Thanks to Andrik Cardenas of the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership for the great photos!
A large and enthusiastic group took to the zoo for Wednesday’s Staff Volunteer Day, ready to do whatever was needed. As we peeled off into our work groups, zoo staff members were coy about who would be doing what—no cherry picking! I raised my hand for a task described as “manual labor,” which actually turned out to be relatively light work pulling weeds around an animal enclosure and an edible garden. I got to chat with some very fun co-workers from Development and Alumni Relations and the Faculty Assistants unit. As it turned out, our group had the lucky reward of feeding Romaine lettuce leaves to three giraffes.
Others performed true manual labor: moving massive piles of mulch in the sun. Some scooped camel poop, worked at the Savanna Aviary and Macaw Exhibit, helped with a horticulture project in the Children’s zoo, and created “enrichment” toys from recycled paper items for the animals.
Before we started, we were treated to a yummy zero-waste lunch. Organizers Tom Tripp, Danner Doud-Martin, and Christine Blaine, along with Helen Lai of the Green Team, ensured all items were compostable or recyclable. Our swag was even green: reusable Haas water bottles (single-use water bottles may be “recyclable,” but that takes lots of energy. Plus, many of them don’t ever get recycled).
Zoo CFO Nik Dehejia—who happens to be a Haas MBA grad—told us about the California Trail zoo expansion project, which will feature locally extinct animals such as wolves, mountain lions, grizzly bears and bald eagles. The project also includes removal of invasive plant species in Knowland Park and restoration of native grasslands.
All told, almost 90 volunteers pitched in for the zoo. Equally important are those who would have liked to join in, but had to hold down the fort on campus.
“I was thinking about what it means to volunteer: it’s about giving something up to give it to someone else,” COO Jo Mackness told the group. “You’re doing this today, and you’ll have to make up your work, but you’re giving it to the community. And that’s important.”