Written by Shane Dermanjian, Outreach AmeriCorps Member, Year 18
So it looks like I will be the author of the first blog post of Year 18. Let me tell you why, one month in, I already think this AmeriCorps program is the bee’s knees and why I feel like I am right where I want to be. I was initially hesitant to apply to any AmeriCorps program because I was unsure how I felt about leaving behind all of my friends back home. I had also originally envisioned working at a for-profit company after graduating just based off my past work experience. I had studied abroad albeit for only for three months and had a very limited knowledge base pertaining to environmental and disaster relief issues, but something in my mind clicked and I knew I had to do this program. The desire to help my community and fully immerse myself in a year of service ultimately outweighed these concerns. I drove up from home, walked into the Harborview Conference Room at the Barnstable County Complex where we all gathered on the first day, and have not looked back since.
Looking back, it did not even take the entirety of the first month to feel at home. Everyone was incredibly excited to meet each other and we all shared a common goal of wanting to make this a positive experience. On our own we had all already liked to “get things done” per the AmeriCorps motto, so it was only natural that as a team we could get even more things done. I think that the teamwork aspect of my time on the Cape so far deserves the most attention. Even while sitting in Harborview for training, I still feel like we are learning as a team. If I were to forget a certain aspect of training while in the field, I am absolutely certain that another team member would have my back and come through where I could not and vice-versa. An AmeriCorps team is no ordinary one. Again, we all share the desire to “get things done”. This community-minded focus moves us in the right direction not only to help our community on the Cape, but to make our own little Bourne house community the best it could possibly be. This is why I feel at home and why I look forward to seeing the face of each of my housemates every day–we all genuinely care and that is hard to come by.
A great way to reduce the effects of stormwater is through absorbing the nutrient rich runoff in a rain garden. Rain gardens facilitate groundwater recharge, thereby reducing the stress put on water bodies through preventing excess nutrients from being carried into the water bodies during storm events.
AmeriCorps member, Ben Howard in partnership with the Brewster Ponds Coalition developed the following walkthrough document to encourage community members to seek permission to install rain gardens on strategic properties. The document helps the citizen to navigate all the steps and forms that make up the Request for Determination of Applicability process when making landscape changes in potentially ecologically sensitive areas. While some details are specific to Brewster, the guide should prove useful to citizens of other communities, too.
View document HERE
Saturday, June 25 10AM to 1PM. Free.
Join us for this year’s Highlands Fest! The theme, “Spreading Wings,” is inspired by Highlands Center’s location on the sea cliffs of the North Atlantic Flyway. Millions of birds rely on this majestic slice of the Outer Cape to breed, feed, and thrive, migrating over the salt marshes and windblown dunes and plains. “Spreading Wings” also captures the symbolism of the Highlands Center partner’s opportunity to take flight and flourish, and mutual interest to inspire and educate people of all ages, abilities, and ethnicities about the important role of birds in our ecosystem. These themes will be expressed through ceramic sculpture, storytelling, mural painting, dance, music, and education.
Highlands Fest is an annual celebration of the Highlands Center at Cape Cod National Seashore by its partner organizations: Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Cape Cod National Seashore, Payomet Performing Arts Center, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Sustainable CAPE, and Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.
Come soar with us and our action packed afternoon! This year’s line-up includes:
• Payomet – Music, magic, and circus
• Cape Cod National Seashore & AmeriCorps Cape Cod – Mural painting
• Sustainable Cape – Seedling plantings
• Castle Hill – Clay bird creation
• Mass Audubon – Bird walk and talk
Highlands Center is located at 43 Old Dewline Road in North Truro.
Written by Britta Dornfeld, AmeriCorps Member placed at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic Systems Testing Center.
December 17, 2015, had been rainy and cool. I’d been outside taking water measurements all day with my Individual Placement, and the damp chill seeped into my bones. So when the call came late in the afternoon to go back outside to release dolphins five minutes after I’d finally gotten comfortable and dry, I was less than enthused.
Still, the dolphins needed help, so I headed to Scusset Beach in Sandwich to help with the evening release. Despite the unpleasant weather, the rescue organization, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was well prepared to keep all the AmeriCorps members helping with the release cozy, dry, and safe. As soon as we were all assembled, Jori, the AmeriCorps member placed at IFAW, got us suited up in dry suits, which reminded me of the suits that the Ghostbusters wore. Nothing, no water, no ghosts, and no sand, was going to get at me!
All the AmeriCorps rescuers in our super fancy dry suits!
