You should know that volunteers are the heart of grassroots organizations! Without them, I would have given up on improving our waterways about 5 years ago.  THEY are the ones who work hard, use their own gas money, time, energy, muscles, equipment and then take that message to other individuals.  Thank you to all the people who are making OUR Earth a better place.

– Abby



Life Lessons on the River

I had the pleasure of volunteering with Save Maumee on Saturday, a local environmental group focused on cleaning up the Maumee River. I met the rest of the volunteers at 10 AM near a canoe launch area of the Maumee River, and was greeted by a woman with bright eyes and a big smile. Abigail Frost is the founder of Save Maumee, and as soon as you meet her you can tell how passionate she is about the environment and how excited she is about life in general. She was able to turn a day of hard and dirty work into something fun and meaningful.

Gaining Perspective

I used to participate in annual retreats which renewed me and my passion for serving people. Retreats always reminded me why I like to help people, where I excel, and what’s most important in my life. Although I was only volunteering for 3.5 hours, the experience grounded me and reminded me of a perspective that I tend to forget. ‘There’s nothing wrong with getting a little dirty’, ‘the little things do matter’, and ‘don’t forget to have fun’ are a few perspectives I gained on the river.

Get a Little Dirty

I signed up to help clean the Maumee River because of how polluted it’s become over the years. I knew it was going to be a dirty job and not very glamorous, but nothing good comes without a little bit of hard work. Think about the company you aspire to work with and where it originally started. Most started with an idea and one person willing to take the risk, get a little dirty, and work hard for the dream to become a reality. The CEO of that company once had to do the “dirty work” that every entry level position does. Abigail Frost, the founder of Save Maumee, was not afraid to roll up her sleeves, and literally get dirty while pulling tires, pedal boats, and other abandoned scrap metal out of the river. This is the core of her brand, work hard at something that matters to you.

Little Things Matter

I shared a canoe with one other person, and together we patrolled the river for trash and larger items to remove. We found ourselves maneuvering through tight spaces and spending long periods of time in the same area just to pick up every piece of styrofoam, plastic bottle, rubber duck, and cigarette butt we could see. I found myself thinking we should move onto bigger items, but my boat partner silently reminded me that even the smallest piece is important.
This is a true sentiment in all we do. It’s the little details, like the worker at the drive thru who remembers to say, “have a nice day,” and smiles at you while making eye contact. Or, how about the person who holds the door open for you when you’re juggling too many things in your hands? These little things that color our day can either make or break it for you. Remember to do the little things for people because the more we do, the more we make a positive impact on someone’s life.

Have Fun!

The first thing that was said to all the volunteers this weekend was, “are you ready to have fun,” and the last thing said was, “did you have fun.” This was such an important reminder to everyone. We were all out there to help the environment because we appreciate it; and what’s wrong with having a little fun while we work? When people enjoy their job and have fun doing it, it shows on their face and in their attitude. They’re the type of people we flock to, and want to be around because of the genuine love for what they’re doing. So, whatever brand you’re choosing that best describes you, be sure it’s chosen because you have a passion for it and not just because it’s in high demand. Be the person others look up to and stands out in a crowd. Be you, and don’t forget to have fun!


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.