Written by Janelle Wicks/Photo by S. Loerch

“Spending this time just being here has been such a meaningful opportunity.”

“I’ve never done anything like this before and I will do it again.”

“Spending my time on the Refuge is important and fulfilling to me.”

“Malheur is magical.”

It is not uncommon for me to hear sentiments such as these on a monthly, if not weekly, basis throughout the year. It’s a moving experience to meet and work with people who have never set foot on Malheur before or have visited and deeply loved this place for over 30 years. Cohorts of volunteers formed bonds with one another and with me. Working with these more than 40 people who gave over 3,100 hours of their time to the Friends of Malheur NWR has been both professionally and personally rewarding.

In 2019, volunteers came from as far as Massachusetts and as near as Hines, OR. The primary responsibility assigned to volunteers from March through October is the staffing of our Crane’s Nest Nature Center & Store. Folks come for a minimum of 1 month and stay sometimes as long as 3 months. During that time they become critical staff that our organization depends on in order to run the store, support educational field trips, babysit eagle nests, maintain groundskeeping or engage in light construction projects. Regardless of the task at hand, our volunteers spend 100% of their time as ambassadors to the public and it never ceases to amaze me earnestly this role is taken on.

During a one-month stint we only require that each volunteer is only required to work 3 days/week, which leaves 4 days for adventuring! This exploration time allows our volunteers the opportunity to really know the Refuge. When they return to work their shifts, they know where the hoards of flickers are, how the swan nest is coming along, if the otters are out and about, and they share that with our visitors…and me.

I could not begin to express how fulfilling it has been to work with and get intimately acquainted with such a diverse group of spectacularly creative, intelligent, compassionate people. This is particularly resounding for the 19 residential (and 2 local) volunteers that worked so closely with me throughout the year in keeping our Crane’s Nest open and events staffed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again), a deep well of gratitude is owed to those who choose to share their time and talents with the Friends of Malheur. Without volunteers we would not have the capacity that we do in order to meet our mission of supporting the Refuge staff in the never-ending work of promoting the conservation and appreciation of Malheur NWR.