This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.
If CREA is lucky enough to boast of its truly modest volunteers, who give for the sake of giving, one of them must be Valerie Chow. With a background in nursing in Aroostook County and Brunswick, her nurturing side comes through in the ways that she now interacts with children, individuals, and families as one of CREA’s stellar volunteers.
Chow muses that “CREA came into my life, and vice-versa, when I moved to Highland Green in 2014 with my husband, Alroy.” With 11 grandchildren between ages 13 and 29, she has little free time in her retirement.
But, like golfing and photography, a favorite retirement pastime of Valerie’s is, “walking the CREA trails, experiencing the change of seasons, seeing what’s new and exciting… like now, looking forward to the proliferation of wildflowers.” Valerie’s many beautiful photographs appear in CREA’s newsletters and multi-media galleries.
Chow’s favorite part of CREA is the amazing array of year-round programs for people of all ages: “CREA programming teaches children and adults, is free, and fosters diversity.” She adds that, “CREA Summer Camps for grades 1 through 8 are a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about nature.”
Chow is impressed with CREA’s educators, who are not only teaching in CREA’s unique, off grid Ecology Center, but are “going into the schools with their nature-based education” and even helping teachers. Then “CREA’s at the library, and elsewhere, for four-season public programs with amazing speakers over a diverse subject variety; I get so much from attending those programs – any area of nature that I want to learn about is provided for me by CREA. It’s right here and it’s free,” Chow says.
“What can I do?” she asks. “It makes me feel rewarded to hopefully make a little difference. I probably get more out of it than I give.”
Chow says that what’s most meaningful to her is “being at the Ecology Center on Sundays (10-12 pm, open to the public), to meet the new people coming in, and feel the excitement of the children who visit the Ecology Center and who love learning about the wildlife specimens there. I get the most satisfaction talking to the children. One time a girl, about 4, visited while I was sweeping the welcome mat and she left saying, ‘I love your house!’ It was so sweet. People who visit CREA’s ‘house’ (the building that teaches), and its surrounding riverside trails do love it, and they love coming back ‘home.'”
Chow says about volunteering for CREA, “it’s really my pleasure. “I enjoy taking pictures, painting, doing spring cleanup, chipping in wherever I can.”
The future for Chow? “I’m not going anywhere! I love CREA, the people, and the programs. It’s made me aware of the important role I can play; but it’s not that great an effort when you love what you’re doing.” She adds, “It’s so important to see that what CREA does – truly changes the future.”