Conservation Corps lends helping hand

Offering their skills and labor on Sunday, members of Southwest Conservation Corps, from left, Kate Naumann, crew leader, Althea Gatto and Rachel Kopacz, spread mulch and rock with other volunteers in a garden area behind Durango Public Library. Six SCC volunteer crews helped during a day of community-service projects around the county. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Offering their skills and labor on Sunday, members of Southwest Conservation Corps, from left, Kate Naumann, crew leader, Althea Gatto and Rachel Kopacz, spread mulch and rock with other volunteers in a garden area behind Durango Public Library. Six SCC volunteer crews helped during a day of community-service projects around the county.

Southwest Conservation Corps crews took a day out of their normal schedule Sunday, teaming with local organizations for a day of community-service projects.

The volunteer day is a tradition for the SCC, but this year the community partnerships were more organized and official, said Linnaea Renz, SCC program coordinator.

“We’ve had crews volunteering with community organizations in the past, and its changed every time, so this season is the first time that we’ve officially partnered with all six of these organizations to really do some good work with them,” she said. “In the past, they’re a little more informal or crew-initiated and this time we sort of hand-picked them.”

After congregating at the Old Fort in Hesperus, six groups of about seven volunteers, ages 18 to 25, were dispatched to locations around La Plata County, Renz said.

At the Durango Public Library, crew members Michael Ivison, John Ackerman and Rachel Kopacz took a quick break for carrots before working on a demonstration garden near the backside of the library.

The garden, installed by Durango Botanical Society, is comprised entirely of native plants and flowers, said crew leader Kate Naumann.

“We’re mulching and putting in gravel,” Kopacz said as other crew members raked and pushed wheelbarrow up the small path.

Another group worked with Bicycle Lemonade, a nonprofit organization that recycles bicycles to donate to the community.

“They’re pretty much rippin’ apart bikes,” Renz said.

A third crew painted a multi-residential home for Community Connections Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities and services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. A crew working with Southwest Horizon Ranch also painted while completing home-improvement projects on low-income houses, Renz said.

At Durango Nature Studies’ Nature Center, a crew helped build trails and create a playscape, Renz said.

The sixth crew remained at the Old Fort, where they harvested vegetables as part of an ongoing partnership between the Old Fort Lewis Farm and the Southwest Conservation Corps.

Amber Veye, a member of AmeriCorps’ Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA program, who works with the SCC, created a garden at the Old Fort site where food is grown exclusively for low-income families, Renz said.

The food, which SCC crews worked to harvest Sunday, will be distributed at the commodity drive, a countywide drive that takes place twice a year – once in June and once in September – to provide food for low-income families. Other local farms donate extra food at the drive along with the food grown at the Old Fort garden, Renz said.

“What we decided to do as an organization is to grow food exclusively for this drive, so they’re picking a bunch of food (Sunday) for that to distribute (today),” she said.

After a hard day’s work, all of the SCC crews reconvened at the Old Fort to barbecue, celebrate and camp for the night.

“It’s nice to be outside working hard and giving back,” Ivison said.

scook@durangoherald.com

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