by Mary Felton, ’07, ’08
I never took the words “community” and “service” seriously until the summer of 2007 when I began working for SCA as a Conservation Crew Leader.
Throughout my years in school I volunteered at soup kitchens, sang at nursing homes, participated in a youth outreach weekend, tutored and volunteered in schools. These experiences were mere glimpses into the world of service. At the end of the day, I was able to return to the comfort of my home, disassociating myself from those moments of volunteerism.
When I worked for SCA, I lived and breathed within the community I was serving. This awareness awakened a sense of responsibility and pride, evident whether I was hauling trash out of streams leading into the Delaware River, or digging out a sinkhole full of Yazoo clay along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Each day in the field was a reminder to me of the impact we have on the Earth and how our contributions, no matter how small, can help to preserve this place we call home.
This past summer, I was struck by how appreciative people were of our efforts as a crew. We worked to construct two bridges and a boardwalk over areas of a trail along the Natchez Trace Parkway that were severely eroded by the rain. One passerby asked us where we were camped, and she then showed up the next day with a blueberry cake!
Although the cake was delicious, we did not need it to remind us that our efforts were appreciated. We saw it when our first bridge was completed and we could walk over the muddy stream that had once intersected the trail, or when we created our first water bar.
Today I work at a school where our motto is “Not for self, but for service.” And everyday I am reminded of those small contributions I have made as part of the SCA community, never letting go of the idea that every little bit counts.
Editor’s note: As service takes the national spotlight this month through ServiceNation, it is a particularly fitting time for all service alumni to reflect on their own service experience. With this in mind, we kick off our “Why Service?” series with this first installment from Mary Felton. The series will feature stories from SCA alumni about what inspired them to serve. If you’d like to share your story of service, please email me your story!
--Lauren Freedman, Alumni Editorial Board Liaison
Photos: from top: Mary Felton; Mary Felton (right) and her co-leader at Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Jenny Lockmiller (left); Mary and Jenny's crew on their boardwalk at Natchez Trace
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