Ordinary people with extraordinary action

By Joyce Abrams, Core Leader at China Camp State Park

joyce-china-camp-2.jpgBefore I started volunteering at China Camp State Park in 2012, I thought it couldn’t be that hard to run a park. There are trails, trees, and historic structures. I was certain volunteers could keep the park humming with minimal effort.

Then I learned about everything it takes to maintain our park: invasive plant removal, painting, mowing, weed-whacking, culvert clearing, staffing park facilities (visitor center, campground kiosk, café, museum), collecting fees, trail maintenance and repair, purchasing and maintaining equipment, opening and closing the park, fundraising, firewood splitting, event planning, campground logistics, hazardous tree removal, and fire extinguisher service… to name a few.

It was clear we needed an army of volunteers with various skills and interests. California State Parks Foundation helped us recruit that army.

When California State Parks Foundation’s workdays began at China Camp, it was these events that really opened my eyes to the value of a team of volunteers. Whether the team is large or small, what can be accomplished is amazing (always take before and after photos – it will make you smile).

I needed the tools and resources to organize a volunteer event and define the work that needed to get done. That’s why I decided to become a California State Parks Foundation Core Leader.

In the process, I learned to operate loaders, dump trucks, weed-whackers, log splitters, augers and more. I even learned what a McLeod is (a rake hoe, previously known to me as a “thingy”).

These were never on my bucket list as a 100 lb retired nurse, but ya know what, it’s fun. Joyce China Camp 1

Volunteering has also introduced me to people with diverse backgrounds, different interests, and get-it-done attitudes. Being among friends who make me laugh, help me learn, and make China Camp a shining example of a volunteer-powered park is what keeps me going.

There is energy and inspiration to be found in volunteers, and to say that they are the engine of a nonprofit, grassroots organization is an understatement. Repeatedly hearing from visitors that “the park has never looked better” makes me happy and proud.

Who are volunteers? They are ordinary people with extraordinary action.


This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California who tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Champion Your Parks Month! Click here to learn how you can join the celebration and thank our amazing volunteers. 

Giving back to the park we love

Jim and Brooke Shaffer, volunteers at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area

Silverwood Lake_Jim and Brooke Shaffer 3Hi, I’m Jim Shaffer and my wife’s name is Brooke. We’ve been coming to Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area for twenty-five years now. When I retired a few years ago, we decided to get an Annual Pass as the lake is only twenty minutes from our home.

We stopped at the park kiosk last December and noticed a poster on the window for the Park Champions volunteer program. We thought it was a great way to give back to the park we love. After several work days with Eddie and Kaitlin, our volunteer leaders, we met many nice, like-minded volunteers and park employees. We found it refreshing that people from all walks of life, ages, cultures, and races can come together for the love of nature.

We were so inspired by these volunteers and employees that we decided to become full-time park volunteers. We stay in touch with some of our fellow volunteers and have made new friends with the park employees as well. We see firsthand what park employees deal with on a weekly basis and they should be congratulated for their hard work and dedication.

Silverwood Lake_Jim and Brooke Shaffer 1Volunteering has been immensely rewarding. Visitors as well as park employees thank us for continuing to do the hiking/biking trail work we started with Park Champions. Since this is where we hike and kayak regularly, we benefit greatly as well. We also remove trash and graffiti year-round whenever we see it.

It’s great to know that, as volunteers, we improve the quality of life not just for us, but for other visitors, employees, and especially the wildlife that lives there every day. The other reward is that different seasons bring something special every time we visit. The fall colors, spring wildflowers, bears, bobcats, eagles, deer, and all the migrating waterfowl remind us as volunteers how lucky we are to have these state parks for now and for future generations.

We thank you all who volunteer to this great cause.


This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California who tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Champion Your Parks Month! Click here to learn how you can join the celebration and thank our amazing volunteers.