From Bay to Poverty: Where I’ve Been Since Save The Bay

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Rochelle dressed as a Shark in honor of Shark Week. Photo taken by: Nathaniel Downes, SF Examiner

Rochelle Reuter was a Communications Fellow in 2014. Since then, she has been spending her days at St. Anthony’s providing essential services to San Franciscans living in poverty. 

To be honest, I never thought I would be working at a social service non-profit. I’ve always believed in equal services and resources for everyone but never had a solid understanding the vicious cycle that is poverty. Environmental Advocacy has been the pathway I’ve always anticipated taking but when an opportunity arose I figured, why not.

As the Communications Fellow at Save The Bay I was able to learn how nonprofits effectively communicate and engage their constituents with thought-provoking, and yes, sometimes goofy content. I gained valuable experience by putting my name on specific projects that allowed me to explore a range of skills from project management to problem solving. Since then, I’ve been able to take what I learned at Save The Bay and apply it directly to my position here at St. Anthony’s — a nonprofit that provides essential support programs to San Franciscans living in poverty.

Taken during the Grand Opening of the second building for St. Anthony’s and my third week with St. Anthony’s! This brand new building located at 121 Golden Gate Ave. now houses three of our direct service programs: The Dining Room, The Social Work Center and of course, the Free Clothing Program. Photo credit: Tara Luz Stevens
Taken during the Grand Opening of the second building for St. Anthony’s and my third week with St. Anthony’s! This brand new building located at 121 Golden Gate Ave. now houses three of our direct service programs: The Dining Room, The Social Work Center and of course, the Free Clothing Program. Photo credit: Tara Luz Stevens

Since joining the St. Anthony’s team here in 2014, I’ve actually held 3 different positions. I originally came to the organization as a Program Associate for one our direct service programs, the Free Clothing Program but within 6 months, I was promoted to Assistant Manager. In my role as the Assistant Manager, I was responsible for all Back of House operations, overseeing the volunteer program , facilitating and addressing all inventory issues, and also supervising all staff working in the Back of House. The soft skills I was able to obtain at Save The Bay ultimately allowed me to succeed in this role and help learn how to be a successful supervisor and a supportive co-worker.

As of February 2016, I’ve now moved departments within St. Anthony’s and now work as the Annual Giving Coordinator in our Development department. This role is more analytical and similar to what I’ve done at Save The Bay. Now, I’m able to work with a team of communication and fundraising experts to help develop specific appeals to donors that keep them engaged and informed.

Me and some of my co-workers enjoying our new merchandise from the big rebrand rollout event! In July 2015, St. Anthony’s launched a new brand for the organization that encompasses our foundation values and our new tagline, Hope Served Daily. Photo credit: Taylor Skillin
Me and some of my co-workers enjoying our new merchandise from the big rebrand rollout event! In July 2015, St. Anthony’s launched a new brand for the organization that encompasses our foundation values and our new tagline, Hope Served Daily. Photo credit: Taylor Skillin

While I have always envisioned working at an environmental nonprofit like Save The Bay, I’ve been so grateful for what St. Anthony’s has given me over the last 1.5 years. They’ve encouraged me to not only strengthen the skills I already had, they also encouraged me to work in different departments in order to get a well-rounded perspective on how a non-profit operates. My time at Save The Bay has truly been a gateway to my career in the nonprofit sector. Without my Save The Bay fellowship, my career path would look very different than how it’s come out.

Learn more about Save The Bay’s Fellowship Program here. 

The Intern in a Shark Onesie

As many of us know, last week was Shark Week, a highly publicized event originally created by the Discovery Channel to promote shark conservation. Recently, it has been adopted by the environmental community as a platform to discuss the various issues of sharks and their habitat. Here at Save The Bay, we took advantage of this media-crazed event to promote awareness of Bay Area sharks with a series of rather quirky “shark spottings” as well as a blog featuring the importance of shark species in the Bay.

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Rochelle dressed as a Shark in honor of Shark Week. Photo Credit: Nathaniel Downes, SF Examiner

Save The Bay is lucky enough to have a shark mascot, so our communications team conjured up a Shark Week stunt. We decided to send our shark out in public to promote sharks in San Francisco Bay. We pitched some local media and planned to post on our social media platforms. As the Outreach Volunteer, I volunteered to be the shark for our shark outing day. Little did I know, it would turn into somewhat of a publicity stunt for not only Save The Bay, but for me as well.

Overall, the entire media stunt turned out to be a huge success. Six different print media outlets came to take pictures and interview me and our Staff Scientist, Hayley Zemel. Within 24 hours, we were on the cover of the Bay Area section of the SF Chronicle and featured on San Francisco Magazine’s blog. As an intern, representing an organization I care so deeply about is a truly rewarding experience that every intern deserves to experience.

Interning at Save The Bay has provided me with invaluable experience in a non-profit, but I must admit, this Shark Week stunt gave me unexpected professional experiences. To start, I learned how to effectively articulate a story to various print media outlets, which I have not experienced before. By effectively communicating our key messages about sharks in the Bay Area, news outlets were able to share that information with the public, thus bringing more awareness to our cause.

Dressing up in a shark onesie gave me the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and do something I normally wouldn’t do. Being challenged in the workplace can seem daunting, but thanks to this office volunteer program at Save The Bay, I felt I had enough support to carry out my mission as Spike, the Save The Bay shark mascot!

