In Wisconsin, the middle of March is not necessarily the best time to plan an outdoor volunteer service project. 2017 felt different though. We have had record high temperatures lately, all the snow was long gone, and the birds are singing because even they felt spring was surely coming early.

However, according to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and a 24-hour snowstorm descended on the Midwest Sunday night. After taking an hour to make a 5-mile commute to work on Monday morning, I began looking into what we could do to replace our scheduled project of helping the Urban Ecology Center remove invasive Buckthorn trees from Washington Park. Since we are actually quite busy at Brilliance right now, postponing our project was not really an option. Our options were to find an alternate project or cancel altogether.

Not being sure what the weather would actually be like on Tuesday, I pulled together a smorgasbord of indoor and outdoor projects with the help of the Center’s staff. If it was going to be super cold, I did not want us to be outside for very long, even if we bundled up. However, there were not enough indoor projects to keep us busy for 4 hours.

We all met at the Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park with snow shovels in hand and bundled up for warmth and set out to find sidewalks that had not yet been cleared or were hastily cleared the day before. Very quickly, we were all warmed up with the effort of moving snow, 10”-12” deep in some places, and the sun shining brightly in a clear blue sky. After an hour or so, we trudged back to the Center to warm up and work on some projects the staff needed help completing.

The Urban Ecology Center does many things. One of the tasks we were given was cleaning seeds. Native prairie flowers were collected last year after they had gone to seed and were dried out. Blue Vervain, Marsh/Swamp Milkweed, Brown-Eyed Susan, St. John’s Wort, among others, all had to have their tiny seeds separated from the rest of the plant.

 “Brilliance Business Solutions assisted the Land Stewardship team and Neighborhood Environmental Education Program (NEEP) educators with several tasks that directly impact our community engagement and programming.  The staff helped clean and process over 15 different native plant species seed.  These seeds were later planted and grown in our nursery and will be planted out into the park in 2018 by future volunteers to beautify the park as well as provide habitat for wildlife within the Washington Park neighborhood.  Brilliance Business Solutions also worked to construct 200+ nature journals, which are used for our nature-based summer camp programming.  Using colorful pipe cleaners and beads, the team put together participant tokens for our Water Quality & Monitoring program.  This game actively engages school group students in the process of water quality management and what increases and decrease water quality.  All in all, Brilliance Business Solutions brought smiling faces, positive presence and steadfast determination to support our mission of fostering ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.”  - Michaela Molter, Land Steward, Urban Ecology Center – Washington Park Branch.

If I was not already aware of how flexible and good-natured my co-workers are, they definitely showed me on Tuesday morning, for which I am eternally grateful.