Once I got the dry suit on, my mood picked up. I was going to help release three dolphins — how many people could say they’ve done that? We prepared the beach, putting down large mats to set the dolphins on before we brought them into the sea. I couldn’t help to think how awesome this experience was as I tromped through the rain to place the mats on the dark beach.
Finally, the time came to release the dolphins. There was a single female, and what appeared to be a mother-calf pair. We placed the dolphins into special dolphin stretchers and loaded them onto custom-made dolphin carts to transport them safely and comfortably to the beach. Once the dolphins were assembled, teams were assigned to each of them and the release began. My team of eight worked with the mother dolphin. We picked up her stretcher and walked out into the ocean until we were waist deep in water. We waited, allowing her and the calf to acclimate to the water, before removing the stretcher and letting her swim away.
This is what dolphins look like pre-release. Since this rescue occurred at night, a good photo was not taken. Photo provided by IFAW, from their archives.
The most stressful part of the rescue was making sure the dolphin’s blowhole stayed above water the entire time we had her in the stretcher. Every time a wave came in, we had to lift her up to ensure her top stayed nice and dry until she acclimated and could lift her head on her own. In a way, it reminded me of my day. I’d been struggling to keep my own mood up throughout the day, but all I’d needed was help from a few friends (human and otherwise) to get my attitude back in the right place. Sometimes keeping a positive attitude about service in AmeriCorps can be difficult. When you’re struggling, you need to remember that this team of members is here with you to support you and help you keep your spirits high and dry.
Please note all activities described in this article were conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader
How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?
Why not come on down to the Cape Cod Canal and celebrate with Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod and the US Army Corps of Engineers? On April 23rd from 10am to 2pm, our organization is teaming up with the US Army Corps of Engineers for our 16th Annual Canal Clean Up event.
We Need YOUR Help! Yes, YOU!
Volunteers are needed for various projects, the majority of which will be picking up trash along the canal to keep it beautiful for the many people who walk, bike, and fish there! Volunteer groups who contact us prior to the event will be assigned to other projects along the canal, including building pollinator boxes, expanding a butterfly garden, and maintaining the brush around a herring run.
Volunteer registration will begin at 9:30am at the Buzzards Bay Recreation Area (parking behind Krua Thai, 100 Main Street Buzzards Bay). Volunteers are provided with a light breakfast, pizza for lunch, and all the supplies needed for each project, including gloves and bags for trash. The event will kick off at 10am and end at 2pm, with entertainment like educational booths and activities for all ages!
If you’re interested in volunteering as a group or have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-375-6906– we hope to see you there!
Written by Matthew Moser, AmeriCorps member placed at the Dennis Conservation Trust
I knew where I was going when I joined Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod. I knew there was going to be tons of water all around me and beaches around every corner of the land. However, what I didn’t know was how magically beautiful Cape Cod was going to be.
Waves at Coast Guard Beach, Eastham.
The first day I arrived at the Wellfleet House, some of us went out to visit a pond not far from our new home. The water was peaceful, except for some disturbance made by swimmers, and the view was just breathtaking. I have yet to realize that there was far more where that came from.
Sunsets in Wellfleet and Eastham.
In September, ACC had its first retreat of the year. We were housed at a Cape Cod National Seashore house, not far from Coast Guard Beach. The next morning, I went for a walk on the beach. The waves gently crashed against the shore, birds were hanging out in the water, and even the seals seemed to enjoy the early morning sun. The setting was perfect.
Dennis oyster farm.
Seals at the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader
Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod teams up with Cape Cod National Seashore for 100th Anniversary!
National Volunteer Week 2016 is approaching fast!
That means we’re looking to encourage anyone and everyone to seek out ways to become engaged in their communities. Living on the Cape – you’re in luck! AmeriCorps Cape Cod is collaborating with the Cape Cod National Seashore for the National Park Service’s Centennial and to help get the seashore up and running for this coming summer season.
The week kicks off on Monday, April 11th, 2016 in Wellfleet at various sites including Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, and Marconi Beach. Tuesday and Wednesday the service will head to Provincetown at the Province Lands Visitor Center and then to Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove Beach. Towards the end of the week, volunteers will serve in Truro at the Highlands Center and in Eastham at the Salt Pond Visitors Center. These projects will include a variety of work, such as painting, weeding parking lots, planting beach grass, installing fencing, and trail maintenance.
At the conclusion of the week, on Friday, April 15th, the National Seashore and Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod will host a Volunteer Recognition Event at the Salt Pond Visitor Center with food and games as a thank you to all those who volunteered their time throughout the week!
This National Volunteer Week project is made possible through a grant written by the Barnstable County Resource Development Office and funded by the Massachusetts Service Alliance and Barnstable County.
