervisor Interview

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Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, ME has been a host site for the Maine Conservation Corps for thirty years. In this interview, Park Manager Andy Hutchinson talks about trail work, environmental education outreach, and the role of MCC at state parks.

Interview by Hannah Colbert, currently serving a second 1700-hour term of service at Wolfe’s Neck Woods, a position that balances environmental education and trail maintenance. Wolfe’s Neck Woods has five miles of trail and about 70,000 visitors per year. It offers numerous environmental education programs, including free field trips for Maine schools and guided nature tours weekly in the winter, on weekends in the spring and fall, and daily in the summer.

How did the park first become involved with the Maine Conservation Corps?

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park has been working with the Maine Conservation Corps almost since its inception. I’ve been here for 30 years, and the MCC recently had their 30th anniversary, and we’ve had field teams here almost every year since it started. There were only two years in which we haven’t had a team here. We’ve also had environmental educators and environmental stewards here since 2012. That was the first year it was offered.

How have you been involved with the Maine Conservation Corps?

I was a park ranger when I first worked as a technical supervisor to the Field Team. John Cooke was managing the park at the time. The team would work here for one or two weeks during the summer months. I was a park ranger for four years, and when I became manager in 1990 I became the person who either recruited the Field Teams or was the technical supervisor, depending on the time of year. I would always be there to work with them and communicate with them about the project.

Andy was informally but unanimously voted “best host site sponsor ever” by last year’s November field team, after bringing food and hot drinks to the work site.

How did the park find out about the Maine Conservation Corps?

I think it was brought to our attention by our supervisors in the Bureau of Parks and Lands. The Maine Conservation Corps wasn’t under the same bureau at the time—it was a separate program, but we were still closely tied to them. A lot of the projects that the Maine Conservation Corps continues to do are with the state parks.

How much of the trail work at Wolfe’s Neck Woods has MCC done?

We tend to do the routine maintenance and small trail projects that we have time for. It’s really a function of staff and availability, and we don’t have that luxury, since we have a pretty small budget and a small staff. We generally use the Maine Conservation Corps to do major trail work projects like log bridges, water bars, cutting and filling trails, and a lot of rock work, like rock walkways and rock steps. We’ve been transitioning all our water bars to rock; originally they were log back in the day, but we quickly figured out they didn’t last very long.

 

What are some of the most memorable projects that the trail teams worked on?

 (Laughs) About six or seven years ago, we had a crew that was putting the paved rock walkway on the Casco Bay Trail. There’s a major gully that’s part of that too, and they built a large rock culvert. I can still picture that crew in the gully, up to their hips in mud. It was a very wet time to be working there, and they had to lift up these huge rocks for culvert support and the huge rock slab that’s now part of that walkway. Those are probably the most impressive things—the rocks they find to do the job and how well they hold up.

The Environmental Steward program began after you became manager. How did you decide to start having Environmental Stewards at Wolfe’s Neck?

At that point, I think that the park and the Maine Conservation Corps had both come under the Bureau of Parks and Lands, so we were very aware of their programs. We had seen an increase in the demand for our educational programs and we still had more than we could really do at the park to take care of on our own. We saw a decline in volunteers helping with the programs, so there was a real need for help with our environmental education programs.

 

What does having the Environmental Steward position here allow Wolfe’s Neck to do with educational programming?

It allows us to accommodate almost all the groups who want to schedule programs at the park. We don’t have to juggle our schedules as much, which can be hard on our staff. They’ve been very good about that, but it is disruptive to the park. That’s been great. We’ve been able to expand our outreach program a lot.

In 2015, Wolfe’s Neck Woods received more than fifty field trips for educational nature programs, serving about 2,090 participants. Park Manager Andy Hutchinson, Ranger Michael Frey, Environmental Steward Jordan Tate and I led the programs.

Could you talk a bit more about what the outreach program is and how it got started?

