In uncertain times, volunteering helps Mackenzie Scott stay grounded

In uncertain times, volunteering helps Mackenzie Scott stay grounded

Mackenzie Scott was hooked on volunteering with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan from the first time she tried it.

Her coworker and friend, a member of Grand Rapids Young Professionals, invited her along to a special event the organization hosted with the Land Conservancy. The group worked together to remove garlic mustard from one of the Land Conservancy’s preserves.

“I was obsessed,” Mackenzie said. “I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the people that were there.”

Mackenzie Scott

After that, Mackenzie started attending more of the Land Conservancy’s Second Saturday Workdays.

Mackenzie is a sixth-grade science teacher and the co-leader of her school’s science club. She saw the events as an opportunity to engage her students. Last year, she brought a few students to a seed collecting workday at Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve and then to a seed planting workday at The Highlands.

This year, things are a bit different.

“It’s tough. I keep saying this: ‘I don’t recognize my job description anymore.’ It’s just totally different,” Mackenzie said.

The coronavirus pandemic has upended any hope for a normal school year. Mackenzie reflected on how the last year ended:

“When we first closed our schools in March, we all kind of thought it was going to be temporary. I remember I switched out my calendar and put up April, thinking, ‘We’ll be back in April, I’ll just set up my calendar now.’” Mackenzie said. “And then we didn’t come back.”

Those first few weeks in isolation were difficult, she said. She recalled a string of days when she didn’t leave her studio apartment once. Eventually, she resolved that she had to start getting back outside.

“My husband and I would try to go to a different trail or park nearby three times a week,” Mackenzie said. “That really did something for both of us.”

Being in nature turned out to be healing, she said. Later in the summer, Mackenzie went on her first backpacking trip in the Porcupine Mountains.

“It came at the perfect time. I was hitting another one of those dips where it’s like: We’ve been isolated for so long, and there’s so many unknowns with the school year and my career, and I just got to go spend four days in the mountains. My biggest concern was, ‘Oh, my water filter broke. How are we going to get clean water?’” she said. “It just brought me back down to reality.”

As she prepared for this school year, Mackenzie reflected on what it means to be resilient in a time so full of uncertainty.

“You just have to remember why you’re doing it; what the core of what you are doing is for,” she said. “Then you can persevere through all the stuff you can’t control. You can just get through it.”

Mackenzie said volunteering supports this feeling.

“I think that’s something volunteering helps me with: it’s feeling like I can do something. I’m not helpless,” she said. “That’s something that I appreciate about volunteering with the Land Conservancy. We’ll be out there for a few hours but you can see the difference that you’ve made, and that’s nice.”

More than that, Mackenzie appreciates the people she meets at Second Saturday Workdays.

“I just appreciate the community of people that the Land Conservancy tends to draw. It’s a group of people who are kind spirited. I’ve met incredible people at these events,” she said. “It’s the type of people you want to surround yourself with when you’re experiencing a pandemic—people who are positive and want to get out and do something to impact the space around them.”

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