Dear Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers—I hope that you all are safe and well. I’ve been in contact with all the VMN chapter board members and advisors regularly over the last week, and I wanted to take time now to reach out to all of our volunteers.
First, I would like to holler three cheers for all of our chapter leaders. They have been doing a great job pivoting as necessary given the ever-changing circumstances. They have had to gather information and preferences from a lot of people, make decisions about canceling events, learn new technologies to move meetings online, and a lot more. Terri, Tiffany, and I are all extremely appreciative of their efforts.
Second, I want to use this platform to ask all of you to take the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC, and the Governor’s office regarding COVID-19 very seriously. The most civic-minded act we all can do right now is to avoid in-person interactions and physically distance ourselves as much as possible. I know you all are very committed to your VMN volunteer work. Please put that work on hold if you cannot do it safely. Some people may even want to stop some volunteer work and projects that don’t require group gatherings, just because they want to conserve their mental and physical energy right now. That’s completely fine. Other projects may continue because people have the energy to do them and because they can be done safely.
Third, you’ll notice I did not use the term “social distancing”, and that’s because your fellow volunteers, friends, and family need connection now more than ever. Use the time you might have spent at all those events that are now canceled instead reaching out (in a safe way) to people you know. If there are safe ways to volunteer in your community to help the COVID-19 response effort, that could be a good way to re-direct your inclination to volunteer.
Fourth, in the spirit of staying connected, I plan to be ramping up our Continuing Education webinars in the coming weeks. I had a couple of our regular webinars already lined up, and I will add to these so that there are more learning experiences available to you. I’ll announce those on our CE webinar webpage at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/continuing-education-webinar-series.html and via our CE Webinar mailing list. You can join that mailing list by going to http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/receive-communications.html and clicking the “Email Alert Sign-Up”.
Fifth, I am very proud and fortunate to work with Virginia Cooperative Extension, an agency that is providing great leadership, community assistance, and public information during this crisis. VCE now has a public webpage with COVID-19 resources at https://ext.vt.edu/covid-19updates/resources.html. Every day, additional fact sheets and other information is added there.We are so fortunate that spending time in nature, so long as we are not in close contact with other humans or sharing our binoculars, is safe! I have noticed more families than ever spending time outside in the park and trail near my house, which gives me a lot of hope.
Spring is springing, and I hope that you will be able to spot your favorite wildflower in bloom, hear the birds singing, and watch the forests turn green again as the leaves emerge.
Stay well, Michelle Prysby, VMN Program Director