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. 

Office Volunteer Roundup

Since launching our office volunteer program in 2012, Save The Bay has benefited tremendously from the professional support of a diverse group of talented volunteers from all walks of Bay life. Our volunteers conduct policy research, write marketing materials, help us connect with donors, and get down and dirty with our habitat restoration crew. They’ve also contributed some of our most memorable blog posts–here are just a few of their stories.

The Value of Native Plants by Caty Varian

Native plants evolved to live with the local climate, soil types, and wildlife and are crucial to establishing and maintaining a healthy San Francisco Bay. Save The Bay’s on-the-ground wetland restoration projects aim to re-establish native plants in the transition zone, creating important buffer areas adjacent to tidal marshes.

Big Oil in Our Backyard by Daniel AdelSaveHealthyBenicia2

A former state capital, not to mention an early contender for Metropolis of the West, Benicia, a sleepy town just shy of 27,000 people, remains hidden from public imagination. Visitors describe the city as quaint and picturesque – a vision that runs counter to the reality that the eastern end of the city fronting Suisun Bay is the site of heavy industry.

What A Waste: Trash and Your Taxes by Maura Mooney CityTrashCost_MauraBlog

Why spend the time and the money removing trash from the environment when we can prevent it from entering in the first place? Save The Bay has worked closely on source control campaigns in the past for some of the most persistent and pervasive trash items: plastic bags and styrofoam containers. We are now turning our attention to a new trash source, the biggest and baddest in the bay area: cigarette butts.

A History of Bay Area Water Usage by Rochelle ReuterOhlone_image

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.

Trash Dumps and the History of the Bay Shoreline by Maya Wolf

Click on the image above to go to an interactive map

Before there were dumps and dump parties, there were wetlands, home to a thriving habitat of flora and fauna. Decades of rampant filling in of shallow areas destroyed 90 percent of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands. Scientists say the Bay needs 100,000 acres of tidal marsh to thrive, more than double that which exists today.

Interested in helping us in the near future? We are always looking for motivated volunteers to help out.

Restoration at Oro Loma

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On July 14, I got the chance to join Save The Bay’s restoration team for fieldwork at the Oro Loma Demonstration Project nursery site. After spending 6 weeks working with the communications team, I was very excited to get away from my desk for a field day with fellow office volunteers.

I knew that we would be working on site at the Oro Loma Sanitary District to propagate restoration plantings, but I did not realize that we would be working within the wastewater treatment plant itself. Large gray buildings lined the site and construction materials surrounded the space where we our plants grow. In the midst of water tanks and service vehicles laid 15 nursery beds filled with native seedlings.

Digging in

Our Nursery Manager, Jessie, greeted us upon arrival and introduced us to the various native plants currently growing in these beds, including field sedge, Santa Barbara sedge, Baltic rush and willow herb. We were each given a safety vest, a shovel and a set of gloves. Accompanied by staff and fellow office volunteers, we worked to transfer plants from seedling trays into the nursery beds, remove weeds and collect seeds. Together we planted California loosestrife, mulefat, California aster, western goldenrod, creeping wildrye, and California mugwort.

Once I got into a groove digging holes and planting, I quickly forgot about our industrial surroundings. Sitting in the dirt and working with the soil, I felt grounded in the work that I was doing. I loved the fragrant smells of the California mugwort  and the company of my fellow office volunteers and staff.

Over the course of the day, I could see our work progressing quickly, as more and more green sprouts began to cover the surface of the plant beds. We all worked side by side, chatting about seed propagation, the excitement of our upcoming all staff outing, and dreams of swimming in a cool pool after a hard day of work.

A unique project

I learned from restoration staff that Oro Loma is a demonstration project  to research a new model of shoreline restoration. If it proves successful, lessons learned from this project could be implemented at other sites around the Bay. More than 70,000 native seedlings will be propagated at the site by our restoration staff, which got me thinking about how many seedlings we must have collectively planted that day. When I followed up with Jessie she estimated that we installed about 11,389 young plants in addition to the work we did weeding and collecting seeds.

Reflecting on the day, I feel very lucky to have experienced working at Oro Loma early on in the project. Most of our office staff haven’t gotten the chance to visit Oro Loma yet, so it was pretty cool to see it and familiarize myself with the innovative work that Save the Bay’s restoration staff and its partners are doing at the site.

