By Jenny Coyle
On the heels of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the New Jersey Red Cross, Blood Bank and Food Bank tapped into a large and enthusiastic volunteer base: the 23,000-member New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. They contacted chapter coordinator Lori Herpen, who sent out a mass e-mail alert asking for help as needed.
"I got more than 900 messages back - so many that I was overwhelmed and had to bring in some volunteer office help," Herpen says. Then the Red Cross more specifically requested that members donate sleeping bags and tents for emergency relief workers to use in New York City.
"We got dozens of sleeping bags and tents right away, and our members wondered what other gear we might need - lanterns, air mattresses. Gear can be expensive, but they were quite willing to give it up," she says. The Shore and Loantaka groups also held food drives.
When the call for sleeping bags and tents went out over the Sierra Club's national e-mail activist network, Sierra Club Currents, a new wave of equipment started coming in.
"Some people from Oregon sent their stuff by overnight delivery," Herpen says, "and just this morning I heard from a guy in Texas who dug his sleeping bag out of the garage, washed it, aired it out and was ready to send it. People have just been so kind."
To find out if items are still needed, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Military Skills Help Protect Wild Places
As a U.S. Marine, Tom Arnold learned how to gather information behind enemy lines.
Now a civilian in Montana, he's teaching Sierra Club members how to scout areas torn up by renegade off-road-vehicle users in Gallatin National Forest, which borders Yellowstone National Park.
"When I got out of the Marines two years ago, I had a dream of starting an 'ecological reconnaissance' team, using my military skills for the earth," says Arnold, age 25, whose grandfather used to videotape the damage done by motorcycles in elk habitat.
With snowshoes or skis on his feet, Arnold has recorded snowmobile damage by photographing smashed vegetation, dumped fuel and erosion in areas off-limits to ORVs. In June, he began teaching Sierra Club members how to document damage so they can survey the Gallatin, a critical wolf and grizzly habitat. Arnold hopes to develop a training model that can be used nationwide.
(For information on starting a monitoring program in your area, contact Margot Higgins in the Montana field office at email@example.com.)
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