Meet Roberta Schwarz. She’s giving forward by building a park in her home town.

SAGE Fellow Roberta

Sometimes, you have to go off the beaten path to figure out what your legacy will be. Eleven years ago, Roberta and her husband, Ed, hiked through a rare White Oak Savanna that was planned for development. This simple walk changed their lives, and they came home inspired to protect the Savanna for generations to come.

Today, Roberta is an expert on how to build a local park, but she wasn’t always a park guru. A retired social worker and teacher, she’s the first to say, “There’s a lot to learn if you want to build a park, and you need great partners.” Working with other volunteers at the nonprofit, Neighbors for a Livable West Linn, her team raised $1.8 million to acquire fourteen acres of parkland, and as a SAGE Legacy Fellow, she’s working to raise another $1 million to make it a twenty-acre park. Through her leadership, hundreds of volunteers from across the community, including school children, scouts, employer and church groups, have invested nearly 10,000 hours to restore the park’s plant and animal life. Over 100 vertebrate species use the area, and as a result of the restoration efforts, over 30 native plants have reemerged, including two that haven’t been seen locally for over 100 years.

Her fundraising and volunteer-engagement strategy is simple – give it all you’ve got!

In the last twelve months alone, Roberta has planned over 30 fundraisers and her online Kickstarter campaign raised over 125 percent of her goal. For Earth Day 2015, her group will host a one-of-a-kind challenge – breaking the UK’s Guinness World Record by rallying over 850 volunteers to plant native bulbs at the same time in the park.

Many of us draw inspiration from the people closest to our hearts. Roberta is inspired by her late mother’s words: “make the best of every day.” She’s also grateful to the countless people who have embraced this project– the donors, volunteers, and her major grant writing partner, Owen Wozniak at The Trust for Public Land. Together, her team is restoring one of Oregon’s treasures, and demonstrating how communities can come together to restore their lands.

One lesson Roberta learned while building a park is the fact that children learn to steward the land when they put their hands in the soil and work it for the first time. By creating a connection between people and their land, you can protect and restore an ecosystem for generations to come.

Roberta’s Tips for Giving Forward

1. Help make a park in your own neck of the woods. I would be happy to let you know what we did that worked and, equally important, what we did that did not work.

2. Experience the rewards of a conservation effort by joining a volunteer work party or attending an inspiring fundraiser.

3. Support Oregon’s land and water conservation initiatives with a tax deductible donation.

To learn more, contact SAGE.

“Make the best of every day.”