Voices of AmeriCorps: Rene Halberg



Beep! Beep! Beep! My alarm is waking me; I want to stay in bed. After all it’s cold and rainy, good dayMFPC-Member11 for staying in bed. I slowly move out of bed and gather my thoughts. Today is my Russ Mawby Service project; it’s an outside project, YUCK!! Really, does it have to rain? Couldn’t it just be a nice sunny day? As I gathered my water bottle, coffee, work gloves and jacket I couldn’t get the YUCK attitude out of my system. As I’m jumping in my truck for an hour and 15minute drive to Gaylord, I’m thinking… well at least I can go shopping after the project. We have a family dollar and one grocery store here in the UP. Any chance to go shopping in Gaylord is a great plus to my day.

When I arrive at Gaylord’s Otsego Environmental Learning Site I noticed I wasn’t really prepared for the weather and my “yuck” attitude was still strong. This is going to be a long day. I had a sluggish walk to the cabin and my tennis shoes were already soaked…UGH! Others services members had galoshes, rain coats, hats and smiles. I freshen up on my coffee, grabbed a granola bar and begin looking for familiar faces. I didn’t recognize a single face… UGH. Sometimes I have trouble mingling.

As the cabin continued to fill with volunteers I began to relax and have small talk with those around me. We divide up into several small groups each with a mission to accomplish. I was on the ponds habitat improvement team. The goal was to plant several flats of native plants around the pond. As I stood at the pond looking at all the flats of flowers/plants I realized there was no way I was going to stay dry during this project, which meant no shopping after the project as I didn’t think to bring dry clothing. I acknowledged that it was going to be a long drive back to the UP with wet clothes. I grabbed a flat of flowers and with a gloom I begin planting. Small talk began among my fellow AmeriCorps members and other volunteers.

It wasn’t long and my knees were wet, however, I noticed my “yuck” attitude was drying up. I suddenly realized I was enjoying myself regardless. With my first flat of plants planted I stood up and stepped back, wow they look nice. There was chatter going on behind me, I turned around, the gravel path project behind me was coming along beautifully. I felt a since of warmth on a cold rainy day. I walked along the pond and picked up another flat of plants. As I was walking back to my area of flower planting I could see a group of volunteers working hard at digging a hole. Hmmm what’s going on over there? My curiosity took the best of me and I wandered over to see the project. The group was constructing a hibernaculum for retiles. WOW! How cool is that. Again I felt a since of warmth on a cold rainy day. I walked back to the pond with a smile, knelt down on the wet ground and started planting my second flat of plants.

With my second flat planted I needed a fresh sip of coffee so I wander up to the cabin where again I felt the warmth of sunshine on a rainy day. There was a cheerful group pulling invasive spotted knapweed. Another group was collecting trash from the site. Inside the cabin was the smell of fresh paint. I was admiring newly painted bird houses that the volunteers had made. I walked back to the pond with pep in my step on the newly graveled path, grabbed another flat of plants and continued planting until lunch.

After a yummy lunch and great conversation I realized how fast the day was going. I stood on the deck of the cabin there was a fresh but heavy mist in the air, I looked around. What a difference we had made already. I noticed the educational forest trails had been trimmed and cleared. I could now see the disc golf course. There were educational boards and tools set up to study prairie wildlife. The pond was looking sharp with all the new plants. The afternoon flew by and the day came to an end: my knees were wet and muddy, my hair very damp, tennis shoes soaked and a stiff back, however there was a smile on my face and pride in my heart. What I thought was going to be a long cold yucky day turned into a short warm awesome day. I did not make it shopping that day, nor did I mind my ride home with wet clothes. I was filled with warmth during my ride home as I pondered on how great I felt, the fun I had, how wonderful it is to be an AmeriCorps Service member and the fact I made a difference at the Otsego Environmental Learning Site and in myself. 

We had more than 65 volunteers on a rainy day. The day ended with a beautiful gravel path leading from the nature center to the pond. There were thirteen bags of invasive species collected, five bags of trash, eight cover boards for the educational trail, an awesome hibernaculum for the reptiles to take refuge in for the winter, thirteen bird houses built and installed along with 1,260 native plants planted. All on a rainy day.

Rene Halberg is an AmeriCorps member at H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.