Catalina Island News

Hispanic Volunteer Event a Success

Catalina Island Conservancy

Bear Opah, a White Mountain Apache, knows that becoming a Conservancy volunteer will add to his knowledge of the Island he and his wife Susan have come to love. A tour bus driver for the Island Company, Opah is eager to learn more about the Island, which he says will increase his effectiveness as a tour guide. "I've had very good training on what can be seen along the road, but I always wondered what was just over that hill," he said.  "I want to experience the outdoors, hike and get back into shape," he grinned.

Opah and a crowd of about 80 residents and visitors had an opportunity on Friday, Oct. 9, to sign up as Conservancy volunteers in a festive atmosphere at the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon, enjoying fresh-grilled Mexican fare and music served up by Los Menchanjeros. In all, the Conservancy added 25 new volunteers to its rolls, said Lesly Lieberman, Individual Volunteer Coordinator. "I am very pleased with the turnout," Lieberman said. "I am glad so many members of the community heard the message of volunteerism."

While the program continued with presentations from Conservancy staff and volunteers, Rich "Mr. Z" Zanelli took the kids on a short nature hike where they searched for bats and other creepy crawly denizens of the night.

Back at the presentation, Armando Pimentel, a Conservancy volunteer with more than 1,800 lifetime hours of service, and co-host of the event, spoke of the vast beauty of the Island's interior and the opportunity to help protect and restore the hundreds of species of plants native to Catalina, including those that are endemic, meaning they are found here and nowhere else. He talked about the endangered Catalina Island fox and the more than 50 species of endemic animals including birds, reptiles and insects that call Catalina home. "Cars are a challenge on the Island-not everyone has one," he said. "If you get involved with the Conservancy, you can see all of these things. The Conservancy will take you there."

Rosa Vega is coordinator of the Conservancy's Families in Nature program that takes entire families out into the interior on select Saturdays September through May. She said that volunteering for the Conservancy is a good way to become friends with more people.
"There is so much satisfaction," she says. "It's not just picking up trash off the beach; we are forming a family to help protect the Island. The Conservancy gives us so much."

Ezequiel Perez, an Islander for 33 years, and his wife Elvira, who has lived here for 21 years, were eager to sign up as volunteers. "Going to the beach and cleaning it up sounds like fun to me," Perez said.

Miguel Chavoya said he volunteered last year, and was signing up for another year. He said he was particularly interested in working at the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Nursery where he enjoys repotting trees and shrubs. "It is a lot of fun," he said.

Although volunteers are not paid, they can "exchange" their time. If a volunteer accumulates their volunteer time year after year, that time (at a value of 50 cents per hour) can be exchanged in credit form for any gift items in the Conservancy's Explore Store. This includes Wildlands Express shuttle passes, Jeep(r) Eco-Tours, and memberships that include Free-Wheeler Bike Passes into the interior.

In 2009, Conservancy volunteers devoted more than 23,000 hours to protecting and restoring Catalina Island. "The value of these hours is more than $455,000 of paid labor," said Scott Dennis, Director of Volunteer and Visitors Services. "Volunteers make it possible for us to accomplish our mission far beyond what our regular budgets would allow."

Mel Dinkel, the Conservancy's Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer, told the crowd, "Without our volunteers, we couldn't do our jobs."

Lesly Lieberman thanks to all who made the event a success, including: Antonio Aguirre, Lenny Altherr, Christie Collins, Deedee Conner, Carlos de la Rosa, Scott Dennis, Mel Dinkel, Andrew Estrado, Carman and Donald Findlay, William Flickinger, Frank Hein, Angel Hernandez, Dan and Mary Hirst, Len Hoogstad, Alexa Johnson, Cindy Rinehart Lazaris, Cynthia Lopez, Nancy McAllister, Shaun McCoshum, Mi Casita, Denise Pereya, Salvador Perez, Armando Pimentel, Sarah Ratay, Bob Rhein, Roy Rose, Jose Silva, Eduardo Sotello, Jose Soto, Rosie Taylor, Alfredo Tejada, The Landing, Chris Todd, Rosa Vega and Rich Zanelli.