Reflections on a Day in the Field

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Save The Bay Office Volunteers (left to right): Melisa Lim, Jennifer Inman, Jennifer Braun, Daniel Adel. Photo by. Jon Backus

On March 19, I got the chance to engage in field work far out in the tidal marsh wetlands of Hayward’s Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, one of Save The Bay’s restoration sites. I spent much of the morning and afternoon feeling the bay breeze and soil. It was a welcome reprieve from communications work — writing, research, data entry, and online advocacy — behind the desk.

Accompanied by staff and fellow office volunteers, we each tended the soil and plants along the transition zone pictured above.

I earlier wrote how volunteering with Save The Bay was a way to connect with my Bay Area roots, but that was prior to getting my hands dirty. Growing up here, I’ve heard stories and been presented photographic accounts of habitat (specifically wetland) restoration all my life, but to take part in it myself was extremely rewarding and has given me a newfound interest in it.

As part of our experience, all office volunteers have the unique opportunity of working both in and outside an office environment. For some, this day was our first time working on a habitat restoration project.

Here’s what some of our volunteers had to say about their experience working in the field and in the office:

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Tending soil and plants, one-by-one. Photo by. Daniel Adel

“Being out on the Bay at a restoration site was an inspiring experience. Eden Landing is great because it has a “before” part which will be left unrestored for bird nesting and the levees which are starting to be colonized. So I could really witness the progress that comes from the restoration efforts of STB. Being close to the water and seeing all the birds also increased my sense of connection to the Bay and the feeling that it is a habitat for wildlife, in contrast to much of the shoreline which is so built and sterile.

Working in the development team, I get to see many of the grant proposals that were developed to request funding to support the restoration work.  Before our field experience, the project activities, objectives and outcomes described in the proposals lacked concreteness. I can now relate to what I read and I feel that makes me more effective in shaping future proposals.” – Melisa Lim, Grant Writing and Development Volunteer

“Overall, I have very much enjoyed my time at Save The Bay. I’ve been treated like staff and given substantive, interesting projects to work on. So far I’ve researched and written a blog on the threat from oil trains, have learned what the Bay Restoration Authority is all about, and even met a State Senator! My current project is to highlight some of the projects that might get funded if voters approve Bay restoration funding in 2016, and develop a set of materials and photos that create a vivid picture of the benefits of restoration in the minds of potential political allies.

Eden Landing was a magical day. It was a treat to be out on the levees in an area currently closed to the public, and see snowy plovers and the murmurations of sandpipers. I was amazed at how extensive the salt ponds are there and glad I could do my bit to help return them to tidal habitat.” – Jennifer Braun, Policy Volunteer

You’ve heard voices from volunteers working in communications (myself), development, and policy, but now hear from one of our habitat restoration volunteers who spends most of her time in the field:

“As a habitat restoration intern for Save The Bay, I am fortunate to work at our restoration sites twice a week and I have been to Eden Landing a handful of times. Every experience is unique in that I always learn something new about the reserve. I have removed invasive plant species and planted native plants such as California sage and Salt Marsh Baccharis along the site. Understanding the importance of how these native plants provide important habitat for endangered species such as the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the California Ridgway Rail has been very educational for me.  I have also had the opportunity help with watering and mulching native plants at our restoration sites and see the hard work that has taken place due to Save The Bay’s dedication to this area.

I am working along side the staff with the public, school and corporate programs; staff workdays which involve planting natives at our restoration sites; native plant collection for the Oro Loma project, as well as seed propagation and assisting in the nurseries.” – Jennifer Inman, Habitat Restoration Volunteer

Interested in Save The Bay’s Office Volunteer Program? Learn more and apply here.

Gain Valuable Experience with Save The Bay’s Office Volunteer Program

Office volunteers
Gain valuable experience as an office volunteer with Save The Bay.

Are you looking to build your resume while contributing to a thriving San Francisco Bay? Apply to one of the following teams in our OFFICE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM!

