It Starts with One

YExplore Volunteer Day 

By John P. DeGrazio 

Battle Scars of the Burned Trees by John P. DeGrazio

Have you ever heard the expression “it starts with one”? My interpretation is that you only need one person to go along with you any time you would like to make a change in this world. Today was that type of day for our volunteer clean up Adopt A Highway project along Highway 120 just outside Yosemite National Park. Despite our best efforts calling for help through social media, I am usually the only one participating in this event. Today was different. We had Katie Petersen, our summer intern. Kate’s dad, Mark is one of our guides who I met at a volunteer project for another organization. Katie was here today as a paid intern, but I’d like to believe she would have come to help regardless of compensation.

Volunteering is a great way to help make a difference in your community. Today was a special day because it was our first day back cleaning up our section of the highway since the Rim Fire of August-September 2013. In fact, one of our old signs was burned and melted in the fire. Here we are posing with our new sign.

Taking a selfie in front of our new Adopt A Highway sign (the old one melted in the Rim Fire) by John P. DeGrazio

We started our Day at Mountain Sage Cafe for a meet up. Free coffee was offered to anyone who wished to participate. Unfortunately, the heat probably scared many people away.

Juxtaposition of Death and New Life by John P. DeGrazio

We made our way to our Adopt A Highway clean up site right in the heart of the Rim Fire scar. It was eerie to walk through that area with blackened trees surrounding us, but it was conversely promising to witness young trees and wildflowers growing in every void left by the catastrophic blaze.

1st Access to our Adopt A Highway Cleanup site in 2 years by John P. DeGrazio

Evidence of the fire and its logging effort dogged us at every turn. We were unable to clean up the area for extended period of time due to the heavy logging operation that followed. In spite of our 2 year hiatus, we only collected 3 bags of trash. Katie was a trash ninja. She climbed hills and jumped in ditches with her grabber. She showed many skills that earned her a spot as a top ranked member of the US Junior Nation Orienteering Team. She clearly knew how to get to the trash first and had it placed in the bag before I could even use my grabber.

The morning ended in just 3 short hours. We were sad we had to go but then enjoyed a tasty sandwich in Groveland at Kevin n Randi’s. We were happy to get out of the heat. Although we didn’t have anyone join us today, I feel confident I was able to impart some wisdom on Katie. Making a difference begins in your community and volunteer service projects are essential. We agreed our next project date meet up will be 8 am on August 1st at Mountain Sage. Hopefully, this next event will be better attended. It starts with one.

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