volunteers

Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Lynn Keller

UConn CAHNR Extension typically holds Bug Week in July; however, this year Extension has designated July as Bug Month. The UConn Extension Master Gardeners and Master Gardener interns participate. Bug Month is an educational outreach activity that promotes insects in the environment (bugs.uconn.edu/). Volunteers like Dr. Lynn Keller make this educational event fun and successful. In order to become a Master Gardener people need to attend and complete the Master Gardener program that includes coursework, office hours, and community service. The training allows them to become knowledgeable about various gardening topics.

Lynn Keller in her gardenLynn heard about the UConn Extension Master Gardener program many years ago and completed the program in 2019. She learned about a volunteer opportunity to assist with Bug Week from Gail Reynolds, the Middlesex County Master Gardener program coordinator. Lynn enjoyed her entomology (study of insects) classes in college while studying to be a veterinarian. She also enjoyed the entomology class offered by the Master Gardener program and felt like it would be a good fit for her interests.

As a volunteer, Lynn works with various program leaders to coordinate dates and events during Bug Month in July. These activities include bug kits for youth, photo contests, and educational activities. Part of her role includes finding new leaders for these programs and ensuring they have the proper resources as well as creating content for the Bug Month website (bugs.uconn.edu/). New programs are suggested every year, and Lynn works with the team to implement them in addition to fundraising and finding sponsors. She also promotes Bug Month by writing articles and participating in local radio shows.

Bug Month is designed for family participation, and Lynn enjoys educating families on the importance of insects in our lives. She says, “If we didn’t have insects, we wouldn’t have pollination, which would result in missing out on many of our favorite foods.” Her volunteer work is making an impact because adults and children are learning more about the “integral role that insects play in the food web and in our environment.” She also notes that this program provides suggestions for simple steps families can take to improve beneficial insect habitats in their yards and communities.

One of Lynn’s favorite memories from her time as an Extension volunteer is at Bug Week events in 2019. Many children attended the event at the Tolland Agricultural Center and were excited to participate in the fun activities. Lynn enjoyed seeing the children’s enthusiasm while they were looking at bugs under a microscope and learning about them. She also enjoys continuing her education on native plants and insects which allows her to share this information with family and friends. Her advice to new volunteers is to find an opportunity that you are passionate about and use that passion to make a positive difference in our communities.

The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program started in 1978 and consists of horticulture training and an outreach component that focuses on the community at large. Master Gardeners devote thousands of hours to organized community outreach projects each year. The Master Gardener program also offers Garden Master Classes for our volunteers and interested members of the general public. More information on the program and classes are available at mastergardener.uconn.edu.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Larry Pennington  

Larry PenningtonUConn Extension is celebrating National Volunteer Week! Volunteers dedicate time to their communities, and we appreciate their contributions to make Extension programs successful. Dr. Larry Pennington is one of these people who embodies what a volunteer should be. He has volunteered his time for 23 years to UConn 4-H and his club, the First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club. He enjoys volunteering his time and states, “just to know that I played a small role in their lives as they grew up, is so comforting and gives me great pride.”

Dr. Pennington started his 4-H club in 1998 with the goal of introducing young people to the veterinary science profession. He fills many roles as a volunteer working with youth. He is a leader, teacher, coordinator, and his favorite, a very proud advisor. He enjoys volunteering through 4-H because it has allowed him to stay connected with youth. Dr. Pennington is no stranger to  Extension’s 4-H program; he grew up participating in Ohio 4-H.

After two decades of service Dr. Pennington has truly made an impact on the lives of 4-Hers and the community. His4-H club members at a parade club has done numerous community service projects such as bringing pets to visit senior citizens in nursing homes and providing low-cost Rabies Vaccination Clinics locally. Dr. Pennington’s advice to Extension volunteers is to follow your heart. He also mentions the benefits of volunteering, including increased self-confidence and happiness. He states, “Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity, as it has with me.”

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

June Zoppa Wins the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award

June ZoppaUConn 4-H has selected June Zoppa, a 46-year volunteer of the UConn 4-H Program as the Connecticut nominee for the National 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award. She won the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award and now moves on to compete nationally.

June Zoppa is an integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County Connecticut. She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association, and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc, Board of Trustees, while serving as a 4-H club leader. As new volunteers join the committees and boards, June has grown from their new ideas and ways of executing programming or operations. New and experienced volunteers speak about June’s ability to sensitively work through challenges and create innovative solutions that propel Hartford County 4-H towards reaching its goals and achieving its mission.

