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Volunteer Spotlight

Five Questions with . . . Robert Havasy

July 2022

What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I moved to Massachusetts to be closer to a job after living 15 years in New Hampshire. I missed the easy access to hiking and after ten years here, I started looking for someplace closer to home where I could hike and be outside. I bought a new backpack and looked on a map for someplace that  had a few hills and trails to test it, and found the Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield. I went for the first time in 2011 and saw a poster for a volunteer property steward position the following year. I applied and have been a volunteer ever since, so I'm in my 10th year now.  

Tell us about your current role.

I spend most of my time volunteering as a property steward at the Rock House and over the years I've done everything from heavy trail work and clearing to painting and carpentry on the small cabin that is on the property. I've picked up tons of trash; cut and cleared dozens of downed trees; cleaned hundreds of square feet of graffitti, and helped one lost child find their parents there. But over the last decade I've also been able to help at several other properties around the state, from trail work at Peaked Mountain, Quinebaug Woods, and Tantiusques, to trimming weeds at the Farm Institute on Martha's Vineyard, to helping with Maple Sugaring at Chestnut Hill Farm.

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

There have been several, from an outdoor concert we held at the Rock House several years ago, to a night time snowshoeing tour we hosted, to the rededication of the Lucy Stone Homestead (part of the Rock House property in West Brookfield). But my absolute favorite happened just last winter when I was able to help facilitate a maple tree tapping event at the Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough. I tapped trees as a child in Pennsylvania and have made my own syrup at home here in Massachusetts for the last decade. I was able to join the Trustees staff and bring this amazing hobby to a couple dozen people who had never even thought about tapping their own trees. It turned out to be an absolutely perfect "bluebird" winter day without a cloud in the sky after a 10 inch snowfall. Being outside all day in winter is my happy place (I was an alpine ski instructor for 6 years during and after college and an avid winter hiker since the late 80s). It was just perfect!

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Don't worry about having special skills. Across an organization as large as the Trustees, there is something you can do! Outside, inside, around people, or by yourself, there is something for everyone in every corner of Massachusetts.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

In spite of all the work I've done with groups of people, from being a ski instructor to the maple sugaring class, I'm a definite introvert and prefer to do most of my hiking, kayaking, and exploring solo or with only my best friend of 45 years. We once did a three-day trip in the White Mountains and didn't see a single person from Friday morning until our way back to the car on Sunday afternoon. About 5 minutes away from the parking lot a nice couple passed us and said only, "Hi." We walked another thirty seconds, and my friend turned and said, "They just ruined the whole weekend!" I couldn't have agreed more.

Five Questions with . . . Joe Smith

June 2022

What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I am retired and was looking for volunteer opportunities to help keep me active. An online search produced several locations with varying requirements. Most of those opportunities were with The Trustees. I have been volunteering with The Trusties for about a year and one-half.  

Tell us about your current role.

I make a mean pizza 😋. I started out cleaning pots, pans and dishes. I liked that. I was asked to fill in at the pizza station. It has a brick over and a chef, Thi Bowles, who is very magical in the use of the oven. I add the toppings to the pizza based on the order and then pass the pizza to the chef. Oh, and I still wash pots, pans and dishes.

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

It is a tie between Mother’s Day and Halloween. On Halloween, the staff and volunteers dressed in some costumes, as did I. I watched the enjoyment that the children had that day. On Mother’s Day we did not serve pizza. Tables were set up and the staff served the mothers and their families. The interaction with the other volunteers was great and it produced a very memorable time for the families.

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Contemplate no more! Whatever your interests or requirements might be for a volunteer opportunity, you have come to the right place. The staff and other volunteers are open and friendly. They will quickly become part of your family.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

I was the COO of a National provider of home health care services and now I wash a lot of pots and pans and enjoy it.

