Volunteers are crucial to what we do at TLC! In 2023, volunteers contributed close to 3,000 hours of their time participating in land restoration projects, conducting educational programs, leading nature hikes, and/or assisting with administrative tasks.
Margot Lester has been volunteering with TLC for the past 9 months and assists in stewardship tasks and plans to lead hikes and educational activities as part of her role in our Trail Guide program. Get to know more about what inspired Margot to volunteer below!
What inspired you to become a volunteer?
During COVID, I took a hike every weekend — many at TLC properties. Then I started pursuing my NC environmental education certification and I was looking for opportunities to enhance and apply my skills. When the call for Trail Guide training came out last year, I jumped at the chance. Since then, I’ve assisted on a few hikes at Bluestem Conservation Cemetery (a TLC partner), done prescribed burn prep at Williamson and designed nature observation content for a kiosk and the TLC blog.
What is your favorite part of your volunteer work?
Being outside is the obvious answer, but the truth is it’s helping people connect more deeply to the environment, so they’ll be stronger advocates and stewards. It’s also a fun way to give back to TLC and meet new people who enjoy the same kinds of activities and spaces I do.
What do you do outside of volunteering?
I’ve run a strategic communications agency and writing coaching business called The Word Factory for 31 years (half my life!). I’m also on the board of the South Orange Rescue Squad, an all-volunteer group providing EMS, technical rescue and CPR training. My parents say I teethed on a ballot box, which explains why I’m so active politically, especially in local campaigns and voter protection. But hanging out with my friends and family — outside, in the kitchen or at a bar — is my favorite activity by a country mile.
Do you have a favorite TLC preserve? Favorite trail?
Although there are a lot of preserves closer to me, I have a sweet spot for Williamson and the Two Pond Loop Trail. The first TLC event I went to was there (making holiday wreaths from privet) and it was a blast. There’s so much going on out there — including the urban farming initiative. It really is a living example of all the ways land stewardship can work.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I appreciate how TLC acknowledges the difficult history of the land it stewards through interpretation, programming and land ethic. It’s important to cover these realities as part of the natural history of this place and to take tangible actions toward equity and justice.