gathering around the boathouse

On Saturday I hung out with a great group of people! I had soooo much fun!! I joined Green Shores NYC, the L.I.C. Boathouse, Riverkeepers, and the Friends of Gantry at the local East River shoreline in Long Island City in the Gantry State Park for the 2014 Riverkeeper Sweep.

It’s a quick commute for me on the 7 train so I arrive early and enjoy my homemade granola bar and coffee on the benches by the waterfront enjoying the view of Manhattan that I LOVE so much. The forecast had predicted rain but the clouds seem to be clearing and the sun is peeking through the leftover clouds. The L.I.C. Flea is already in full swing with music, food vendors cooking, and booths set up. It’s a great place to try different food, enjoy the waterfront in Queens, and buy some antiques or homemade items.

RiverKeeper_logoI had volunteered with Green Shores NYC a few years ago at a waterfront clean-up in Astoria Park. This not-for-profit organization is run by volunteers only and maintains the eight miles of the Astoria-Long Island City Waterfront from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. If you want to get involved with a local organization to participate in community clean-ups or other projects along the waterfront in Queens – THIS IS IT! 

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I am pictured above with Katie Ellman, President and Director of Green Shores NYC at the beginning of the volunteer event and, as you can see I am wearing my “Fight Like A Girl” t-shirt today!

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 We started off the day helping the volunteers from New York Cares and the Friends of Gantry to remove excess mulch off the plants in the garden. Apparently the city used too much of the mulch in this area in the garden beds and it is suffocating the plants and trees.

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As we are working in the garden removing the excess mulch we are also picking up small bits of litter which consist mostly of cigarette butts, food wrappers or small plastic pieces which can blow into the river and kill fish and birds. I’ve noticed a lot of dog walkers and smokers stopping in this park and they should be aware of the damage that pollution can cause. I really wish the city would install cigarette butt receptacles, do not pollute signs or more trash cans in this area. The signs don’t look nice but litter does NOT look nice either.

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After a short break, Martha and I move over to the L.I.C. Boathouse dock to check if there is litter for us to pick up. We notice that this area is full of broken glass (pictured above) because the old double paned windows on the building next to the dock are breaking. There is also some trash stuck to the fence which is blowing over from the L.I.C Flea. Once again, I just think that people should be aware of the dangers of litter when they are eating by the waterfront. I’m hoping that anyone who saw us that day cleaning up will take a moment to think about it.

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We managed to fill only 1 large garbage of trash through-out the day which is a good thing. It is nice to see that this park is relatively clean and well maintained. Most of the litter was scattered on the street under cars and stuck to the fencing.

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After the event we hung out by the Long Island Community Boathouse, which offers FREE kayaking or canoeing! What more can you ask for! If you want to explore the area by water or try a fun summer water sport then I highly recommend kayaking with the L.I.C. Boathouse! The boathouse is run by volunteers also so if you are looking for a FUN place to volunteer you could check this out also!

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The view of the river is spectacular at any time. It was a great day to be outdoors enjoying it. It was my first time meeting everyone from the L.I.C Boathouse and being inside their facility.

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After the event, we got beers from the Rockaway Brewing Company next door. And you know I LOVE anyways Rockaways and this brewery was originated in the backyard of a bungalow in Far Rockaway! They brew the beer in the back and sell it in a small room in the front. A friendly staff, good locally brewed beer, and free potato chips – what a deal!

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Like I said before, I had a fun day. Excuse my lack of writing skills but what else can I say. There are moments such as this at a volunteer event where you feel like you are a part of something bigger than what you had signed up for. You meet local community groups with great people who are passionate about similar interests as you. You are sitting in the boathouse with a group of people drinking a beer laughing, talking and enjoying a summer afternoon like you are old friends. You skip home with a smile on your face. Like I said before, what more can you ask for.

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at far rockaway beach….again

It’s supposed to be 71 deg today so I have decided to pack my beach bag and go to Far Rockaway Beach! My plan to do my laundry on a Saturday morning was not as FUN as going to the beach! :)

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I can hear the waves crashing on shore from across the street and I’m eager to get onto the sand. I take off my shoes and the sand is hot on the bottom of my feet – which feels amazing! It’s quiet out here today – just a few dog walkers and surfers again.

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I spend a few hours combing the beach looking for seashells and picking litter, stopping to watch dogs happily splashing in the ocean fetching sticks and the surfers braving the freezing water to catch a wave.

I had a few beach goers approach me today asking me what I was doing and appreciating my efforts. A dog walker ran up to me with his hands full of trash to put into the bags, eager to help. A surfer stopped to chat and thank me for cleaning up. One lady said “We all have to do our part in keeping this beach clean, I think it’s amazing that you are here today picking litter. Thank you so much for doing that.” YOU ARE WELCOME! I was so HAPPY that people noticed what I was doing and talked to me about it.

