WRA Staff Spotlight: April is National Volunteer Month

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April is National Volunteer Month and WRA staff have some great stories to share. Many of our team members generously donate time to organizations and causes that align with WRA’s company Vision: “Cultivating a sustainable future where people and the environment thrive.” It is inherent in our DNA to support organizations that make a positive impact on the environment and the communities in which we live, work, and play. 

Organization: Bike East Bay’s mission “mobilize by bike to build thriving communities that are joyful, safe, and inclusive.”

WRA Staff: Cailin Notch, WRA Community Resilience Planner and Board Member, Bike East Bay

How and why did you get involved with BEB?

I recently moved back to the East Bay after a 5-year hiatus. I wanted to get more involved in my community in the East Bay, and in particular for an organization that has a focus on climate action. I have been involved in organizing in the past and have seen firsthand how real change can happen when people come together.

I got acquainted with Bike East Bay during their annual Bike to Wherever Day last May. I was really intrigued with the organization as I have always been very interested in creating more walkable and bikeable communities especially in regards to building a more sustainable future. Last fall, I saw that they had an open call for board members and decided to apply! I was voted in as a board member this past spring.

In what ways do you volunteer with BEB?

As a board member, my role is to help ensure that the organization fulfills its mission. Part of this is attending quarterly board meetings and monthly fundraising subcommittee meetings. I also volunteer when needed, especially around their upcoming events like Bike to Wherever Day and Pedal Brew Fest.  I also volunteer at their monthly volunteer nights (where we usually help with stuffing envelopes for mailers).

What opportunities does BEB offer that you want folks to know about?

Bike East Bay has lots of opportunities to get involved! They have a strong focus on bike advocacy and education, so they are a great organization to get involved with to advocate for safer streets. They also put on a variety of free classes on everything from urban cycling to riding in the rain to bike camping. Last, they put on a ton of fun events, including a monthly social ride series where they explore some of East Bay’s best bike routes.

Organization: California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL) is a non-profit, membership-based organization dedicated to advancing the science, art, and practice of restoring native California habitats.

WRA Staff: Geoff Smick, WRA Chief Executive Officer and SERCAL Board Member since 2018 (Treasurer and Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee)

Describe your experience in serving on the SERCAL Board?

Serving on the Board has been not just rewarding to me – but fun! I hold the role of Treasurer and Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. Therefore I spend a lot of my volunteering time supporting the organization’s administrator and President with budgeting and finances. We have regular meetings as a larger leadership team where we discuss the future of the organization and growth goals. It’s great to be able to support such a meaningful organization with developing sustainable business planning and goals. I do this work with a group of really like-minded people – while we are diverse in our backgrounds and cultures, we have really similar goals and values and want to see the organization’s mission around restoration education be a success. 

What is your favorite part of being a part of SERCAL, as a member or on the leadership team?

One of the most rewarding aspects of the role is to be able to be a mentor as part of the organization’s mentoring program. I have had multiple mentees each year since the founding of that program and it’s been great to be able to introduce them to the field of restoration in California. I’ve developed lasting relationships with some of my mentees and enjoy seeing them move into successful and rewarding careers.

How is volunteer work meaningful to you?

It’s really great to be able to spend some of my own time to help two areas of passion for me: supporting continuing education about habitat restoration, and being able to provide at least a little bit of direction to people interested in a career in restoration. The field is so broad that there are so many ways one can make a career that it can be overwhelming! Seeing the organization as a whole and the mentorship program both continue to grow tells me that we must be doing something right and that’s pretty darn meaningful.

Organization: California Native Plant Society (CNPS) East Bay Chapter

WRA Staff: Maya Avendano, WRA Biologist and Volunteer with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) East Bay Chapter

How and why did you get involved with CNPS East Bay?

I moved to the Bay Area in 2022 and wanted to get involved in the botanical community. A colleague introduced me to the Conservation Committee within the CNPS EB chapter. From there, I was connected to the Rare Plants Inventory. 

Tell us about some of the cool rare plants you have found!

Last year, I documented a population of stipulate lotus (Hosackia stipularis var. stipularis) in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland and joined WRA Plant Biologist Scott Batiuk in monitoring populations of plants in Livermore including palmate-bracted bird’s-beak (Chloropyron palmatum), San Joaquin spearscale (Extriplex joaquinana), and five other species. I have tried but failed to locate a historic population of coast iris (Iris longipetala) in Tilden Regional Park. Upcoming this season, I will be in search of Aphyllon epigalium ssp. epigalium, toothed calicoflower (Downingia cuspidata), and canyon clarkia (Clarkia epilobioides). Some of these species are considered rare across the state, but many are locally rare in the East Bay.