#MUFGGivesBack Coast to Coast with SCA

This November, as part of “MUFG Gives Back” Volunteer Month, SCA teamed up with MUFG Union Bank to hold ConSERVE events in five cities nationwide, with more than 400 volunteers participating. In New York City, Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Oakland, MUFG employee volunteers worked side-by-side with SCA youth and community volunteers to plant hundreds of trees and flower bulbs, restore historic stables and ramadas, and build new trails to improve visitor access to these unique natural and cultural resources in our urban parks.

Although MUFG encourages volunteerism throughout the year, November is the month when the company unites its employees to support the local communities in which it operates. MUFG established November as a global volunteer month in 2013 in response to the outpouring of support Japan received following the Great East Japan Earthquake. “MUFG is committed to fostering a legacy that includes protecting the environment for future generations. We are excited to partner with SCA and provide employees opportunities to give back to the communities where we live and work,” said Julius Robinson, the bank’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility.

The month’s service efforts kicked off on November 4th with over 200 MUFG and SCA volunteers teaming up for large-scale planting projects on both coasts. In New York City, over 120 participants rallied at Morningside Park in Harlem to plant 1200 flower bulbs that will brighten this historic community green space next spring, along with planting trees and clearing brush to prepare the way for new gardens.

“In just two hours, volunteers totally transformed the park,” said Ben Shupp of NYC Parks. “What they accomplished in one morning would have taken our staff weeks to complete.”

 Volunteers plant trees at Morningside Park in New York City (left) and at Maple Wood Playfield in Seattle (right and above banner).

“What a great way to spend a Saturday morning with friends,” said Johs Worsoe of MUFG, who participated in NYC. “As our team removed a stubborn old tree and planted a new live one, a mom and two-year-old daughter who walk the park every day came by and helped us. That tree is now their own tree in Morningside Park — pretty great, eh?”

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Union Bank volunteers joined SCA as part of citywide Green Seattle Day to plant 400 trees and native shrubs at Maple Wood Playfield, a site adopted by SCA’s youth crews. “The event was very well organized and we had a great time,” said Union Bank volunteer Maryetta Williams. “I appreciated the attention to detail from SCA’s project leaders who took the time to explain about the plants and the significance of the work we were doing.”

The following weekend, MUFG Union Bank volunteers joined SCA in the Southwest for projects in Phoenix and Los Angeles on November 11th.

In Los Angeles, 60 volunteers came together at the Audubon Center at Debs Park – a site providing habitat to over 140 species of birds – to water new plantings and forge a quarter-mile of new trail winding through woodland, grassland, and sage scrub preserved as part of the original ecosystem of the Los Angeles Basin. Cindy Castenada, Conservation Program Coordinator for the Audubon Center, spoke to the impacts of the morning’s work: “thank you for supporting our project to create a trail to minimize habitat disturbance and help make the park more accessible for the public to enjoy an urban wilderness!”

Volunteers forge new trail at the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles.

In Phoenix, 50 MUFG and SCA participants headed to Papago Park, part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, to help preserve native habitat for the iconic giant saguaro cactus and other desert wildlife. Curious road runners followed volunteers as they worked to sand and repaint historic ramada structures and remove trash and invasive plants that threatened the desert habitat. 

While in Phoenix, SCA leaders also paid a special visit to MUFG offices, where an additional 50 MUFG volunteers took time out of their work day to make wildflower seed balls that will help bring native pollinator species back to the Phoenix area.

Volunteers restore desert habitat at Papago Park in Phoenix.

To close MUFG Gives Back Volunteer Month, 50 volunteers from Union Bank and the local community came together in the Bay Area to restore Oakland City Stables - a hidden jewel in the Oakland Hills offering youth and therapeutic riding programs to Oakland residents.

“This site has a history that goes back almost three hundred years,” said Melanie Diamond, who oversees the Stables on a volunteer basis as sole proprieter through Diamond Equine Services. “Now it is owned by the City of Oakland and run entirely by volunteers, and we are working to restore the historic hacienda and barn buildings. Many of our horses here are rescues, and people find a lot of peace just coming up here to spend time with the animals. It’s a special place.”

Volunteers cut back invasive juniper shrubs that pose a fire hazard to the historic hacienda buildings at Oakland City Stables.

Union Bank volunteers cut back invasive juniper that had overgrown the historic buildings and posed a fire hazard in a region plagued by recent wildfires. They also helped to grade the 30,000 sq ft riding arena. “This stuff is like quicksand!” declared 8-year-old volunteer Santiago as he pulled a heavy rake across a rough area. “But I’m going to stay here all day till I’m done!”

After the morning’s project, volunteers picnicked in front of the historic hacienda and enjoyed a well-earned lunch while watching one of the Stables’ rescue horses take a test run in the newly-improved arena. “I live close by this place and have even driven by a few times,” said 18-year-old volunteer Jorge Plasencia, a recent alum of SCA’s Oakland youth crews. “But I never knew all this was back here!”

Volunteers restore the riding arena at Oakland City Stables.

SCA was proud to welcome almost 200 MUFG employee volunteers to participate in the month’s events across the country — and grateful to MUFG for the opportunity to mobilize hundreds more community volunteers from local schools and youth groups including YMCA, AmeriCorps, Arizona State University, Columbia University, CUNY, Tree People, and Gay For Good. 

“What Union Bank is doing is really impressive,” said Chris Fabbro, a volunteer who joined SCA and Union Bank at the project in Los Angeles. “I bring out volunteers for other service days, but this level of support — the tools, the food, everything we need — is something you don’t get very often. It motivates people to come back when they see that companies care. It’s great to see Union Bank and SCA providing a platform like this for community groups to work together.”

Although MUFG Union Bank has already helped to mobilize more than 400 volunteers in just three weekends, SCA will team for events in additional cities this spring. Big thanks to MUFG for their support of SCA conservation projects across the country! Stay tuned for ways you can join the efforts in your community at www.thesca.org/events.