Five Questions with . . . Josie deMaso

February 2022

What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

When I retired, I was happy to have time to commit to my favorite organizations, with the Trustees at the top of my list.  My love of history and libraries led me to an opportunity in the archive department of the Trustees.  I have been volunteering there for the past three years.  

Tell us about your current role.

When I volunteer with the archive department in Sharon I am involved in various projects that have included transcribing of Shaker journals, indexing documents from various properties and organizing historical records.   This work has exposed me to the wide variety of Trustee properties.  And, it has been fun to learn about the fascinating ‘back stories’ of some of the owners of these properties.   I am especially interested to know about the strong, independent women among this group, such as Clara Sears who owned and established Fruitlands. 

It’s always fun to interact with the ARC staff!

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

It is hard to pick one day, as all of my volunteer time is enjoyable, but one day does stand out.   As a child I read and loved Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women. One day while volunteering I had the privilege to transcribe a letter that Louisa wrote when she was 11 years old during the time her family spent at Fruitlands where her father had established a Transcendental residential community.  That was so memorable for me!

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Go for it!  Do some exploring, check out the various opportunities, and find something that fits with your interests and passions.  All of the people I have met (staff and fellow volunteers) are warm and interesting people.  It’s a wonderful experience and it is very fulfilling to contribute to a worthy organization.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

I assisted Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright when they visited their alma mater, Wellesley College, where I was the College President’s executive assistant.  I was thrilled to be involved in their time on campus!  

 

Four Questions with . . . Dana Hirst

November 2021

What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I visited the property in the fall of 2014 and learned by speaking with a representative at the welcome desk that they were always interested in garden volunteers. In the spring of 2015 I followed up and have now been active in the gardens for seven seasons.  

Tell us about your current role.

After retiring from a career in accounting and finance I took a course in horticulture at “Essex Aggie” (now under the umbrella of North Shore Community College). I enjoyed it so much that I decided to take additional courses. I ended up completing the program and receiving an Associate degree in horticulture and had a terrific time doing so. Volunteering in the gardens at Stevens Coolidge could not have been a better fit to use the skills I learned in the program. The work is something I thoroughly enjoy and it also gives me the opportunity to continue to learn from the staff and the other volunteers (several of whom are Master Gardeners).This season has been especially interesting since the Stevens Coolidge property underwent a massive expansion and renovation over the past year. I have been able to share in the installation and maintenance of amazing new display gardens as well as continue to work to maintain the historical gardens created years ago by the Coolidge’s. I am passionate about proper pruning and have had a number of opportunities to assist with pruning projects. I especially enjoy pruning the espaliered peach, pear and apple trees.

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

In addition to gardening, I have taken a few workshops in photography since retiring. One of my favorite days at Stevens Coolidge was the day I visited the property to watch and photograph the fascinating process of raising and moving the old five stall shed from its original location to where it could be renovated and made into the new welcome center. It has been exciting to feel like I am part of such a wonderful forward-thinking project. I look forward to spending Wednesday mornings with good friends who enjoy their time in the gardens as much as I do.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

Some might be surprised to learn that I was an extremely shy and quiet teen and young adult. (Yes, really!)

 

Five Questions with . . . Ellen & Mike Garvey

October 2021

What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

A friend recruited us to work on the clock in the gallery about 5 years ago.   

Tell us about your current role.

We are working on the wind indicators – the one in the gallery and 4 throughout the house.  Susan Hill Dolan is our wonderful sponsor and supporter

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

“First Light” – the day we were able to illuminate bulbs in the lighted wind indicators.  After more than 2 years of trips to the estate and running between the basement and the ship room trying to figure out where the wires are and which ones work.

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Just do it!  There are so many different types of projects there’s sure to be one that interests you.  And every day on site is just wonderful – from the grounds to the basement to the cupola.  And the volunteer organization appreciates all the time you provide.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

Not surprising:  we both have technical backgrounds which we apply to our projects.  Mike does the electronics, Ellen does the software.
Surprising:  Mike is a beekeeper; Ellen is a glass artist.