We’ve always done some outreach at Wolfe’s Neck Woods. It’s part of the mission for the interpretive program here that’s funded from the Wolfe’s Neck Trust: to do environmental education at other parks or around the community, at libraries or for different groups who want us to come and do a presentation. We have recently seen a big increase in demand for one of our programs in particular, Animal Tracks and Signs, which we promoted at the 2015 Reading Roundup Conference, a state wide conference of librarians. That was the first time we were invited to share our program there—I think they had heard of the program we put on for the local Freeport community library and they invited us to come and talk to librarians at a statewide level.

Once we were discovered there, it really took off. We had over a dozen programs in 2015. We really looked at that a little harder because it was drawing us out of the park a lot and there were some costs as well, so in 2016 we are offering that program with a suggested donation to help allay the costs. We’re still getting lots of calls about it, and people are more than willing to pay the $75 fee. Its been really well received—some libraries from last year have already rescheduled for this year, and we have some new ones as well, both for summer programs and the school year.

In the Animal Tracks and Signs program, geared towards elementary and middle-school students, kids make plaster casts of tracks, learn some basic tracking skills, and learn about three different Maine animals. The program has a ratio of three presenters for twenty-five students. Since the park has a staff of five—Park Manager Andy Hutchinson, Rangers Tami Bill and Michael Frey, and two booth attendants—having two Environmental Stewards at Wolfe’s Neck has meant that more staff members can stay in the park whenever possible.   

What role do you see the Environmental Steward position playing in the park in the future?

The amount of staff we have with the addition of two Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Stewards gives us a pretty good staffing level. I’d like to keep going with the Environmental Steward program and expand our staff seasons to cover the entire busy season, which goes well into October and starts sometime in April. (Park Rangers work from late April to late August or September.) Having a 1700-hour member and a 900-hour member is ideal. We could even use two 1700-hour members—we haven’t done that yet. We were going to try that this year, but the grant funding wasn’t there. We may look into that to see if we can get two 1700-hour positions to help us with more outreach and with Feathers over Freeport in April, our largest event of the year, since 900-hour members don’t start until May. That would also help us with our school season—all the field trips want to come in June at the end of the school year, but because of the browntail moth caterpillar infestation we’re trying to get more of them to come in late April or early May.

What do you want other potential site supervisors to know about having trail teams or an environmental steward at their site?

Anyone who’s looking for really professional level trail work to be done is going to get that with the Maine Conservation Corps field teams, and we’ve had great luck with them. Our trails would not be in the same condition they’re in today. They can do a lot of work in a short period of time and they can do a lot of the major trail work that resource managers often don’t have the staff or time to do. I highly recommend the field teams.

Environmental Stewards are going to bring that same level of professionalism to a work site and give you a real boost in your ability to provide exceptional programming to visitors or to do outreach. We’ve had great luck in that regard too; all our environmental stewards have brought some unique qualities to the workplace and left their marks here. We have a number of programs that have been developed by Environmental Stewards, which are some of our most popular and most enjoyed programs. They can really help you to provide programming that you wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to do.

I know that for most agencies looking into this program, its always a struggle to find enough funding to do everything you want to do, so this can be a good alternative to finding staff members. The Maine Conservation Corps is easy to work with too; they’ve been very flexible. I think it’s been a real boon to state parks and can be that way for a lot of other agencies too. I’ve seen it at Mount Blue, Sebago Lake, here, and even at Ferry Beach where our Environmental Stewards have helped out quite a bit. Having someone on site is ideal.

I see the program expanding. It’s really difficult to obtain funding for new positions in parks, so this is a way for us to do the work we need to do without getting the positions that we would love to have but aren’t able to. Every State agency is struggling to find enough staff—it’s a statewide issue and parks are no different. The Bureau of Parks and Lands definitely sees the value of these positions.

Six 900 hour Environmental Steward positions are open with the Bureau of Parks and Lands for 2016: Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Mt. Blue State Park, Sebago Lake State Park, Vaughan Woods State Park, Grafton Notch State Park, and Bigelow Preserve Public Reserved Land.

Cat National News and the Maine Conservation Corps

Video by Maine Conservation Corps Member Dmitry Pepper. Thanks to him and his field crew for this video. Added to the MCC Blog on December 22 by Dmitry’s permission.

Playmate (Podington Bear) / CC BY-NC 3.0
The Rover (Speakeasy Electroswing) / By artist’s permission.