For a nonprofit organization with fewer than 20 staff members, Raritan Headwaters (RHA) does a lot: monitoring the health of local streams, running a program to test well water for contaminants, running nature education programs and camps for children, maintaining preserves and trail systems for the public to enjoy, providing healthy habitat where wildlife can thrive, and advocating for laws and regulations to protect the environment and clean water.
What’s our secret weapon? Volunteers!
Every year, RHA mobilizes thousands of volunteers to help with various projects at our Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve in Bedminster, and other locations throughout the 470-square-mile Upper Raritan River Watershed. The biggest project is the annual spring stream cleanup, which has drawn as many as 1,600 volunteers in a single morning. But volunteers are making a difference in the watershed throughout the year.
This fall alone, more than 250 volunteers pitched in on projects, including planting trees along rivers and stream corridors, maintaining trails to make sure they are safe for hikers, removing invasive species, helping with public events like the “Shedfest” music festival and Lantern Walk, maintaining the popular bird and butterfly garden at Fairview Farm, and helping out with the milkweed project to restore monarch butterfly habitat.
“The more volunteers we have, the more work we can accomplish together,” said Debbie Newcomb, RHA’s Volunteer Coordinator. “Since COVID, individuals and groups have realized how important it is to be amongst others and want to embrace that sense of community by making a positive impact on the environment. People want to engage with others and be outdoors – for these reasons and more, we are happy to continue providing opportunities to our vast list of volunteers.”
Raritan Headwaters gratefully welcomes all types of volunteers: individuals, corporate groups, schools, clubs and civic organizations. Among the groups that volunteered this fall were the Sanofi Corporation, the Royal Bank of Canada, Pingry School, Middlesex County Community College, and Ernst and Young.
Volunteers enjoy the feeling of camaraderie, gain a sense of accomplishment, and leave with the knowledge that their work has had a positive impact on the environment.
“Students and adults have said wonderful things about your organization and the service day that you planned for our students,” wrote Bianca Cabrera, Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement at the Pingry School. “Thank you so much for your service on this day and all the days of the year that you and your organization give to the larger community! It truly was a magical day thanks to your partnership!”
Nicole Diaz, Ernst and Young’s wavespace™ Luminary Network Relationship Manager, also had good things to say about partnering with RHA during EY Connect Day, the company’s marquee day of community service.
“EY’s purpose is to build a better working world,” said Diaz. “Our people share this sense of purpose—it starts with the work we do for our clients and extends into the communities where we live and work. While our commitment to creating social impact is strongly felt year-round, on EY Connect Day, we encourage our people to volunteer through local communities with projects that align with our EY Ripples focus areas of Supporting the Next Generation, Working with Impact Entrepreneurs, and Advancing Environmental Sustainability. This allows EY volunteers to use their skills, knowledge, and unique experiences to become good stewards who create positive change in our local community.”
Dallas Hetherington, president of RHA’s Board of Trustees for the past two years, expressed his gratitude in a letter to volunteers.
“The more time I spend getting to know our wonderful organization, the more amazed I am with how much is accomplished every day,” Hetherington said. “We have an exceptional staff, but it is also very clear that there is no way they could manage all the projects, monitoring, stewardship, fundraising events and more without a great deal of help.”
“On behalf of RHA’s Board of Trustees, I want to take this time to personally thank you (volunteers) for your time and talent,” he added. “You are making a valuable contribution to our conservation mission and programs that protect the environmental health of watershed lands and precious water supplies.”
Newcomb echoed his sentiments: “We cannot thank our volunteers enough for their continued support and hard work in addition to the monetary donations we have received from our individual donors and corporate work groups. We are beyond grateful, and I am delighted to be part of the amazingly talented and conservation-minded staff here at RHA.”