 

Five Questions with . . . Kris Swords

September 2021


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I have been a member since we moved here 6 years ago. I have been volunteering with the Mass Master Gardeners (MMGA) at various Trustees sites for 5 years.  Once I discovered the Trustees, such an amazing organization I immediately wanted to volunteer and be involved.   

Tell us about your current role.

I do garden work under the direction of the site Horticulturist and in a partnership with MMGA in the summer, about 8-10 times a month. My Trustees gardening sites are Long Hill & Castle Hill.  I am also  volunteering as a Tour Guide for the Sedgwick gardens  at the new and improved Long HIll Property.  Since I have worked in the garden for several years, I know more about it and  I feel comfortable sharing my garden passion with the public. 

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

Really, every day is a good day at one of the properties. The European Formal Garden design of Castle Hill is so stately and stunning, it is in contrast to the relaxing Woodland Garden of Long Hill.  
 

An outstanding day in one of the gardens is at  peak blooming time, when there are millions of pollinator insects and animals to discover.  Beautiful butterflies, bees of all types all bussing around the flowers. Praying mantis, snakes, salamanders, frogs, toads, birds and squirrels all contribute to the beauty and the depth of the garden.

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Follow your passion and just do it.  You will be glad you did.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

In my professional life, I was an Interior Designer specializing in Sports Architecture.  In 20 years of my sports statistics, I worked on 3 International projects, 7 Major League Ballparks, 9 Arenas- NBA & NHL, 1 MLS, 2 Convention Centers, 15 Collegiate Sports projects and 7 Minor League/Spring Training projects. I never thought I would want to retire?.  Haha, Now retired, I don't miss it one bit.   

Five Questions with . . . Robin Grossman


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I have been volunteering with the Trustees since February of 2021. I knew I wanted to volunteer somewhere, to help give back to the community, while using some of my business skills. While searching the internet, I found the Trustees. The mission of improving and preserving Massachusetts conservation land is what drew me to reach out. After talking to Eileen Small and learning more about The Trustees, I was fascinated. I felt an instant connection to Eileen and The Trustees.  I like to say I am “outdoorsy”, however people that know me well tell me I am not “outdoorsy”, I like to “play outside”.  I love the ocean, farms, and parks, so I knew I would fall in love with the Trustees.  

Tell us about your current role.

I am currently part of the Volunteer Engagement Team. I write the quarterly volunteer newsletters. 

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

I enjoy the weekly remote check in's with Eileen Small, and our team of 7.  We discuss what is going on in our roles and the Trustees. We also talk briefly about our personal life and always have a few laughs. It is a great group!

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Do it! You will not regret it! Great work, good people, and most of all… fun!!!!!

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

I survived a brain hemorrhage. I am terrified of bees.

Five Questions with . . . Gary Donnelly


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I've enjoyed hiking, camping and other outdoor activities my entire life.  When I retired from the non-profit human services world in 2019, I knew that I wanted to engage in volunteer land conservation work.  I've been a Trustees member for many years and have visited numerous TTOR properties on both the coast and in Central/Western, MA.  The Trustees Volunteer Program seemed like a good fit for me!  So, I applied for the volunteer position of Property Steward and began my duties in December, 2020.  

Tell us about your current role.

I spend most of my time working as a Property Steward at Bear Swamp in Ashfield. I also help out at Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield and Petticoat Hill in Williamsburg when time permits.  My role is focused on observing and reporting changes in trail conditions to Josh Knox, Trustees Trail Specialist (for Western MA). At Bear Swamp this means frequently hiking the 3 miles of trail on the property and reporting on trees that have blown down or that may be a hazard to hikers. I also alert Josh to other concerns (e.g. trail erosion).  With the assistance of another Trustees volunteer, I've engaged in several special projects at Bear Swamp such as cutting down saplings at the Apple Valley Overlook section, clearing debris from culverts and pulling invasive plants along the roadside.