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DANGER: There may be litter on the beach that your child or dog will step on and get hurt! Please take your trash with you when you leave the beach. Thank you! :)

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I filled 9 small shopping bags with litter from the beach in two hours. I found some really large pieces of styrofoam and metal that have blown in from the construction sites.

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I wandered past Beach 90 where the boardwalk is under construction and closed off to the public. The sand is accessible and that is where I found most of the litter. I couldn’t fit all of it in my bags and there was no garbage cans for me to dispose of what I found so I had to carry all the bags back to the nearest trash bin.

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A list of SOME items I found on the beach today:

12 cigarette butts
38 plastic bags/plastic film pieces
25 plastic bottle caps
9 pieces of cloth
4 large styrofoam pieces
1 construction Danger sign
3 balloons
3 cig lighters
9 random obects
8 pieces rope/cord
1 black styrofoam piece
17 bags of chips/snacks
3 snickers bars wrapper
1 blue plastic kids sand shovel
3 large corona beer glass bottles
3 beer cans
2 tampons
7 piles of doggie poop
1 glove
10 random plastic pieces
and the list goes on…

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The bright pink balloon I found on the beach this morning – and my birthday is coming up in a few days! Is that a coincidence??

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I’m not sure why these mountain bikers are taking their bikes on the break wall rocks but I’m curious if they are doing some extreme rock jumping. Also hoping nobody gets hurt!

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If you want more motivation to get out and make a difference I found this great video last night on the Daily Ocean blog. Sara Bayles has done 365 beach cleanups in her local area with a mission to inspire others all around the world to care about our oceans and their beaches. And she is quite an INSPIRATION to me! Read all about it!

Thank you for reading my blog post. If you have any questions or comments write em down! I’d love to hear from you!

in need of beach therapy

It’s 42° out and I am taking the bus to Far Rockaway for some “beach therapy” this morning. I’ve spent the last few weeks at home lying on the couch recovering from surgery. The most excitement I’ve had is walking six … Continue reading

happy new year 2014

New Year’s Eve is a chance to celebrate, to anticipate wonderful things can happen in the new year. Take a moment to truly reflect on what you have accomplished before you make resolutions of change. Recognize this opportunity to make a commitment to become better in our career, relationships, and passions. The last few months of a few difficult times and hard work have brought unexpected rewards and given me more courage and strength to pursue my goals, the support and encouragement I’ve received has been astounding from friends, family, and fellow volunteers. I am so very GRATEFUL! No matter how you celebrate tonight, be SAFE out there. I wish a HAPPY, healthy, and wonderful NEW YEAR 2014 to all my friends and family!

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it’s christmas time in the city!

Christmas time is busy time for all of us no matter what we are doing. I hope that everyone takes a moment this holiday season to reflect on how blessed you are. “tis the season for giving”, they say. That doesn’t mean “buy lots of presents” or “donate all your money to every non-profit that sends a letter”; it is about giving your heart and soul to the good that you can do. It doesn’t have to be much. It just needs to come from the heart. I think spending time with the people we care about is the most important part about this season.

This past year I’ve made more time to volunteer and it has been rewarding in so many ways! I’ve had a ton of support and encouragement from my loving boyfriend, family, friends, and supporters. I am looking forward to greater things in the New Year.

I want to wish all of my readers (all 14 of you) a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year for 2014! Thank you for inspiring me to be a better person and helping me on my journey as a volunteer in the big city!  –theHappyVolunteer

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will bike for money

A co-worker just introduced me to a new app called Charity Mile, which is a FREE app I’m going to download on my phone to record the miles I bike to raise money for charity!

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As you walk, run or bike, the app will track your distance on your GPS and you’ll earn money for your charity: 10¢ per mile for bikers; 25¢ per mile for walkers and runners, all up to $1,000,000 courtesy of corporate sponsors. When done with your exercise, participants agree to be “sponsored,” with money earned paid to the charity by a Charity Miles sponsor.

There are nine charities to choose from on the app: Habitat For Humanity, the UN World Food Programme, Autism Speaks, The Nature Conservancy, Feeding America, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Pencils of Promise, Achilles International, and The Global Fund.

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When you are using this app you can even post on social media forms sharing your accomplishments and the amount of money you are raising to your charity with your friends, family, and co-workers. I guess if I bike 10 miles at 10c a mile it’s only $1 and I could probably send quarters and a piece of lint in an envelope to my organization of choice and it would be more productive BUT, it’s a good way to encourage others become aware of ways to help, research charities, motivate yourself to exercise more often and to follow in your footsteps… or bike treads.

