Building Community

Columbia Families in Nature

In 2014 I founded Columbia Families in Nature (CFIN), a family nature club that offers free weekly nature-based experiential education events to families in Central Maryland.  By connecting families with nearby nature, the goals of CFIN are to: foster greater connection with nature and the community; increase environmental awareness and action; support the well-being of participants; and help strengthen family relationships. In the three years since CFIN launched, we have offered over 150 free events serving more than 400 distinct and diverse families. CFIN events are held at a variety of natural areas, including public parks, farms, gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, and community open space trails. The focus of each outing is also diverse, ranging from free exploration and play, to active hikes, to structured, conservation focused events, such as tree planting, stream clean-ups, and pollinator garden creation. During each event the participants learn to leave places better than they were found, picking up any litter and learning the principles of leave no trace. Civic ecology projects that have been completed by the group include installing three monarch way station gardens, conducting four citizen science bioblitzes, and removing invasive species and planting native plants in trees at more than six events. 

Testimonials

  • "You make a space for parents to see nature through their kids eyes. This is turn opens them up to what they can do to sustain that joy and expression of curiosity and wonder."
  • "​Once again we had a fabulous time! I am learning to love nature more and more! My daughter was so excited to dig, plant, and just get dirty!"
  • "This was a good first experience for us! The fact that we were part of a group encouraged us to walk further than we otherwise would have, and I'm glad we made it all the way to the river. Getting through the trail's 'obstacles' - climbing on rocks and balancing on tree trunks - made us feel really connected."
  • ​"I enjoyed meeting new people in our neighborhood and seeing my children get enthusiastic about nature."
  • "It was great to spend time together as a family. It gave us the opportunity to get outside our comfort zone, get dirty and be silly."
  • "We really enjoyed making the monarch way station because it was a fun way to do something positive for nature." 
  • "You engage diverse people who otherwise wouldn’t come together and inspire them to make connections, with each other, with their neighbors, in their communities, and ecosystems. You help to create awareness of the people, animals, plants, and places around us. You connect the academics with the dreamers, the young with the old, the faithful and the lost… in the most neutral place – nature! Outside we can all be who we are and open our eyes wide to who we are sharing the experience, and the world with." 


Activism

On November 9th I helped to form a progressive action group, now called Together We Will Howard County, for my community in Maryland. I quickly joined forces with like-minded people to help create a statewide group to coordinate the work being done at the county level by people newly galvanized into political activism. The county group now has over 1,200 members and the state group has over 10,000 members. At the county level, we have monthly action meetings to achieve our goals of: fostering a safe and inclusive community; protecting and securing equal rights for all people; and creating a cohesive network to connect and amplify progressive issues and voices. We are training people who are new to social and political activism on how to effectively engage in the political process (i.e., who are your representatives, how can you best communicate with them, etc.), actively working to get out the vote with voter registration and deep canvassing actions, and working to channel new energies towards the organizations that have a long history of doing political activism and social justice work in a wide range of areas.  

Testimonials

  • "By bringing people into your space you show them issues and possible solutions that they may had missed if they had not known you. When you see challenges you immediately get involved in a big way. You don't just join a group, you lead it. You are great at attracting like minded people to yourself in order to get things done."
  • "You are a bridge, not only between people, but between communities because of your great involvement in so many important causes. Through you work you help people to care! Care about each other, their surroundings, their communities, their kid’s future. In short, you help us to be better – more connected, more engaged, more determined to make a difference."  

Volunteer Service and Awards

*Audubon Society of Central Maryland, Board of Directors (2015 - Present) 

*Howard County Excellence in Bloom, Mixed Age Group Award (2015, 2016) 

*Audubon Toyota Together Green Fellow (2013)

*Chairperson for the Harper's Choice Village Center Community Plan Committee (2009 - 2012) 

*Harper’s Choice Village Board Member (2008 - 2010)   

*Howard Community College Distinguished Alumni Award (2008)