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

Bear Swamp offers a variety of woodland hiking-- some of its steep hillsides and exposed bedrock, while other areas are boggy wetlands and swamp. In contrast, the Apple Valley Overlook section of the property provides a picnic table with fantastic views of local farms and more distant mountains into southern Vermont.  One day in late winter, I was hiking on Beaver Brook Trail and decided to stop to take a good look at the stone causeway that supports a beaver dam and pond.  As I gazed around the pond, a river otter popped up out of the water not far from me and got out onto an area still covered by ice.  He immediately sensed me but we spent 2-3 minutes checking each other out before he slid back into the pond.  It was a great sighting!  One which I replay in my mind often.

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Be sure to spend time perusing the Trustees Volunteer Web Page that lists brief descriptions of the different opportunities that are available and their location in the state.  Soon after I submitted my application for Volunteer Property Steward, I received a call from Josh Knox who gave me many insights and details about the Property Steward job. It really helped me to think about the tasks that I would be performing.  I'd definitely advise a prospective volunteer to talk with Trustees staff and/or volunteers who are involved in the work that interests you.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

For over 20 years, my wife and I have served as volunteers to raise puppies for a service dog organization (Canine Companions for Independence).  Many d+J8+K8

Five Questions with . . . Mark Craver


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I started spending time (volunteering they call it) with The Trustees in 2017.  I guess that makes it about four years that I have been a volunteer carpenter at Powisset Farm and Rocky Woods.  I have also done projects for The Chestnut Hill Farm and the Doyle Conservation area.  

Tell us about your current role.

For the most part, I make mountains of sawdust with Alan Pasnik.  I help with the design and construction of some of the carpentry projects.  However, that only described my time here from the Trustee’s perspective. The truth is so much simpler. I was hesitant to volunteer at first, and I still cannot say why.  I finally just jumped in and it all became crystal clear.  I drive over an hour each way to spend time with friends, play with tools and make stuff others can enjoy.  

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

I could not pick a single favorite day, time, or project.  Every time is special in its own way.  

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

It’s free therapy!  It’s a cure for the blues, and nothing in the world fights my depressing days like doing something for something or someone, even if I never meet them or even see them enjoy it.  I give my time for smiles.  Oh. The Trustees will thank you and praise you prolifically, but that’s not why you’ll come back.  Jump in and see for yourself, the water’s great!

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

Finally, my little secret that few know: I pet sharks.  Even after many stitches that prove it is a really bad idea! +L3

Five Questions with . . . Jenny Hook


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

My family moved to Hingham from Santa Monica in 2004.  We had no family or friends here before moving.  Before our first Christmas here, we won a raffle for a backpack that included several nature ID books and a hidden surprise - a year’s membership to The Trustees!  Soon after we fell in love with Weir River Farm and have continued our membership ever since.  My daughters went to camps at the farm and World’s End, did CIT training, volunteered in the barnyard with my husband.  All whilst I was stuck working and wishing I could engage more.  So, as soon as I retired, I connected with Eileen and the rest is almost 2 years of my volunteer history.

Tell us about your current role.

I volunteer as a Livestock Assistant Monday and Thursday mornings at Weir River Farm in Hingham.  I feed/water the animals and do odd chores at Weir River Farm.

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

Last spring, the Suffolk sheep ewes had a bunch of lambs - about 10 I think.  All were housed in a large stall in the barnyard.  It was still cold outside, but it was sure cozy in that stall.  After finishing feeding/watering/chores, I would hang with them all in the stall.  Some of the ewes loved having their head scratched or just another warm body to lean into.  It was so peaceful and zenlike, until the lambs got bigger and mischeavous!

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Do whatever you love!

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

Oh gosh, my farm buddies know how much I love birdwatching.  Another reason I do mornings.  I weave it into my time there, with my binoculars always close by.  I record my sightings everyday on E-Bird, I’ve created quite the database!