If you are looking for an amazing experience at a local environmental non-profit, you’re in luck! We are hiring now for our Fall 2014 Office Volunteer positions. As a current Office Volunteer, I can testify and say this program gives you the professional experience you wouldn’t find in a typical internship program. Aside from dressing in a shark onesie and talking to strangers, I have gained technical skills in project management practices, social media metrics, and audience engagement strategies. Plus, I’ve gained an even deeper love for this region I call home.

For more info on applying for the Office Volunteer program, click here. Priority application deadline is August 29 and positions begin in mid-September.

Volunteer Spotlight | Meet Alexander Mustille

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Alex Mustille has been volunteering with Save The Bay for 5 years!

Meet Alexander Mustille, a Data Consultant for Kaiser Permanente from Pacifica, CA!

How many years have you volunteered with Save The Bay?

5 years!

Do you have a favorite site or experience?

Favorite site is MLK Shoreline. I was able to eradicate many blackberry bushes on site 3 or 4 years ago.

How did you get involved with Save The Bay?

I first heard about Save The Bay through a friend, many years ago.

What is the best thing about volunteering with Save The Bay?

Meeting people who are passionate about ecological restoration!

What is your favorite thing about the San Francisco Bay Area?

The beach! Specifically, Linda Mar Beach for surfing. It’s great for beginners!

What is one thing you do each day to protect the environment?

Not watering my lawn! And regularly planting in my front yard.

Volunteer opportunities are available throughout the Bay Area. Sign up here.

Why We All Need to Appreciate The Bay More

Everyone loves to say they’re from the Bay Area. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse, creative, and technologically innovative places in the world — who wouldn’t be proud to say they’re from here?

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Photo taken at Crissy Field in San Francisco, CA.

In 2009, I left the Bay Area to attend college at the University of Arizona. While I wouldn’t change my experience at U of A for anything, I must admit, living in Arizona was far different than living in the Bay Area. Moving from an area with shorelines and beaches to a landlocked state was certainly an adjustment I had to make. It wasn’t until I left California that I realized how great the Bay Area is.

Prior to my departure for college, I seldom visited the Bay’s shorelines. I didn’t really understand the many ways that the Bay supports wildlife and improves our quality of life. But once I left, I realized how often I took our Bay for granted when growing up.

While many Bay Area residents certainly appreciate the Bay more than I did, I’d bet that many Bay Area residents often overlook the grandeur of the Bay as it passes by from the freeway. It took a move to Arizona for me to realize that I grew up in one of the most unique and inspiring places in the country.

Since returning to the Bay Area, my relationship with the Bay has changed for the better. I have consciously re-committed myself to interact with the Bay and not take it for granted. Volunteering at Save The Bay continues to inspire me to not slack off on my relationship to the Bay!

So with that said, let’s encourage each other to go out and see what the Bay has to offer us. Volunteering at one of the Save The Bay Habitat Restoration Programs allows you to give back to the Bay while appreciating the beauty of the Bay Area. If volunteering isn’t really your thing, there are many ways to appreciate the Bay without having to get too dirty, but still admire its beauty.

The San Francisco Bay is the most important estuary on the west coast. It is a thriving ecosystem for over 100 endangered species, supports our local economy by creating thousands of jobs, and the shoreline provides access to parks and open spaces. Don’t take this truly unique environment for granted like I once did. Get out and enjoy the Bay Area AKA the best place ever!

A History of Bay Area Water Usage

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Ohlone people using tule boats to navigate the waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Despite recent rainstorms, California is experiencing a severe drought. With the abundance of photos on social media, news articles, and nightly news coverage on the subject, the drought has been on my mind for quite some time. As someone who enjoys thinking about how humans interact with our environment, this drought got me thinking about how Bay Area residents have used water throughout time.

Over 8,000 years ago, the Ohlone people became the first human inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Ohlone people lived in Northern California from the most northern point of the San Francisco Bay down to Big Sur in Monterey County. Since the Ohlone people lived a semi-nomadic life, they typically built their community villages near reliable sources of fresh water and moved when the seasons changed. Water was primarily used for drinking, bathing, and fishing.

In order to efficiently travel, the Ohlone people used a series of innovative boats made of bundled tule reeds to navigate the waters of the San Francisco Bay. When the seasons changed, the Ohlone people moved to smaller villages and camps to be near newly available plant and animal resources. Using functional land management practices, the Ohlone people would burn the brushy hillsides each year to encourage new plants to grow and have animals that fed on them. Today, Ohlone descendants are reclaiming the customs and traditions of their ancestors.

The population of the San Francisco Bay Area has changed dramatically since the Ohlone first settled along the shores of our beloved estuary. During the Gold Rush, San Francisco grew from a small settlement of 200 residents to a booming city of 36,000 residents in just 6 years. In order to supply enough fresh water for Bay Area residents, the state of California issued a series of dam building projects to provide fresh drinking water to the growing population. Today, there are approximately 1,400 dams in the state of California, with the majority of them located in the Northern and Central Coast.

Over the past 150 years, we have dramatically engineered our natural resources to accommodate a society whose members remain in one place. Unlike the original Bay Area residents, we can’t move with the seasons to find new sources of water. We have established a permanent society here, so it is in our best interest to protect and conserve these unique natural resources for as long as possible.