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Give Back, Learn, and Engage: Volunteer at the UEC!

Written by Davita Flowers-Shanklin
    Monday, 05 November 2018
Give Back, Learn, and Engage: Volunteer at the UEC!

Here at the UEC, we have always loved working with volunteers. Actually, as many of you know, the Center was started by a group of neighbors volunteering their time to create something special. Volunteerism has always been a part of who we are and what we do, and it always will. This last year we had over 4,500 volunteers walk through our doors (or into our parks!), how amazing is that?!

Volunteers come to us as individuals looking for something to do, to give back, to learn, to engage. Volunteers come to us as a group, sometimes not knowing who we are or what we do. Every way that a person volunteers with us is important. But why should YOU volunteer with us? This isn’t a question we get asked much out loud, but it is the question we try to answer every day. During our volunteer orientations, I always say that I can go on and on about all the amazing reasons why people should volunteer with us, but it always means a little more when we have volunteers share why this place is special. So, here it is, straight from our volunteers’ mouths (ok, fingers). We asked volunteers what their favorite aspect of volunteering at the Center is and anything they want to share about their experiences and these are just a few responses we got in return:

“I volunteer primarily for ME, to be perfectly honest. I love the UEC and what you do and I love being in the UEC environments in the middle of the city, but the added bonus is knowing I help others in the process of enjoying myself and learning.”

“I have found more at the UEC than I expected. My knowledge has increased, my curiosity peaked, and my sense of worth increased.”

We pride ourselves on having the volunteer department apart of the education branch of the Centers. This allows us to offer people positions and opportunities that not only engage them in the learning process, but can offer spaces for our volunteers to be the experts, teaching us. Volunteers also appreciate that they are “Working on a real project[s].” Many volunteers come to us having had experiences where they felt like they were not being used to their abilities or were given mindless tasks. It is our goal to engage people on many levels and to express so much gratitude that our volunteers always feel important.

Smiling volunteer planting trees

Having three locations, we try and offer similar, yet meaningful, volunteer opportunities at all of our branches. Programs are designed to rotate and volunteers are encouraged to not only give back to their community, but the whole Milwaukee community by working at all of our branches. Volunteers have said that “I feel as though I am more tolerant of people that are different from me because I have interacted with people that have different backgrounds then my own.” And “There is a very special aspect to volunteering and an opportunity to meet a wide variety of people on neutral territory outside of usual circles.”

Some of our volunteers have been with us for only a few weeks, some since the beginning! One person describes why they keep coming back. “Supporting the environment and an organization whose mission/values/ethics are in alignment with my belief system and dedication to the outdoors and people. I really feel that love through the relationships that have fostered by my working at the center. Also, being there on a more regular basis I get to see more of the workings of the Center and the development/growth around me. The influence is more than words can describe.” Another says that the UEC “sustains me in current times of political dysfunction - improving human and non-human quality of life on this planet.” And lastly our volunteers love “being surrounded by enthusiasm. Watching the kids learning about the real world.”

If you weren’t convinced by my words, I hope the words of our volunteers have shown you just a few reasons why the UEC is a special place to volunteer. I hope you check us out if you haven’t, and we’ll see you at our next Orientation.

Sign up for a Volunteer Orientation here!

Davita Flowers-Shanklin

Davita Flowers-Shanklin

A Milwaukee Native, Davita’s love for nature came from her time spent in her neighborhood park (Washington Park), the summers spent at camp, and visiting family in the Rocky Mountains. Davita’s dreams spanned from swimming with dolphins as a marine biologist, trekking into the great savannas of Africa as a big cat vet, and breathing in lots of old dust as a Egyptologist. Dreams change, Davita got her B.A. from Macalester College and M.S. from the University of Oregon, both degrees in environmental studies with concentrations in biology, ecological restoration, and environmental justice. She loves to travel and work outside. She has two cats and loves going to the movies.

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