Jane Schildroth has seen the Nature Center from a lot of different angles.
Her first involvement was coming out to walk the land and attend programs with her husband Peter because they were both interested in what the Nature Center offered.
But that soon led to volunteering. Maple Syrup Festival – as with many volunteers – was their first introduction.
“This was back when it was down at the barn and I remember standing up in the auditorium scraping plates and I just thought it was the best job because I was right next to music, so I could entertain myself while I scraped sticky syrup and leftover pancakes off of the plates.”
Sadly, Peter passed away a few years ago, but Schildroth said he always kept a pocket calendar which has helped her remember more specifics about when they got involved with ICNC. “In the days before cell phones, and for Peter even after, he would record appointments and sometimes he would also summarize what he had done that day. I looked through that not long ago and in 2003, he talked about us helping here at the Nature Center. It may have even been before that, but it’s been at least that long.”
As with many volunteers at ICNC, one volunteer gig led to another, especially those presented each year by the Friends of the Nature Center. “I remember being a courier for the Plant Sale and helping people who had their arms full take things to the holding table so they could buy more stuff. Peter would work as a cashier sometimes,” Jane said.
When talking with Jane it’s easy to appreciate her well-delivered wit. When reminiscing about the Plant Sale she joked that she accidentally fell into a significant volunteer role.
“I was leaning down, trying to artfully arrange some plants for the sale. I turned around and (longtime ICNC volunteer) Berta Ringold said I should run the sale.”
The same is true of her involvement with Nature’s Noel, the Friends fundraiser held each December. “It wasn’t long after that that they got me to be in charge of the soup making and donations for that event.”
Jane also serves as a current member of the ICNC Board of Directors. It’s a role she’s grateful for in the sense that it has given her an even broader perspective on all that goes on at ICNC and allows her to connect the work of the Friends group to the whole Nature Center picture. “I wish more people in the Friends group could have this opportunity, because you learn so much more about what’s going on at the Nature Center and how it happens, how things get done and the backstory.”
“I have said this a lot of times, but I already hold this place in high regard. And I go to a board meeting and I am kind of blown away even more by how it is being on the leading edge of so many initiatives.”
As the daughter of a farmer, she has especially enjoyed learning more about the Etzel Sugar Grove Farm acquisition and how the regenerative farming practices there can serve the Indian Creek Nature Center mission. “With the sustainability that is demonstrated there, it’s just really exciting for me to see how that is coming along.”
And although she is now retired, she spent her career working in education, so this is another element of ICNC’s mission-driven programming that excites her. “I’m pretty sure the record will show I was the one to make the motion that we start the preschool,” Jane recalled of a past board meeting. “I remember walking out thinking that we were doing a really cool thing. And I really like that what we’re trying to do with the kids is make experiences in nature accessible to all kinds of folks.”
Jane said she’s proud to be connected to the Nature Center, for so many years and in so many ways. “My favorite memories here are all tied together, but I would say I like to be affiliated with something that is highly regarded,” she said. “I feel like you do not hear bad things about Indian Creek Nature Center. There is a lot of respect for this organization.”
“And then I think along with that are all the people that I’ve gotten to know that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. They are like-minded. We are here because we belong in this place and are willing to work hard for it.”
She’s looking forward to the 50th Year Celebration on October 14th. As a committee member planning that event, she’s enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work being put in to plan a welcoming and truly unique celebration. “I am so excited that it’s going to be casual and people don’t have to get all gussied up to come hang out,” she said. “I like that we will be honoring the past but that we are also looking to the future.”
It’s not surprising she smiles when thinking about the future of ICNC. Perhaps Jane’s favorite angle through which to see the Nature Center these days is through her eight-year-old granddaughter Ava’s eyes.
“When my granddaughter was probably six, I said, ‘so Ava, what do you think you’re going to do someday?’ And she said ‘I’ll probably work at the Nature Center.’ She said it as if it was just a foregone conclusion, and I love that.” Jane said her granddaughter is so excited it’s time for Creek Camps to start again for the summer.
“Just like the ladies who started (the Nature Center) and could have never envisioned what we are today, I don’t know that we can even envision what we’re gonna be in the future,” she added. “But I think that the Nature Center can continue to be a role model in the community for how you treat the environment. This is how you act in nature. These are the important steps to take. This is what you need to know.”
And while she will be finishing up her service on the board of directors next year, Jane said she knows she’ll stay involved with the organization for the foreseeable future.
“But if someone wants to take over doing the soup (for Nature’s Noel), that would be great,” she half joked.