Five Questions with . . . Becky Wittenburg


What brought you to The Trustees & how long have you been with us?

I responded to a call for volunteers in early March of 2018 to help repost the Eastern Bluebird nest
boxes at Appleton Farms. The boxes were mounted on wooden posts and there had been a growing
and serious decline in chicks that fledged due to mouse predation.  The boxes were going to be remounted on metal pipes fitted with predator guards.  I showed up that cold Saturday morning,
along with other volunteers, and enjoyed working with the staff and long-time nest box monitors.  At the end of the afternoon one of the long-time monitors asked me if I'd like to train to become a monitor myself.  
I instantly accepted and began training to take over about half the nest boxes on Appleton Farms myself the following spring.  

Tell us about your current role.

Starting in March of 2019 I began to monitor 22 boxes on the northeast side of Appleton Farms.  I monitor the boxes every 5-7 days by peeking inside and taking notes about what's happening from week to week. Sometimes the doors have been left open and occasionally a nest has fallen out. Or at times a predator has invaded, and the nest box needs to be cleaned.  The nesting season goes through the middle of August.  During the height of the nesting season it takes me about 2 hours to check all the boxes.  Then I upload my observation data into the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's NestWatch database which tracks the status and trends in bird reproduction.  

What has been your favorite day at The Trustees and why?

I have to say I don't have just one favorite day every year.  It's all been such a joy.  The happiest days, I guess, are when I see the first eggs appear and also when the first hatchlings appear.   It was also immensely satisfying to see that our work on rebuilding the boxes led to a radical increase in the success of fledglings over previous years.

What advice would you have for someone contemplating volunteering with The Trustees?

Try it!  There are so many interesting people working and volunteering at the Trustees properties.  Besides the satisfaction of feeling like you're contributing to an important environmental/conservation effort, you're likely to make some nice friendships.

What’s something about you that might surprise your volunteer colleagues?

I have just one colleague in my role as a nest box monitor, but I'd say what might surprise people who meet me casually is that I'm fascinated rather than frightened by "creepy" critters like snakes, spiders, bugs and bats.  This is really handy since it's a possibility I'll encounter some of these critters when monitoring my boxes! 




Farm Hands of History at Appleton Farms

by Jeff Harder, December 2019

One Sunday inside the Old House at Appleton Farms, Sheila Cooke-Kayser had a chance encounter with a rare visitor: a woman who was once Joan Appleton’s personal nurse. “Talking to someone who has a personal connection with a historic place was so interesting, and it made Joan come alive,” she says.

Sheila is among 14 docents who volunteer at the Old House, acquainting visitors with the rich past of America’s oldest continuously operating working farm. All the docents are history buffs; before retiring in 2011, Sheila, a Beverly resident, had spent more than 30 years working in historical interpretation for the National Park Service. To get acquainted with Appleton, she started by reading the standard-issue property history and chatting up veteran docents like Katrina Hart and Susan Kalloch.

Additionally, the docents have organized book clubs for the likes of Louise Tharp’s The Appletons of Beacon Hill and taken field trips to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. That homegrown expertise helps them illuminate history’s marginalized voices; Sheila particularly enjoys telling visitors about Francis Appleton’s two daughters.

The docents’ enthusiasm is infectious, but it’s also vital. “Having people who are excited to tell the stories is how you get the next generation of visitors excited,” says Volunteer Services Staff. “The docents at Appleton Farms exemplify why preserving something forever means preserving the past.”

DOCENT LIST (in alphabetical order): Sam Bigelow, Sheila Cooke-Kayser, Janet Gillis, Lynn Grindall, Katrina Hart, Ginny Hughes, Susan Kalloch, Susan McDonald, David Putnam, Betty Redstone, Teresa Sadowski, Jay Stanbury, Joyce Thomson, Fraley Wright.

 

       

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