Being able to explore Colorado’s diverse and majestic landscape is one of the many perks of living in this great state. It’s also what inspired Debbie Overeynder to volunteer as a USDA Forest Service Representative after she retired from Aspen School District 1 in June 2006. Volunteering for the Forest Conservancy allows her to pursue her passion for hiking while providing opportunities to learn more about the geography, flora, and fauna of the White River National Forest.
Debbie volunteers about eight hours a week from late spring through early fall. She provides information to the Forest Conservancy such as how many hikers, backpackers, dogs, and bicyclists she encounters, and where problems exist like trees down across a trail. She also pulls from her experience as a teacher to help inform those on the trails.
“My role is to educate trail users on wilderness ethics and regulations in the White River National Forest,” shares Debbie. “I am often asked to identify wildlife, plants, and the geography of the area so, of course, the skills I gained as a teacher apply. We talk to people about things like why it is important to keep dogs on leashes in a wilderness area and why backpackers need to carry bear-proof canisters for their food in designated areas.”
Additionally, she has remained a lifelong learner by receiving training on some interesting topics as part of this volunteer opportunity.
Debbie says, “It is a fun, rewarding volunteer experience and we are provided excellent training opportunities. I’ve gotten to learn more about our local wildlife (moose, bears, birds, etc.), and the local ecological zones. I have especially had fun learning to identify wildflowers.”
By combining her interests and skills with a need for volunteers in her local area, Debbie has found a way to have a meaningful retirement.
“Volunteering is part of who I am, which is true about most teachers. My advice to other retirees who might be interested in volunteering is to find something that you really like to do so that your time spent is both enjoyable and rewarding,” says Debbie.
If you are looking for ways to volunteer in your community, consider what activities bring you joy and then try to find an organization that could benefit from your help. Organizations to look at include nonprofits, groups that promote a cause, community centers, places of worship, and service or youth organizations.