She is selfless in the time she gives to many aspects of the 4-H Program affecting thousands of youth on an annual basis. She is a go-to volunteer and her contributions to the Hartford County 4-H Program will continue to positively impact generations of UConn 4-H’ers for years to come.

June has served as a 4-H Fair Association Advisor since 2002. In this role, she mentors and empowers officers as they plan and implement the Hartford County 4-H Fair. June regularly serves as an Advisor for Fair Ad Hoc and subcommittees. As a member of the 4-H Advisory Board, June organized and procured items for the annual silent auction. June also served as the committee’s treasurer for 21 years and currently and serves as Committee Chair.

Her pragmatic approach allows the 4-Hers to take charge of the tasks at hand but is hands on in many of the Fair’s aspects up to and including spending the entire week prior to the fair ensuring its success.

The 4-H Camp Board of Trustees has benefitted from her expertise with stocking and promoting the camp store and annual Camp T-shirt design. June has sat on many Camp committees such as Staff Procurement, Maintenance and Special Events volunteering wherever she’s needed to make sure the 4-H campers have a safe and happy summer. In the over 30 years of her Camp Board involvement, June has attended almost every spring and fall work weekend ensuring that the over 1200+ campers and 200 teen counselors have a positive 4-H camp experience.

June’s 4-H Club “4-H Clovers” is in East Hartford. Zoppa Studios expanded their facilities building a ‘4-H Room’ where they host weekly club meetings and county committee meetings (Fair, Camp, and Advisory), as well as providing storage space while absorbing all expenses (utilities, storage, etc.). June follows UConn 4-H protocols to minimize risk and ensure the safety of all 4-H members.

June dedication extends to the local community. For example, her club assembles, bakes and delivers pies to local shelters for the Thanksgiving holiday. Numerous volunteers, who June recruited, have served for decades and continue their commitment to community service and employ the leadership skills they honed with June in their professional role.

June bleeds 4-H green and consistently demonstrates a professional attitude. June is a tireless advocate for all 4-Hers. She leads by example and never boasts or takes credit for her many accomplishments. She has a focus on doing what is right for youth, even if it requires more effort or energy. She is a well-respected volunteer throughout the county and state.

Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes “June’s life-long dedication to the UConn 4-H Program at a highly engaged level is highly commendable and has made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of 4-H members.” Fellow Hartford County 4-H Volunteer, Aimee Gilbert recognizes “June’s gentle spirit and strong dedication to the program help her connect with the youth members providing a positive experience. The youth members enjoy working with and learning from June as an advisor/mentor/leader.”

As the UConn 4-H nominee, June won the Northeast Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award and will now be competing nationally.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Rachael Manzer Wins the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award

Rachael ManzerRachael Manzer, a five-year volunteer with UConn’s Granby 4-H Club of Granby, a UConn 4-H Alum, and former NASA astronaut teacher, won the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year after being selected by UConn. Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes, “Rachael’s dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of 4-H youth has greatly expanded the STEM opportunities for 4-H Members and promoted UConn 4-H to new audiences.” Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H. She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H VEX Robotics Program in New England. Rachael’s efforts have not only expanded 4-H programming throughout New England (CT and MA) members participate, but also increased the visibility of UConn 4-H on the national level as the team participated at the World Competition and the NASA Cubes in Space Competition.

This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success. In 2015, she started 4-H Robotics with participants who had no idea how to build and program robots. After only one year, the VEX Robotics Project group expanded to include a competition team and a high school VEX Robotics Project group. The team qualified for the World VEX competitions three times! All of the teams have qualified this year for the Southern New England Championship and are hoping to yet again earn a spot at the World Championship.

Mrs. Manzer creates opportunities for 4-H’ers to go beyond the robotic competitions to share what 4-H STEM is all about. This program has done workshops for preservice teachers, led build your own robots at local libraries, and done demonstrations for the general public at the 5th largest fair in the United States.

Her enthusiasm for STEM is infectious and every 4-H’er feels important. Rachael dedicates a large amount of time to 4-H throughout the year teaching 4-H’ers how to think, not what to think, and that you learn by failure. She focuses on workforce readiness skills in communication, listening, time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Rachael regularly works with the youth on public speaking, marketing, and financial operations in order to prepare the members for the various roles they encounter as a team member. They work closely with the youth in planning and implementing the building of the robot, public speaking presentations, fundraising and various community service demonstrations with the robot. The 4-H youth in her project group shared, “Mrs. Manzer is extremely dedicated to the robotics team and its members. She is constantly cheering for us, both inside of the robotics environment and out. Her encouragement has impacted us greatly.” She is growing future leaders in 4-H, STEM, and Agriculture.