Sign up for volunteer shifts on Eventbrite.
There are lots to choose from!
If you have any questions, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you there!
Written by Rosie Manzo, Bourne House Member Leader
Thank you to all those who donated their lights and held a collection site!
After a little over of a month, the Holiday Light Recycling Drive was able to save 573 pounds of holiday string lights from heading to the landfill. These lights were brought to a local metal recycling shop in Hyannis, where the copper and other metals inside the strings are scrapped and recycled. Ideally, the entire strand can be separated and recycled (i.e. glass, plastic, metal) and there are organizations who will do this! Here are some resources for your future holiday recycling needs.
Cape Light Compact, a local Cape Cod energy services organization, generously donated new LED string lights to the raffle winners of the Holiday Lights Drive. CLC serves over 200,000 customers through various energy efficiency programs and initiatives, including helping their customers save with these LED holiday lights! For more information on their services visit their website at http://www.capelightcompact.org/
So is this really worth our time, going through the effort of recycling our lights? Well, after lighting up the holidays, Christmas and holiday lights are taken down and either stored away for next year or thrown in the trash to be replaced. To start with, landfill contribution from trashed holiday lights can pose a threat to wildlife as they can choke or get strangled, just as easily as animals are harmed by plastic can rings. Additionally, it can take anywhere from one hundred to over a thousand years for holiday lights to decompose, due to their plastic, metal, and glass composition.
With the arrival of newer and more efficient options for lighting, it makes sense to promote these products for the holiday season. Switching to LED lighting is beneficial for anyone hanging lights during the holidays, whether just on a Christmas tree, throughout the house or on a large intricate display outside. LED’s use about 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, pose less of a fire threat, are sturdier without using glass bulbs, and can shine for 10 years longer on average than incandescent bulbs.
Just a portion of the donated lights to be recycled.
To put it in perspective, a 6-foot Christmas tree will use about six 100-bulb strands. Lighting a railing and a few bushes and trees outside could run a homeowner another six (or more) 100-bulb strands. Based on these assumptions, throughout the holiday season, your home would use twelve 100-bulb strands and given an average daily use of 8 hours, your monthly lighting costs for these lights alone would be about an extra $44. Using LED holiday lights in the same scenario would cost about $7 for the month, an 84% savings! I used this Holiday Lighting Calculator to find these estimates.
Magnify these savings over the course of multiple holiday seasons and homeowners could end up saving hundreds of dollars! So why not save some money your next holiday season and spend it on something or someone you care about instead!
Written by Breanne Penkala, AmeriCorps member placed at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
“Can I flush you?”
This is one question I frequently get asked by students at the start of each WetFest event.
As the WetFest Coordinator, I get to wear this lovely costume.
WetFest is a daylong education festival to teach 4-6th graders about water and how to protect the Cape’s aquifer. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members facilitate activities about the physical properties of water, show how humans interact with water and suggest ways we can reduce our use of water. These activities range in difficulty and thrill, but the favorites always remain the same:
- Sea Turtle Rescue – A race to the finish to see which team can rescue sea creatures from oil spills the fastest and learn how to rehabilitate animals after an environmental disaster occurs
- Flush the Kids – A glance at the inside a “septic system” to understand the nitrogen levels in groundwater
- Edible Aquifer – A tasty treat comprised of ice, ice cream, soda, and sprinkles to demonstrate the different levels in our aquifer and what happens when it is polluted
- Bubble Booth – A look from inside a life-size bubble to learn about adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension of water
The day starts and ends with a skit that involves a large toilet, a rude dude that tries to dump oil on the ground, and a wizard who comes to the rescue to make sure we all learn how to protect our precious water supply. As the WetFest coordinator, I make sure the day goes smoothly by guiding students to open activities, making sure members have the materials they need to teach each activity, and answering any questions the teachers may have. I wear a toilet costume for good measure, hence, all of the weird questions I get from students about “flushing” me. I am by no means required to wear a huge toilet, but it definitely entertains the kids and the members get a kick out of it as well.
Members dress up to welcome the students to WetFest and perform the opening skit.
As the coordinator of this event, I do not get to facilitate an activity, but I thoroughly enjoy watching the other 25 members interact with the children and experience the enthusiasm and laughter from the students at each activity. At the end of each event, we know that our hard work pays off when the students commit to being “Groundwater Guardians” by promising to protect our water in any way they can. It is also encouraging to hear students say “my brother always leaves the faucet on when he brushes his teeth, but now I will make sure he shuts it off so he wastes less water”. Since September of 2015, we have already reached over 700 students through these interactive activities at WetFest, and we are excited to teach even more in the second half of our service year!