Volunteer Spotlight: From the Front Lines of Volunteer Tree Planting

This past spring, over 1,300 volunteers came out to Stanislaus National Forest to help plant trees. One of our amazing volunteers was Carmen who came out to plant trees as part of a volunteer effort from the Sonora 49er Rotary Club along with several high school students active in Interact (the high school rotary equivalent).

Carmen’s love of nature runs deep. She grew up going to Yosemite, camping along the Tuolumne and in Jacksonville (the old mining town that is no longer, as it’s now fully submerged under Don Pedro Reservoir). Carmen spent an idyllic childhood camping 3-4 weeks at a time with her dad, three brothers and four dogs (mom ran a business during the week and came up for the weekends). She remembers the joy of being turned loose for the day with the boys and fishing poles, baiting her own hook and wielding her knife skills out in the Stanislaus Forest. It’s fair to say that roots there run deep, so to speak…

In reflecting on her drive to come volunteer planting trees this spring, she jumps back to talking about the Rim Fire:

“Everyone in Sonora was really affected by the fire. They saw the fire, saw that it was bigger. People working 24 hours a day reporting on the fire. Everyone was affected by it…and there was a lot of smoke. They had to delay start of school because of the fire…and it was this really weird thing. There was nothing anyone could do…Within the last year, this was the first time that people heard that they could go out and help and that was something that they wanted to do. It was something tangible that they could do!”

She talked about how important it was to be out there with other volunteers – all directly impacted by the blaze from three years ago – planting trees after feeling so completely helpless during the fire. She even spoke of how this opportunity brought some closure in creating opportunity for the kids – kids who had missed out on something, wondered if their houses were going to burn – to help heal this little part of the forest.

Carmen took pleasure in watching the high school students, many of whom were there with their parents, plant the little seedlings. Years from now, they’ll be able to come back to this area and see the seedlings grow into trees.

When asked what the one thing is Carmen would change about the world if she could she replied, “I would try to instill compassion in everyone. And that’s the thing I try to do with the high school kids I work with…that’s my ultimate goal. ”

– Interview with Dulcey Reiter