Earn Rewards by Serving at Blandford

Next week is invasive species awareness week and Blandford will have eco-stewards continue to cut and treat invasive species preparing for spring habitat protection, reducing the amount of invasive chemicals flowing into vernal pools. Stewards are motivated to help because they care about the projects and lands at Blandford. But there is another special bonus volunteers can gain by helping this winter. You could earn points redeemable for all sorts of fun rewards by volunteering at Blandford.
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Writer Heidi Stukkie shared “[What] began almost two years ago as an online program where people could earn rewards for recycling has now entered phase two. The City of Grand Rapids’ MyGRcitypoints.com website has recently added two new two features that let people earn points and get involved in their communities.
The first new feature encourages people to volunteer with the incentive to earn rewards for their actions. The way it works is residents sign up for an account on the site and then volunteer for one of the featured opportunities. Afterward, they earn points that can later be redeemed for discounts on restaurants, services, and retail purchases.

gr pointsPhase one of the MyGRcitypoints program was developed to encourage recycling in the City limits. There are now around 10,000 users and the program has increased recycling by 80 percent. This new second phase is open to anyone in West Michigan, and not just City residents.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the key with phase two of MyGRcitypoints is not so much about earning points, but instead about “keeping local dollars local and building communities.” He believes these two actions are important for our city’s future.

“But we are one of the first communities to do this and that sets Grand Rapids apart from other cities,” he says. “It’s kind of a radical idea.”

The City is open to suggestions for the site and ideas for future campaigns that will motivate people to get involved in the community.”All we’ve done is build the platform,” says Sundstrom. “Others can now help figure out what to do with it.”

If you’d like to earn rewards for your volunteer or recycling efforts, or participate in the special Park Makeover campaign, here’s how to get involved:

  Visit MyGRcitypoints online to find out more.
–    Sign up to start earning points.
–    Volunteer to earn points.
–    Like MyGRcitypoints on Facebook.
–    Follow @myGRcitypoints on Twitter.
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Pictured above is volunteer Tom Riddle helping remove invasive plants along a fence row on the edge of Brandywine creek in January 2016. Now, Tom and others can earn rewards for helping protect nature. MyGRcitypoints wants “everyone to take part in transforming the community into a better place to live, work, play, eat, and shop. Throw a few cans in that new recycling cart, plant a tree, or spread some woodchips; then watch your points and local businesses grow as we all work together to create a vibrant, sustainable community.”
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Land Stewardship Volunteer

mistyMISTY BROOKS – Land Stewardship Volunteer
I began my visits to Blandford Nature Center when I was a little girl.  I was fortunate enough to have grandparents living in the Hilburn condominiums at the end of the street.  I can remember walking down to Blandford, without fail, every single time we visited with them.  Sometimes it was for various festivals (I can especially recall the annual sugar bush festival) and other times we would just come to walk the trails.  We always would spot birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and various other wild animals when we were there.  I loved walking the quiet nature trails and learning about plants and animals.  I was always so excited to visit Blandford back then, and I still am today.
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I have a fond memory from one of my early childhood visits.  We walked in, my grandparents, my brother and sister, and myself.  The woman behind the desk asked us if we wanted to see something cool.  Being young and adventurous children, of course we wanted to see whatever it was.  She brought out a tall cardboard box.  At a first glance I remember seeing just a towel inside.  She gently moved the towel to reveal a tiny baby squirrel!  Apparently someone had found it fallen from a nest and brought it to Blandford, hoping that they could help this tiny creature.  Although I don’t know whatever became of that baby squirrel, I do remember learning two things that day.  1) Baby squirrels are hairless and pink.  2) I was really excited about Blandford and the things that they did, and I wanted to do something like that when I grew up.
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That day really made an impression on me.  I grew up very passionate about nature, and wanting to help wildlife.  I would spend hours working in the garden with my dad.  We would take walks out in our own backwoods, and my parents would teach me things that they knew about nature.  It all really stuck with me.  A few years after graduating high school, I decided to enroll at Grand Valley State University as a Natural Resource Management major.
vegetable garden
Today, I am a senior, and have stuck with that major throughout my college years. Even though my grandparents no longer live in Hilburn condominiums, I recently started visiting Blandford again.  I contacted them hoping to do some volunteer work for an afternoon for one of my classes.  That day turned into several days, and the days into months.  This has blossomed into a lasting and reoccurring volunteer position!  I am so happy to be frequenting Blandford Nature Center again, and it is even better as an adult.
misty brooks