The simple truth is that when it comes to non-profit service organizations in Wallingford, it is the volunteers who make it happen. None of these organizations collect enough money to let them just hire staff to provide the services that are so badly needed in our community. Today’s post starts a series of interviews with volunteers who make up the strong right arm of Wallingford service organizations.
Barb Burrill – Friends of Meridian Playground
Barb is a “serial volunteer” – she always finds a new community need she can help with. She got started volunteering at John Stanford Elementary School while her son was a kindergartner there. She started the Green Team at JSIS primarily in an effort to reduce the food waste from the lunchroom and from events at the school. The kids learned to separate their disposables among food waste, recyclables, and garbage. The best food waste went to worm bins to make high quality compost. The kids really loved it.
At the same time she got involved in organizing the neighborhood outreach to promote the Think Green Challenge by Waste Management, which challenged Seattle neighborhoods to increase their recycling percentage. Wallingford was already high in recycling so it was hard to increase it enough to place first in the competition, but in the final analysis we still reduced our waste enough and organized many outreach activities so that we got rewards three out of three years that bought the two new permanent picnic tables and benches at Meridian Playground, just south of the toilets.
For a couple of years Barb volunteered with Solid Ground’s community fruit tree harvest in Wallingford.. That led to volunteering and then working part-time for City Fruit, where her focus was the public orchards in Seattle, such as the trees in Meridian Playground originally planted by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Piper’s Orchard – left over from a pioneer orchard and now a part of a public park – and at the Amy Yee Tennis Center in Mt. Baker – left over from a World War II housing project. She organized volunteers, prepared training materials, taught pruning techniques, and more. Each year the fruit tree harvests from the public orchards contributed as much as 10,000 pounds of fruit to nearby food banks.
At Hamilton International Middle School she started their Green Team, again with the goal of Washington Green Schools (now EarthGen) certification, which included replanting street trees, food waste reduction, and doing transportation surveys. She organized Spring Cleans along 45th and the Burke-Gilman Trail tree maintenance. Recently she has been caring for the fruit trees in Tilth Alliance’s Adult Garden behind the Good Shepherd Center. Seeing more work that needed to be done, in 2020 co-founded the Friends of Meridian Playground (FOMP). As you can see in the photo, for the last two years they have been digging, mulching, pulling weeds, especially holly and ivy, and generally cleaning up the park. Some of the volunteers are every week regulars and some come and go. They very much enjoy making the park look better. You can really see the difference they have made in the park.
There is an opportunity for more Wallingford folks to volunteer with FOMP and get your hands dirty while enjoying good company, a little exercise and making a real difference for the community. You can check out their Facebook group, FOMP Seattle, or send an email to [email protected]. They can provide more information and help you find a job you will enjoy.
If you have suggestions for dedicated Wallingford volunteers we should interview, please send an email with contact information for your nominee to [email protected].