Cope Team Member, Mary Jones, Says Farewell
How did you first find out about CEC, and what has continued to attract you to the place?
I volunteered a couple of times at Cope Center as a student and Bonner Scholar at Earlham College. As a graduate, I wanted to stay in Richmond and Cope Center offered me a chance to use my degree in Environmental Studies locally. At the time, I had no idea what a profound influence the Center would have on me! I have enjoyed working with CEC’s incredible staff and board and partnering with so many organizations in the community from Morrisson-Reeves Library to Just Us Kids Outdoors (JUKO). The energy and willingness to work together to help improve life in our community is contagious and powerful. It has kept me going and it will be hard to leave behind!
In what ways have you seen CEC expand upon its mission of teaching environmental sustainability?
CEC has grown by leaps and bounds just in the three years I have been on staff! Not only is the Center on the cusp of constructing a new facility through the Living Building Challenge, it’s education will play a pivotal role in Indiana’s Upcoming Bicentennial Celebration. Stay tuned for more news on that! CEC has also deepened its education within Wayne County and beyond in my time here. Several school districts now have partnerships with the Center that allow certain grades to experience CEC’s programs four times during the school year. As one of the educators on staff, it has been a pleasure to develop meaningful relationships with local kids as we learn together about the environment that sustains human life.
What did you learn the most while being here?
I have learned about the power of partnership. An organization like Cope Center could never have the impact it has without the support of our community sponsors (shout out to First Bank Richmond and Reid Hospital & Healthcare Services, just to name a few!), hard-working volunteer army, and the help from other organizations with similar goals. Together, CEC is much more effective than 8 staff members working in a vacuum by ourselves. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise environmental awareness!
What degree are you pursuing, and how do you hope to use it?
I am pursuing a Masters of Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan. I am excited to learn more about how environmental issues overlap with issues of public health, including access to safe greenspaces, fresh food and more. I hope this experience will give me a broader perspective that will help me become a better environmental advocate in my future career.
You were the founder of the Get Outside–Play Program, a summer playing challenge for kids. Why were you passionate about starting it?
As the grant-writer on staff, scary statistics about our children’s health and wellbeing come across my desk on a daily basis. Many issues our youngest community members face, such as increased rates of obesity, anxiety and depression, ADD/ADHD, vitamin D deficiency, even near-sightedness and more have been traced back (in part) to not spending enough time outdoors. This mountain of evidence has shown that kids need to get outside! Through Get Outside – PLAY! CEC hopes to inspire kids to develop the simple, healthy habit of just being outdoors and having FUN! I think the more kids we have climbing trees, swinging in the park, and biking around their neighborhood, the better J
What did you take from serving the Centerville, Richmond, and Wayne County region?
I have learned that small communities are fantastic places to work, especially for young people like me. Where else can you start a career, and within a few years, know all sorts of key community players from politicians, to business owners, to leaders in various non-profits? It’s an environment ripe for making a meaningful impact on a community. I also enjoy seeing people I have met through Cope Center and other organizations I’ve been involved in (like Sprout of Control and Townsend Community Center) around town at various community events, restaurants, even the grocery store! I will definitely miss those daily connections in Ann Arbor.
Do you think you would ever work at CEC or similar organization again?
Absolutely! Cope Environmental Center will always have a special place in my heart. I would welcome the opportunity to work for another organization that has as much passion about environmental stewardship and is staffed with such amazing people!
You’re from Texas! What is now your favorite Midwest food?
I love casseroles! They are combination of all things wonderful
Thank you Mary for all of your hard work and time spent with us! You will be missed by us and the whole community!