For decades Vickie, who lives in Mount Vernon with her husband, Steve, has served in a wide variety of capacities as an ICNC volunteer. You may see her restoring the land, helping with set-up or execution of events, or participating in Friends activities. Whenever possible, she dives in where needed and likes to help. Vickie also brings a positive attitude with her, which is uplifting to all who connect with her. In 2019 Vickie received a jack-in-the-pulpit award in thanks for her wonderful volunteerism at ICNC. She also became a lifetime member of ICNC in 2019.
“I think (my) love of the outdoors comes from when I was little and our family would always go to a resort for a week and rent a cabin, (and do a lot of things outdoors). Then, as you get older and a little bit wiser, you figure out a way to incorporate (the outdoors) into your life.”
Vickie’s earliest memories of the Nature Center stem from being an involved mom. In the early 1990s her daughter, Dayna, and Dayna’s best friend were both Girl Scouts. The girls’ mothers became co-leaders of the girls’ troop. Vickie recalls making “quite a few trips” to the Nature Center, taking advantage of the Scout programs offered here at ICNC, and helping the girls earn badges. She recalls helping to plant trees with the girls near where the blue bridge is now. At that time she wondered if she’d still be around when the trees got big.
During her years with the Nature Center, Vickie is most proud of her versatility — a valuable asset for any volunteer at any organization. Various memories that come to the surface illustrate that versatility:
Vickie remembers helping to put up tents for a Nature’s Noel in the wind, rain and sleet. She thinks it was the year Amazing Space Manager Sarah Botkin started at ICNC, so it was Sarah’s first Nature’s Noel. “I went in early to help her set up tents…. That was challenging! The wind came in underneath the tents (and tried to whip them out of our hands). But we got them up.” Chuckling, she added, “Putting up the tents that day was a lot of fun, in a different sort of way.”
Vickie has enjoyed maple syruping season, tapping trees and helping to collect sap. She added, “And also going out with Mary Kopecky, collecting greens for Nature’s Noel. We’re doing that again (this year). She’s such a fireball! She makes it fun, and I really like doing that with her.”
Vickie’s main areas of volunteerism now include helping the Friends group with Nature’s Noel and the Spring Plant & Art Sale, “but I do like the Wednesday Warriors. We’ll see if I can still do it next year. I do a lot of exercise otherwise, but I like the outside exercise, too. So as long as (ICNC Trail Coordinator) Abby (Barten) makes it so I can still do things at my age, I’ll probably still do it.”
“And then every once in a while a Sign Up Genius (email) comes up for different things that ICNC needs help with, and I watch for those.”
Vickie shares that her most challenging experience so far at ICNC was after the 2020 derecho, absorbing how the landscape changed. She describes the feeling as “devastating,” adding, “I remember looking in awe at the tops of the trees just sheared off and being able to see through the forest up there (behind Amazing Space), where you couldn’t before. That was hard.” During derecho recovery she recalls the challenge of hauling in loads of mulch up the steep hill behind Amazing Space and spreading it on newly-created stretches of trail. She’s happy about the new trails that have been established and realizes “it’s going to take a while for all those young trees to develop, but at least it’s a beginning.”
Since the derecho, Vickie’s favorite place at ICNC – the oak savanna on the hill north of Amazing Space – is not the same. “The first time I saw it I went up there and just looked up at all those oak trees. I remember being in awe. It’s still a pretty area, but definitely different since the derecho.”
“The pandemic proved that people need the outdoors for so many reasons. That’s where everybody gravitated to when the pandemic came.”
“I think of the Nature Center as a happy place. Whenever I go out there it seems like everybody’s smiling and having lots of conversation. It’s never a bad day at ICNC. From the employees to the visitors, it’s always a nice, fun place to be.” She added, “ICNC is not only a happy place, but it can also be a place for solitude. A place to be with your thoughts and just go up on the trails. If that’s what you need, it’s available.” She paused and added, with a few tears, “To me it’s a healing place. I think everybody at some point in their life may need such a place. So I’m thankful it’s close by.”
“All the staff (at ICNC) are so kind and happy, and always answer questions if you have them. I’ve never met a bad person out there. I think that’s what helps bring volunteers (to the Nature Center) and businesses that want to go there for a service day or (other activities). That’s what gets people there: that welcoming environment. It means a lot.”