The Friends of the Fells hosted their annual volunteer thank you event at Somerville Brewing Company’s American Fresh Brewhouse on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Friends of the Fells Volunteer Director Lindsay Beal explained that the event serves as an opportunity to get volunteers from several communities together for a night.“People from all these different areas don’t always get to see each other. So [this event] is to get them together in a casual, low-pressure environment,” Beal said. “Often we find out some of the really interesting collaborations or ideas come from that.”
Board Chair Jeff Buxbaum agreed that getting everyone in the same room was important.
“A lot of these people work on their own,” Buxbaum said. “They’re doing stuff in their little groups, so [tonight is about] just seeing and meeting some of the other people and making connections.” For Interim Executive Director Ron Morin, who started his term in September, the event was also an opportunity to acquaint himself with the numerous groups in attendance.
“For me it’s very moving and very educational because I’m meeting people for the first time,” Morin said. “I’m loving it, I’m so happy to see everyone coming in and enjoying it.”
The most visible group in attendance was the Students of the Fells, high school students from Melrose, Malden and Medford who participate in outdoor education, recreation and leadership programs. Students of the Fells Program Director Nik Tower explained that the students play an important role in volunteer work today, and have even bigger roles to play in the future.
“We do local hikes, local volunteer clean-up events, we go on excursions and overnight camping trips,” Tower said. “At some point they’re going to be the adults volunteering and they’re going to be the ones who are doing the surface work.”
Tower, who is a history teacher at Medford High School, also explained that the program gives students the opportunity to interact with those from other schools who share similar interests through a variety of outdoor programming. Ryan Locke, a senior at Melrose High School, explained that he appreciated the real experience the group gave him in organizing both volunteer events and recreational outdoor activities.
The volunteers were encouraged to interact with the students, who were charged with passing out raffle tickets to those in attendance. The raffle was just one of several ways the Friends of the Fells showed their appreciation for their volunteers, who are vital to the organization, according to Beal. She explained that volunteers play a massive role in the projects the Friends put on. “We have about 200 volunteers that are regularly engaged, that I talk to about once a month or so, and then for restoration projects in the park we had 500-600 who were engaged this year. And when you talk about some other drop-in events we’re up to about 1,400,” Beal said.
Morin agreed that the volunteers were pivotal to the Friends of the Fells.
“We actually tallied up all the hours that they give and it’s way over 1,000,” Morin said. “We couldn’t do what we say we’re going to do without the volunteers.”