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Earth Day Highlights and Volunteer Appreciation

Save the Manatee Club staff and volunteers after building seagrass exclusion devices with Brevard Zoo Restore Our Shores.
Save the Manatee Club staff and volunteers after building seagrass exclusion devices with Brevard Zoo Restore Our Shores.

By Gina McClain, Volunteer Specialist

As I reported our first quarter volunteer manateam results to you back in early April, I underestimated the massive uptick in activity for Earth Day and Volunteer Appreciation Month! It was action-packed and terrific!

To celebrate Earth Day, our manateam attended 9 events in 2 weeks… how did we do that, you may ask? We have expanded our Lead Volunteers; that’s how! Please congratulate Hannah Szuch, our Central Florida Lead Volunteer, who joins Rhonda Roberts in leading a team of volunteers at events! Having Hannah on board allowed me to travel to attend events simultaneously in St. Augustine, Ft. Pierce, and High Springs. We were also able to attend some first-time events like Science Night Live at the Orlando Science Center, the Lullaby of the Rivers Earth Day Music Festival, and the Santa Fe Springs Celebration. I look forward to establishing even more Volunteer Leaders later this year.

We were so fortunate to again partner with the Brevard Zoo Restore Our Shores to bring 20 volunteers and staff together to build exclusion devices! These metal grids will protect the seagrass after it’s planted, keeping it safe from critters eating it before it is fully established, so that it can then provide habitat and food for aquatic herbivores and other animals.

Volunteer Specialist Gina McClain with Dechra at a cleanup in Melbourne.

To honor Earth Day, we also partnered with 2 fabulous companies and 2 incredible organizations to complete important cleanup events in April!

Dechra Pharmaceuticals brought their whole Melbourne location team to spend a day with me and the Waterway Warriors® collecting trash along the 192 Causeway in the Indian River, which resulted in over a ton of trash being collected!

Subaru America brought their leadership team with me to Wekiwa Springs State Park to complete a very hot and intense cleanup along the entire fence line, resulting in ½ a ton of invasive plants and trash being collected and kept out of the Wekiva River.

These collaborative relationships mean so much to us as we all work together to reduce and recycle plastics and minimize the amount of trash being introduced into the manatees’ habitat and digestive systems.

We honored our manateam during Volunteer Appreciation Day and Month. Many of our volunteers submitted videos that were posted on our social platforms with their favorite moments and the ‘why’ behind their amazing spirit of volunteerism! You can also see the Volunteer Spotlight articles on our website. As we always strive to show our appreciation for the efforts of our amazing volunteer manateam-mates, this was the perfect opportunity to let everyone know how much their kindness and commitment to manatees informs and impacts our ability to accomplish our mission. We kicked it off with a letter of gratitude and a patch to all our active volunteers. We followed that with an Appreciation Luncheon for those able to attend at our Longwood office. The catered lunch was delicious, and the silent auction of many objets d’art from our archive was very high-spirited as we celebrated the years and hours that they had collectively volunteered. We also each shared our “Manatee Moment,” that very special occasion when each of us realized our intense connection with manatees and our depth of love and commitment to helping them.

We also celebrated our longest-standing volunteer, Al Squires! Al started volunteering with us in 1994 on Florida’s Southwest Coast and has rejoined the manateam in Orlando and completed 3 events this month! 30 years!!! Al is an inspiration to us all!

As we near the end of the second quarter, I want to thank everyone for their unwavering support and kindness to both SMC and manatees! As always, Save the Manatee Club is dependent upon YOU and your willingness to donate your time to attend festivals, events, and cleanups. All of us are incredibly grateful for each of our fabulous volunteer manateam members! If you are a lapsed volunteer or are unsure of your status, please reach out to me via email.

As we head into the Florida summer, we have fewer outdoor events on the calendar due to heat and safety concerns. I wish you all a safe and happy summer! Please protect your skin, stay hydrated, and I will be in touch soon to plan out the fall events that will be here before we know it!

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