Volunteer Appreciation Month: Meet the Volunteer Team! | Cal Parks

Volunteer Appreciation Month: Meet the Volunteer Team!

Published: July 28, 2022

This month, we’ve been celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Month by featuring stories about our amazing volunteers and Volunteer Core Leaders who make our programs so successful. Another essential piece of the volunteer program is the California State Parks Foundation staff who manage it full-time! The breadth and scope of the volunteer workdays would not be possible without their hard work.   

Our volunteer team includes Samantha Joseph, Melissa Potts, and Patricia Alger. They have worked hard to ensure our programs run efficiently and effectively across California, and together they have facilitated the removal of 322 bags of trash and 384,769 square feet of invasive weeds in the first half of 2022. They have also helped restore 5.78 miles of trail and planted 7,214 native plants.  

Let us introduce you to our volunteer team and find out why they dedicate their time to making sure our California State Parks Foundation volunteers are supported.  

Describe your position with California State Parks Foundation 

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Associate Director of Philanthropy

Sam: I joined California State Parks Foundation 4.5 years ago and currently serve as the Associate Director of Philanthropy. In this role, I have the pleasure of overseeing our institutional giving program (foundation, corporate, government donors) as well as our statewide volunteer program.  

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Patricia Alger, Volunteer Coordinator

Tricia: As the Volunteer Program Coordinator, I provide program support to ensure our volunteers continue to have great experiences at ouryear-round volunteer workdays and Earth Day Climate Action events.  

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Melissa Potts, Volunteer Program Manager

Melissa: As the Volunteer Program Manager, I coordinate all aspects of the year-round volunteer program. My goal each day is to provide positive & meaningful experiences for park staff,  Volunteer Core Leaders, and volunteers. Most of my time is focused on planning the volunteer workdays with our partners. I oversee program evaluation and make sure we share the impact and outcomes of the work our volunteers accomplish. I also manage volunteer recruitment which aims to reach new volunteer communities and works to inspire current volunteers to return to future workdays.   

Now that you have met our volunteer team, let’s look at why volunteering is so important for our state parks! 

Sam: State parks need a tremendous amount of support to thrive and park staff have limited time and resources. Mobilizing volunteers helps complete critical projects, ensures habitat for wildlife, maintains park facilities for visitors, and more. Many park staff have shared with us that the work our volunteers can do in a few hours would take them months to do on their own! 

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Tricia: Our volunteer workdays are not only fun to join but are essential to supporting the work of our dedicated park staff and addressing the real needs they request. Whether it’s a habitat restoration project, clean-up event, or preserving historical sites – volunteers help our park staff expand their capacity to ensure our parks thrive for all to enjoy. 

Melissa: Volunteers are incredibly important to state parks. Many parks are understaffed and under-resourced. When you can bring in a group of people focused on one task, you can get so much accomplished.  I also think that our consistency at the parks is an important quality of our program. Parks need ongoing support, which for us means we generally host workdays at the same park sites each year. This allows us to provide projects and opportunities to be involved in ongoing projects that make a lasting impact.  

As you can see, our volunteers are essential to California state parks. With so many experiences during every workday, we were curious about some particularly impactful stories that our staff has seen. 

Sam: Everyone has a unique story about what parks mean to them and why they volunteer. Our youth volunteers are particularly inspiring! I also enjoy learning new facts about the park and its wildlife. At Garrapata State Park, I’ve learned about the endangered Smith’s blue butterfly and which plants are critical for its survival.  

Tricia: There are so many favorite moments I would love to share – I’ve enjoyed planting native plants at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, removing invasive species at Garrapata State Park, and park clean-ups at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. It’s also nice to meet new people and learn about the park together. Our Volunteer Core Leaders and park staff make the volunteer workdays super engaging and I always learn something new. 

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Melissa: At Los Angeles State Historic Park, we worked with staff to bring students who were in walking distance of the park for a planting workday. The group had 2nd and 3rd grade classes join. Many students had never been to the park or planted anything before. The kids were all just so excited, had great questions, and were really focused on being mindful and careful with the tasks at hand. After planting and watering, many of them named their plants and said they wanted to bring their families back to show them what their class accomplished.  

Our dedicated volunteer staff have an amazing time working with our volunteers on many projects to ensure our state parks stay accessible and beautiful. We asked each of them to convince you if you’re on the fence about volunteering. 

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Sam: For anyone who is thinking about volunteering, we welcome you to join us! Our workdays include all the tools and instruction you need. We would love to have you join a workday and experience the satisfaction of making direct park improvements while connecting with new friends in the great outdoors.   

Tricia: Our parks need you! You are always welcome to volunteer on your own, with your family, or bring a few friends. We hope to see you at one of our workdays. PS - getting started is quick and easy! But if you have any questions, you can always reach out to us at volunteer@calparks.org.    

Melissa: Volunteering with us is easy! You can join us every month or just once a year, depending on your availability and parks near you. All you have to do is sign up for a workday on our website.  Our Volunteer Core Leaders and park staff will be there to welcome you and help you throughout the event.  

Now, all that’s left for you to do is join us for an upcoming volunteer workday! We host multiple each week across the state. To find out more, head over to calparks.org/volunteer and join our dedicated team. Still not convinced? Check out our Flickr photostream to see how much fun our volunteers have. 

We also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers that have helped our state parks throughout the years. 

Sam:   Thank you so much to all of our amazing volunteers who so generously give their time to our state parks! Your support is so meaningful and makes a real difference.   

Tricia: Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers! You all make such an impact, and I am so inspired by your passion and selfless commitment to our parks. Also, a huge shoutout to our Volunteer Core Leaders who make our workdays extra special.    

Melissa: Sending a huge thank you to all of our volunteers who to give back to state parks. Your work directly helps parks build climate resiliency, enhance visitor experience, preserve history and culture, and protect wildlife and nature.