I was talking with my sister, Gabby, recently about volunteering at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. We were discussing past programs that we have helped with and different outings in which we have taken part. Looking over the past four and a half years that Gabby and I have been volunteering together, I can’t help but think to myself, “Without Runge, what would our relationship be like?”
I asked Gabby how she thought volunteering with me had changed our relationship. Her reply, “I believe it helped me understand you better and I also believe that it brought us closer together because it is something we both love.”
My sister and I are not the only ones that are blessed to volunteer with a family member. Sonya, who started volunteering in 2002, was ecstatic when her two grandsons, Jacob and Kaleb, joined the Runge volunteer family in 2011. “I spent a good deal of time with Jacob and Kaleb when there were little. Pushing them in their stroller along the Runge trails was our favorite pastime.” As soon as they started talking, the boys would ask her, “When can we go to Runge?” As they grew older, they would say to Sonya, “Grandma why don’t you volunteer?” So Sonya did. The boys’ questions soon turned into how they could become volunteers. And now they are. Sonya says, “Of course our interests at Runge are so different, except for the missions of the Department and the Runge Center. We share that unifying concept and talk together and to others about our experiences.” This unifying theme has connected not only siblings and grandsons and grandparents but also has brought husbands and wives together as well. I can’t help but to agree with her completely.
Larry and Carol graduated in the 2009 volunteer class with Gabby. They both enjoy different ends of the spectrum when it comes to participating in nature. Larry is an avid hiker and frequently leads the monthly hiking trips that Runge offers. Carol is the gardener of the group and keeps the formal gardens on the Naturescape Trail looking kempt and beautiful. Even though they enjoy different activities, Larry can be found in the garden from time to time when Carol needs his “brute force”. Sometimes their interests do tend to coincide, as when they greeted visitors who came to see Aldo Leopold’s Green Fire movie and when they both helped with a family fishing program. “I guess we have found that our interests do coincide more than we were aware of before we became volunteers” Larry later admits. Carol agrees with her husband saying, “Our knowledge and appreciation for nature had been a learning experience we have enjoyed together.”
Having a closer bond with my sister is only one of the major benefits of volunteering at the Runge Conservation Nature Center. If you are interested in joining the Runge Volunteer family, visit the Nature Center on Thursday, January 10 at 6:30 to learn more about the program. If you don’t live in the Jefferson City area check out http://mdc.mo.gov/about-us/get-involved to find a volunteer opportunity near you.