Out On the Trail: 50 Years of Volunteerism
By Bob Fuller, 2017 President's Volunteer Service Award recipient
I’ve spent some of the best days of my life out on a hiking trail, clearing brush, field checking maps and leading crews that rehabilitate trails and build new ones. You might see me carrying a clipboard and counting deer droppings, cutting brush with loppers or clearing blown down trees with a chain saw. Or perhaps you might find me building a bridge, swinging a sledge hammer or moving big rocks to build stepping stones or stairs. It’s not a high-paying job; it’s not even a paying job, actually. Money isn’t the point. I volunteer because it’s infinitely rewarding. I get to work with a great group of likeminded folks to ensure future generations can enjoy the hiking trails I have loved for so long.
Hiking became my passion at a very early age. There’s nothing in this world like spending a day on the trail, soaking in the vistas and the sounds of nature. At age 10, more than 50 years ago, that passion led me to my first volunteer event – clearing trash from the trails on what was known as annual Litter Day (now known as Earth Day). I’ve been hooked on trail work ever since and have volunteered all along the Eastern seaboard.
Over the years, volunteerism has become a major part of my life. Whether I’m teaching kids about nature or working to rehabilitate the trails, I’ve seen firsthand what an incredible impact a group of dedicated volunteers can have on their community and their planet.
In 2016, I spent more than 1,000 hours volunteering with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In that time, I worked alongside members of the Long Distance Trails Crew to rehabilitate and construct local trails, clear paths and help train other volunteers in trail work, first aid, and safety.
The most rewarding part of any volunteer activity is its impact on future generations. The projects we take on ensure that these trails will be around for years to come. We’re making it safer for people to explore the outdoors, inspiring the environmental stewards of tomorrow. But it’s not just about leading by example – I also take time to meet with young people to encourage them to get involved in those volunteer activities that inspire and motivate them. My first trail changed my life. Everyone should experience that feeling.
People may think we’re crazy for signing ourselves up for hard labor, but you don’t have to move rocks to make a difference – there are so many other ways to be a part of sparking change. National Volunteer Month is an incredible time to find opportunities to volunteer, and on Earth Day it’s especially important to remember the Earth matters – both to our generation and future generations. To get inspired and learn more about what my AT&T colleagues and I are doing, click here.