VALPARAISO — An AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team completed a three-week service project at Taltree Arboretum & Gardens.
The NCCC team of nine from the North Central Region campus in Vinton, Iowa, worked with Taltree Arborist Craig Gress and Taltree Horticulturalist George Reid to thin the nonprofit’s reforestation area, remove overgrown foliage adjacent to the Heron Pond, clear a portion of the Native Plant Garden and clear and replant a portion of the Pavilion Garden.
Through their service, NCCC members provided the nonprofit environmental organization with much-needed labor to complete projects that otherwise would have not been completed this summer. The work is essential to the health and well-being of the native landscape on the 330- acre property.
“NCCC worked in our oak reforestation area, which was planted by our founder Damien Gabis in 1998,” Gress said. “They provided a much-needed thinning which will help with the health and well-being of the area we’ve been trying to reestablish. This work will go a long way to educate the public as well on the importance of returning the land to its native habitat.”
“This is the best crew we’ve ever hard,” Reid said. “We would never have been able to get these projects done this year without them. If we were to work on this ourselves, it would have taken almost a month of labor with just the horticulture staff alone working in the gardens. Their help is valuable in many ways.”
AmeriCorps NCCC members said they enjoyed their time at Taltree, which included sleeping in tents on the Taltree grounds for the duration of their stay.
“I liked being so close to nature,” Graham Hardman, 20, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, said of his experience serving with AmeriCorps NCCC at Taltree. “It’s really hard to find a location nowadays like this that is just so peaceful.”
Raquel Reynolds, 19, of Loveland, Colorado, said she gained knowledge and experience she didn’t expect to find while working with AmeriCorps NCCC.
“I’ve always done volunteer work as a kid and growing up, so I thought this would be an opportunity to do something while I figure out my next steps,” Reynolds said. “I learned good leadership skills, people skills, how to cook.”
Hardman said the experience changed him.
“I remember who I was when I first got here and I’m not that person anymore,” Hardman said.