Sarah Voska of Tower Lakes talks about what it's like to be a volunteer with Citizens for Conservation:

Q: How would you describe CFC?

A: CFC is the most knowledgeable group of citizen environmentalists in the Chicagoland area. They dedicate their heart and soul to the preservation and restoration of open spaces in the Barrington area and to protecting biodiversity and water quality along the Flint Creek watershed.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I am so inspired by the selfless dedication of CFC's volunteers and members. I have never seen a greater willingness to help, to pour time and effort into projects that produce future results they may not see the fruits of. The restoration will take another 20 years or more, but the impact of each volunteer who came to plant a sedge or kill some buckthorn will endure.

Q: What have you learned about yourself from volunteering?

A: I became much more aware of my surroundings and the ecology in my own backyard -- it was so exciting to finally be able to distinguish one plant from another!

Now, I feel as if I am seeing the world with new eyes, finally realizing the diversity of plants in my community and how they shape our environment. It has completely changed how I engage with the natural world.

Q: What support have you received?

A: I have received endless support and encouragement from CFC. They have helped me find a job and provided mentorship and inspiration in my environmental work. CFC members always try to boost each other up and build a community for their volunteers. 

Q: What has the experience been like?

A: Any particular restoration day, you might find the crew of volunteers scouring Flint Creek Savanna or Spring Creek Forest Preserve for invasive species. For two full hours, you glide through the prairie, eyes fixed on the tops of the plants for any sight of the enemy.

Meanwhile, your fellow volunteers are enthralling you with tales of their travels to far-off lands. To your right, a group of college students are debating the morality of our world leaders. Ahead you see a board member point out a rare plant to a teenager, telling the youth about its role as a keystone species for restoration.

Another volunteer has stopped to chat with the purple martin perched on a compass plant.

Q: What would you tell someone who is interested in participating but might be hesitant?

A: CFC welcomes volunteers of any age, experience, knowledge, or ability. They are very respectful of your time, and part of their philosophy is that they won't ever expect you to stay longer than the two-hour workday. You will fall in love with the camaraderie and spirituality of communing with nature each Thursday and Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m.