Why I volunteer: Philip Blocklyn on RiverLink

Philip Blocklyn

Editor’s note: In the spirit of our spring Nonprofit Issue, we reached out to volunteers from several local nonprofit organizations, asking them to reflect on what inspired them to begin their work and the impact it has had on both the community and themselves. 

I began volunteering with RiverLink in 2016, before I even lived in Asheville. At the time, my wife and I were living on Long Island and had spent a few summer vacations camping at North Mills River. I must have discovered RiverLink by Googling online, maybe searching for “volunteer opportunities outdoors.” What’s certain is that we made the move to Asheville the following year.

My first work crew set out to remove non-native invasive vines — porcelain berry, as I remember it. I didn’t think of myself as particularly invasive, but I was definitely a nonnative. So I was looking to do more than just meet people. I wanted to feel a part of a community with a common cause.

Working on a long-term project like Karen Cragnolin Park has been especially fulfilling. That ground has become more than just a link between two neighboring parks. It’s a place where we as volunteers can feel directly connected with those who started out 15 years ago and with everyone who will come there for all the springtimes to come. It makes us aware of how many crews it takes to push a project forward and how much we owe to the AmeriCorps staff — dedicated, resourceful, unfailingly patient — who head up those crews.

When I step into the water for a cleanup day, I’m thinking that things are getting better for that stream. I’m wondering if we may all be judged by how we treat the waters that we share. I’m hoping that the judgment will be kind. But that will take some doing. That will take another day of work, undertaken gladly.

For more on RiverLink, visit riverlink.org.


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