 I can’t wait to download this app and use it on my next bike ride!! :)

a surprise donation

I went to work early on Wednesday morning with a sour attitude and severe determination to finish a project that had been frustrating me for over a week. After I made my coffee and slammed down at my desk, a co-worker approached me and surprised me with two full shopping bags of school supplies that he bought for Operation Backpack for Volunteers of America Greater New York! I jumped up and gave him a big hug. I couldn’t believe it! It was unbelievably generous. It made me so HAPPY!

I had posted a flyer in the breakroom at the studio a few weeks ago announcing my plan to participate in Operation Backpack and my request for assistance.  I have always felt uncomfortable asking for donations towards a charity for several reasons: I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to donate or volunteer if they are not interested or think it will affect my feelings toward them if they say NO.

The co-worker who donated the school supplies is a carpenter that has been working with me for almost six months and I don’t know him very well. He had asked me for the list of supplies showing an interest in the organization and the project and I was just excited that I had a good feedback from the staff. He later approached me in private explaining that he had grown up in poverty and he wanted to help a child because he knew what it felt like to have nothing. He embraced the opportunity to make a significant impact on a homeless child with a simple task and I hope he knows his act of kindness will change a child’s life significantly.

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“being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.” – unknown

I just want to say THANK YOU for all the donations and support I’ve received on this project and a special THANKS to my co-worker for his generous contribution!

on the beach holding a spartina

I rushed in the door of my apartment just now to make coffee…. and to write about my day. I just got home from planting spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs in Rulers Bar Island in Jamaica Bay with the American Littoral Society and Ecowatchers. I had signed up for this event last weekend but the weather was rough and the event had been canceled. I was really looking forward to getting out to the marsh this morning.

Thankfully, the A train service has been fully restored to the Far Rockaways and my commute was easy. After I got there I found out my commute would have been easier on the bus. Eh, at least I got there. I got off at the Broad Channel stop and luckily I found a fellow volunteer and a few nice residents to help navigate us to the meeting point. Along the way we noticed the remnants of the damage that Hurricane Sandy  had in that community. Even now I can’t believe it’s been 7 months since the hurricane devastated the coast. It was still a sharp pull on the heart to see broken porches and boarded up windows. I didn’t see a coffee shop on the way though.

Shortly after we met with the group and signed in we took a small boat over to Rulers Bar Island where the planting had already been started at an earlier time.

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First, you are probably wondering who the  American Littoral Society is. On their website it states, “The American Littoral Society promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same.” So, they do good.

First, the plants that were grown from seeds harvested last year from that very same island location needed to be transported by boat to the small island. Once on the island volunteers such as myself pulled out the spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs out of the plastic containers. Then the plugs are planted into deep holes that are evenly spaced out on the ground. The time we had before high tide seemed short but I feel like we got a lot of work done today. According to what I remember hearing this island had little sand  and a full growth of spartina plants before the hurricane swept through last year. They have 6,850 plugs spartina plugs to plant this season. So, as you see, there is still a lot of work to be done.

The restoration of the marsh is ongoing and volunteers from many groups including NYC Audubon, NYC Sierra Club, NYCDEC, FDNY Explorers, NYC Green Team, Linnaean Society of NY, and South Shore Audubon are working non stop each day planting spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs.

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Once I started working, some of the volunteers started talking and sharing their stories of how they were affected by Hurricane Sandy and how they have survived the process of rebuilding homes and their lives. I don’t live in the Rockaways or on the coast but this area has become a big part of my life for kayaking, beach cleaning, hiking, and enjoying the beach. I can’t even begin to imagine what some of these people have gone through in the months following the hurricane. BUT, I see the part that holds them strong because even though some residents are still rebuilding their homes and replacing all their belongings they are on the beach here today; bare feet squished in the wet sand and big smiles on their faces while planting little spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs in the sand  one hole at a time hoping to restore the ecology of the bay and bring the birds back to nest and finish restoring the place they will always call HOME.

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If you are interested in learning more about becoming involved with the American Littoral Society go to http://www.littoralsociety.org/. They have a ton of information on their website about their programs, events, and how to become a member or volunteer.

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The weather was perfect summer day, 80 degrees with a slight breeze. It was a perfect day to go to the beach. It was the perfect day to be a volunteer.

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I left the event feeling a bit overwhelmed though. I met so many amazing people with heartwarming stories of their hurricane survival; talked to members of the ecowatchers and American Littoral Society that taught me a lot about the ecology of the bay and dedicate their time to important issues to save this coastal region. I barely had time to talk to everyone and I nobody brought coffee. BUT, I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer in this area and see everyone again soon! why? because it makes me HAPPY! :)

I received a very nice THANK YOU email from the American Littoral Society for volunteering with them on June 1. They had 250 volunteers go to the Ruler’s Bar segment of the Marsh Restoration Initiative to help restore the ecosystem by planting spartina alterniflora bulbs in the four weekends available. A total of 22,000 spartina alterniflora marsh grass plugs were planted!