  • Communications
  • Development
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Policy- Pollution Prevention
  • Policy- Bay Fill Prevention

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Enthusiasm for Save The Bay’s mission and programs
  • Availability for 10-12 weeks, 20 hours /week during the fall and winter; 30 hours /week in the summer
  • Strong writing, research and organizational skills
  • Completion of at least three years of undergraduate education
  • Excellent computer skills
  • Ability to complete tasks independently and work well in a team
  • Interest in San Francisco Bay environmental issues

VOLUNTEER POSITIONS

COMMUNICATIONS

Save The Bay’s Communications team works closely with Policy, Habitat Restoration, and Development staff to engage constituents around our key issues. This highly collaborative and creative team is seeking volunteers to help tell the stories of protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay.

Outreach focus:
Outreach Volunteers work with the Communications team to engage Save The Bay’s volunteers through online communications, data management, and community engagement. This year, over 5,000 adult and youth volunteers will work with Save The Bay to restore over 120 acres of vital Bay habitat. Outreach Volunteers focus on engaging these restoration volunteers through a number of tasks, including utilizing online tools for volunteer appreciation, updating Salesforce database with volunteer data, organizing the photo database, contributing to Save The Bay’s blog, and representing Save The Bay at events.

Social Media focus:
Social Media Volunteers work with the Communications team to maintain an active and meaningful presence on our social media channels. Save The Bay uses many social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to engage with our constituents, reporters and other organizations, showcase the expertise of our staff, and drive action on our core programs and policy areas. Social Media Volunteers focus on enhancing our social media communications through a number of tasks, including researching and developing post and tweet content for Facebook and Twitter, tracking account analytics using Sprout Social and Facebook Insights, engaging with fans/followers and cultivating conversation on our social channels , and assisting Communications staff with organizing incoming social media requests and opportunities.

DEVELOPMENT
The Development and Grant Writing Volunteers work with Save The Bay’s Development team to support strategic fundraising campaigns targeting corporate, foundation, and individual supporters. As a member of our dynamic team, the volunteers assist with grant writing; conduct grant and donor research; supports donor outreach and communications efforts; advances knowledge of Salesforce and help maintain data; write acknowledgement letters; and perform various administrative duties in support of fundraising campaigns as assigned.

HABITAT RESTORATION
The Habitat Restoration Volunteers work with Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration Department to help with various field and office work related to our Community-Based Restoration programs. As a member of the largest team at Save The Bay, the Habitat Restoration Volunteers assist in office tasks such as building coordination materials for public and corporate programs; cleaning and weighing seed collections; updating seed inventory; maintaining contact data entry; and other general administrative duties.

In the field, depending on the season, volunteers may help with outplanting at project sites; spring site maintenance including weeding and watering seedlings; seed collection; and plant propagation tasks at STB’s nurseries; including seed sowing, transplanting, divisions, fertilization, culling, and nursery maintenance.

POLICY
The Environmental Policy Volunteers work as part of Save The Bay’s Policy Department focusing either on our pollution prevention, bay fill prevention and/or restoration finance initiatives. As a member of a small team of enthusiastic and dedicated advocates, the Environmental Policy Volunteers are responsible for conducting research, assisting in implementation of priority projects and providing support for our grassroots and communications objectives.

Pollution prevention focus:
Pollutants flowing from our streets and storm drains threaten water quality in the Bay on daily basis. The Clean Bay Project is our campaign to support innovative and effective pollution prevention programs at the municipal level. By working collaboratively with city and county government and community stakeholders to implement effective policies, we are making dramatic strides to improve the health of our wetlands, Bay shoreline, and local waterways. Learn more about our pollution prevention work.

Bay fill prevention / Restoration funding focus:
Save The Bay’s major Bay Fill Prevention initiative is our campaign to stop Cargill’s plans to fill in as many as two square miles of restorable San Francisco Bay salt ponds in Redwood City with thousands of houses (www.DontPaveMyBay.org). We also monitor numerous development proposals throughout the San Francisco Bay shoreline, taking action to protect the Bay from being filled or otherwise impacted by inappropriate development.

In addition to our Bay Fill Prevention work, one of the major challenges facing the restoration of the Bay shoreline is the lack of local funding to restore shoreline areas already under public ownership. This position works on both of these crucial policy areas, helping Save The Bay reach our goal of establishing 100,000 acres of wetlands around San Francisco Bay.

HOW TO APPLY
Our volunteer program operates in three cycles throughout the year –Winter, Summer, & Fall. Check our jobs page and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter to learn about application deadlines. Please contact info@saveSFbay.org for further questions.