I often hear “Oh, I need to get my hours in” or “I only get in a few hours a year, so it doesn’t really matter.” Yes, you do, and yes, it does!! Part of being a Master Naturalist is providing volunteer service to our community and to the environment. Even if you can’t contribute the 40 hours a year to recertify, the time that you do put in counts, and it counts in a big way.
The State Program Office defines an Active Member as someone who has paid their dues and has submitted at least one volunteer hour for the year, so if you want to be an “active” part of our Chapter, you need to submit at least one hour. Once you see how easy that is, you’ll probably want to start to submit even more.
Aside from that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from submitting hours, you can win nice bling! Each year, the program provides a pin for those who achieve 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of advanced training. The pin is a charismatic Texas plant or animal chosen by the membership. The 2015 pin is the Texas Bluebonnet, and 2016 will be the Guadalupe Bass. Those who reach volunteer service milestones of 250, 500, 1000, 2500, 4000, 5000, and 10,000 hours receive additional pins of the program “mascot,” the Cyrano Darner dragonflies ranging from bronze to silver to gold to plutonium. Three of our members, Jim Anding, Kitty Anding, and Betty Vermeire, have reached the 1000-hour level and received their gold dragonflies. Congratulations, you three! The Master Naturalist Program is a federally recognized volunteer service program, so at the 4000-hour level, you receive a personal signed letter from POTUS! Fourteen Master Naturalists statewide have reached the 10,000-hour service level. That’s the equivalent of five-years of full-time work!
|"Money" by Aaron Patterson, Flickr, cc-by.|
The volunteer hours (but not advanced training hours) that we report to the State Program Office are matched by federal funds at a current rate of $23/hour, so your 40 hours to certify each year results in a contribution of $920 in REAL MONEY to Texas Parks & Wildlife! And if you go over the 40 hours, those hours are matched, as well. Even if you don’t make the 40 hours, every hour that you do report gets funded. By the end of 2014, TMN volunteers across the state had accumulated over 2.8 million hours of volunteer service at a value of over $65 million dollars!
Next year, we’ll be rolling out the online Volunteer Management System (VMS) for reporting hours. The Board was just trained in the system, and we’ll be providing training to the membership shortly. The system will make reporting hours much easier, but it will also require you to do so in a more timely manner, as you will have only 45 days after an “opportunity” to report.
I know that many of you report your hours faithfully every month. Betty and I thank you! For those who don’t, I hope I’ve convinced you that reporting hours is an integral part of what it means to be a Master Naturalist. All the good work that you do as part of the program is for naught if you don’t report it to us so we can’t report it to the State Program Office. Now, go get those hours caught up!