We are honored by the dozens of volunteers that work with us every month. Whether spending an afternoon planting trees with our James River Buffer Program, taking weekly water samples as a Water Quality Monitor volunteer, or patrolling a section of river a few times a year as a James RiverRat – we value your time and commitment to your river!
For National Water Quality month, we asked a few volunteers to share their motivation to volunteer and their connection to the James. Here is, Richard Schauffler, a River Hero Home member, James River Watch volunteer and James River Rat sent in his volunteer experience.
I moved to Williamsburg from California, where I had grown up by the Pacific Ocean. I live backed up to Shellbank Creek, a tidal wetlands; from my house its one mile to the river. I saw the lawn fertilizers and trash that washed out of the neighborhood into the creek and then of course into the James. Some in the neighborhood told me I should never swim in the river, others swam there weekly. Some knew about the history of spills of toxic chemicals, some did not. Some caught and are the fish, many did not.
It was clear to me that the people living along the James needed to have a better, more informed relationship with the river. By the time the James River Hero Homes program started, I had uprooted all the non-native plants and working with Denise Greene of Sassafras Farms had redesigned our yard to filter water washing off the road into the creek, using native plants (I was too embarrassed by the name to post my flag; I didn’t think I was a hero, just someone trying to be mindful of my environment.). A couple of times a year my young son and I would take the canoe and clean trash out of the creek. Once JRA opened its Williamsburg office, I stopped by to see what this office was about, met Emily and Ben, and was grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer and raise awareness of the need to take care of the James.
I am happy to say that today my neighborhood has a much better connection to the river. For over ten years now we have connected through our annual Fools Regatta to raise money to improve the waterfront, we raise money for Special Olympics through our annual Polar Plunge from our river beach. Many families canoe and kayak and fish and swim, as it should be. Many times when I have been out sampling, people at the sites ask me what I am doing, and thank me (and thus JRA) for doing this in the public’s interest. I look forward to helping grow the program of the local office.- Richard Schauffler