5 Sturgis Corner Drive, Suite 1250, Iowa City, IA 52246
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Volunteer Spotlight: Melissa Serenda

Melissa first started volunteering with Bur Oak Land Trust in February of 2017 as a member of the Publicity Committee, and in 2018 took over as Chair of the committee. She also contributes blog posts of her observations of nature.

Melissa initially became interested in volunteering for Bur Oak Land Trust because as an Iowa Master Naturalist she needed to complete 40 hours of volunteer work each year, and Bur Oak Land Trust was suggested as an organization to partner with. She was drawn to the trust’s mission to protect and conserve natural areas, and thought it was an important mission particularly as funding for public parks and natural areas are being eroded at a state and national level. She feels organizations like Bur Oak Land Trust are going to be important—and necessary—to step into the breach left by inadequate conservation funding.

Aside from volunteering for Bur Oak Land Trust, Melissa spends a lot of time on the Sycamore Greenway, a trail/watershed management system in south Iowa City where an amazing variety of native plants, birds, and insects right on the edge of town are able to be seen. She documents the sights there on a Facebook page and her Sycamore Greenway Friends blog. She also rows on the Iowa River with Hawkeye Community Rowing, which means water quality is an issue close to her heart as well.

Melissa feels that her best volunteering experience for Bur Oak Land Trust was working at the glass booth for the Iowa City Downtown Block Party recently. She found it was extraordinarily busy and interesting to see how people enjoyed the event, and that Bur Oak Land Trust was able to get a little exposure at an event with a very wide audience as well as earn a donation through the volunteer work. She finds it is one example of a unique way to volunteer to benefit Bur Oak Land Trust that doesn’t necessarily involve getting your hands dirty.

One project Melissa was involved in that she found fun for the trust was helping to design a passport booklet for kids who have gone through University of Iowa Wildlife Camps, to encourage them to visit Bur Oak Land Trust properties. She feels that this project is a great example of how the trust partners with local businesses to promote conservation and local engagement with the community.

Melissa thinks it would be great if more people know about Bur Oak Land Trust, especially with the fact that the trust protects land and keeps it open to the public for outdoor recreation at no cost to the public. She wants everyone to know that the trust’s properties have so much variety, from Shimek Ravine and Pappy Dickens right in Iowa City, to larger, more distant (but still only minutes from town) spots like Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and Belgum Grove.

Melissa has a lot of respect for all the work the staff and volunteers do to promote Bur Oak Land Trust and keep things running: partnering with local companies and organizations and finding innovative ways to get people involved. She says, “It’s inspiring to see so many people who give their time freely to make Bur Oak Land Trust a success on every level.” When asked about encouraging people to volunteer, she says, “Definitely do it! There are jobs for everyone; if you don’t like working in the field, the trust can use your skills helping in the office or on one of our several committees, and we always need people to staff booths at community events. It’s not all pulling garlic mustard and chopping honeysuckle!”