Rachael Manzer’s innovation shined as she was able to keep the 4-H robotics program going during COVID-19 following safety protocols. For many of the 4-H’ers, 4-H Robotics was the only interaction with others they had outside the home.

Rachael also led an additional project group for youth who were interested in developing a science experiment to send into space. Three projects were submitted by Granby 4-H and all were selected to fly into space, in June 2018. These projects provided youth with the opportunity to work as a team, design experiments, apply scientific knowledge, and deliver a public presentation at NASA. Rachael’s impact on programming and youth is literally out of this world!

Rachael Manzer, a 4-H alumna of the Litchfield County 4-H Club, grew up showing beef cattle. 4-H gave so much to her, her goal was to give back to the organization. As Mrs. Manzer stated, “4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career.” Rachael Manzer is a nationally awarded educator. Currently she is the STEM Coach for Winchester Public Schools. Mrs. Manzer has experience as an educator working in both suburban and urban schools in Connecticut. She also worked in the education department at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. In that role, she worked with scientists, astronauts and engineers delivering the latest breakthroughs in STEM to teachers and students across the United States.

Rachael competed against nominees from the other northeast states for the Northeast Volunteer of the Year Award. She is moving forward for consideration as the National Volunteer of the Year Award.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, civic engagement, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Highlights of Extension

Highlights of Extension spread of images and articlesUConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time. All of our educators are working and serving their audiences.

Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment. The Highlights of Extension annual report showcases program achievements from the past year.

Our Extension faculty and staff are effectively responding to the new challenges as well. They are utilizing technology and mobilizing resources to help families, communities, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders. For example, our extension specialists and 4-H volunteers are helping distribute thousands of gallons of dairy products weekly to families in need throughout the state. There are many other examples of how the CAHNR family is responding to help our communities.

Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate

The Highlights of Extension annual report is available online at https://bit.ly/ExtensionHighlights and we invite you to learn more about CAHNR Extension at https://cahnr.uconn.edu/extension/.

Thank You, Volunteers!

collage of photos with UConn Extension volunteers smiling at the camera that says thank you in the middleThank you, volunteers! It’s National Volunteer Week, and we want to thank all of our volunteers who help us provide programs in all 169 Connecticut municipalities. Last year, our volunteers donated 207,887 hours valued at $5.3 million to Extension programs, a 25% increase over 2018.

Our volunteers shifted to virtual programming with us when COVID-19 arrived and continue to serve our communities. This week and every week, we appreciate your contributions to our Extension programs. Learn more about our volunteer opportunities at https://cahnr.uconn.edu/extension/volunteer/.

 

CT Trail Census 2019 Data Reports & New Projects in 2020

CT trail census logo

The University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension is pleased to release the latest data on how several of the state’s most popular multi-use trails are being used, and to announce new initiatives the Connecticut Trail Census program is launching in its fourth year. “Connecticut’s trails are among the state’s most scenic and enduring assets,” observed Charles Tracy, coordinator for the Trail Census. “With three years of data collection complete, we now have a much clearer picture of trail use trends on several of the state’s major multi-use trails. New projects in 2020 will leverage existing data to estimate use on other trails, and to help us understand the statewide impacts, including health and economic benefits, of Connecticut’s diverse trails network.”

Data released today includes Trail Census summaries of the 2019 Trail Counts and Trail User Surveys along with an analysis of the impact of the new Hop River Trail connection to Manchester and East Hartford. The Trail Counts report documented 1,544,158 uses or trips recorded across all 20 sites. The most heavily used trails during 2019 were the Naugatuck River Greenway in Derby, Riverfront Recapture Trail in Hartford, and the Hop River Trail in Vernon. The Trail User Survey report found that the majority of trail users visit them frequently: 64.7% use the trails two or more times per week (in 2018 this was 55.7%). The Hop River Trail report showed how a new 3-mile trail connection was the catalyst for an increase in over 10,000 users in one year.  

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Trail Census projects getting underway in 2020 include research to estimate use on other trails by combining existing Trail Census data and short-term counts; a multi-state conference on bicycle and pedestrian data collection; a new data visualization portal; and preliminary work on creating a statewide trails website, based on similar sites in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program that operates on trails across the state. The program collects information about trail use through trail use counts recorded by infrared counters and user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers. The goal is to develop an accurate picture of who uses trails in Connecticut, and to advance and inform new trail policy, design and construction throughout the state. Data is compiled annually and is available online and through public education programs. 

Initiated in 2017 as a partnership between UConn Extension, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, the Connecticut Greenways Council, and local trails advocacy organizations, the Trail Census has expanded to over 20 data collection sites on trails across the state.  The program receives funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program. For more information or to get involved visit www.cttrailcensus.uconn.edu.

Report links

2019 Trail Counts (https://bit.ly/2vuHwS0) 

2019 Trail User Surveys (https://bit.ly/2QqqlIF)  

2019 Hop River Trail (https://bit.ly/3d9uBpI)

CT Trail Census Update

CT Trail Census logo

Greetings, trail folks! As seasons change and everyone debates which one is the best, we here at the CT Trail Census (CTTC) realized that thanks to last year’s CTTC volunteer participants, we actually do have data with which to rank the seasons with!

Trail use data, of course!

So here it goes: According to last year’s data, the average total daily uses across all trails during the summer was 336 versus 221 in the fall. This may surprise people since fall is such a beautiful time to use the trails for walking, running, horseback riding, and almost any activity besides skiing! We should probably compare these numbers to next year’s data before we make any hefty conclusions about which season is the best.

Show us know how you enjoy the trails in the fall! Tag Connecticut Trail Census on Facebook with your fall trail photos!

Fall Data Update
While volunteer teams continue to hit their local trails and greenways counting and intercepting the autumn trail users, CTTC staff are busy travelling the state, enjoying the views of the foliage while checking on the IR counters and downloading the IR counter trail use data from the summer.  To date, we have received over 700 surveys! Considering it is only October not all sites have sent surveys yet, we are well on our way to exceeding last year’s total of 1,003 surveys!
As a reminder, please send us any completed surveys once you have around 100 and don’t forget to include a Data Summary & Refusal Form with each group of surveys. 
Any & all surveys should be completed and sent in the mail by the end of the month.
Behind the Scenes
If you catch us not on the road, you will most likely find us hard at work behind computers crunching numbers and compiling resources for our application to continue the program using funds from the Connecticut Recreational Trails Plan Program. This process has lead us to think a lot about the future and we are excited about what we have come up with. Our goals involve program expansions and alterations that we hope will only improve the Trail Census. We will keep you posted!

A Positive Approach to Service

volunteers
Master Gardener volunteers at an event.

Our UConn Extension Master Gardener volunteers are located in each of the eight county Extension centers, and at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. Master Gardener volunteers donate their time each year to answer horticultural-related questions for the community.

In May, Gail Reynolds, our Master Gardener Coordinator at the office in Haddam received this letter from Carol of Chester, Connecticut:

Dear Ms. Reynolds, 

I am writing to make you aware of the exceptional service I received at the Extension program on May 26, 2017 when I brought an insect sample to your office. Your volunteer employees, Kenneth Sherrick, Susan Goodall, and Liz Duffy could not have been more motivated and interested in identifying the specimen and providing me with appropriate information. These employees exhibited a level of energy and competency that I have honestly never encountered in either a public service or private setting. Together they critically analyzed the resource materials, collaborated effectively to identify the specimen, and patiently explained their findings. They were sincere, welcoming, and friendly. My issue was positively resolved in a short time.

Certainly, we are all used to accessing public and private services – libraries, post offices, school systems, doctor’s offices – and we are accustomed to a particular, acceptable standard of service. But when one encounters a greater level of service, a higher degree of motivation, and a overwhelmingly positive approach to service it is remarkable indeed. These three volunteers operate in excellence, and they exceeded my expectations in every regard. You are quite fortunate to have them!

Sincerely,

Carol

Visit our Master Gardener program at http://mastergardener.uconn.edu.

Statewide Multi-Use Trail User Study

A statewide multi-use trail user study and volunteer data collection program

By Laura Brown
trail iconThe Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide multi-use trail user study and volunteer data collection program on 15 multi-use trails. The goals are to understand when, who, how, and why people make use of Connecticut’s multi-use trails, educate leaders and general public about trails and their impacts, promote resident participation in monitoring, and encourage sound trail building and maintenance programs based on data. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program funds the project, and partners include UConn’s Center for Land Use Education Action and Research, the Connecticut Greenways Council and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments. More information including volunteer information, interactive maps, and data can be found on at the program website http://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu