The Friends of Silverwood Park (FoSP) received a grant earlier this year to increase the capacity of volunteers at the park. The grant was awarded by the Foundation for Dane County Parks (FDCP), which supports “Friends” groups. The Friends received a similar grant in 2020 to provide signage in the park.
With the volunteerism grant, FoSP is proceeding with a portion of Silverwood’s strategic plan, which calls for building a stronger base of support for the park through better organizational development, including engaging with community members and recruiting volunteers.
Sarah Barlow, a Silverwood neighbor, visitor and volunteer since 2015, is the Friends of Silverwood’s new Volunteer Coordinator. She lives in the Town of Albion and calls the park “a little haven.” She asked herself a focusing question as she took the job.
“I asked, ‘How can I connect the land with the people who are meant to be in relationship with it?’” she said.
Barlow has a degree in Elementary Education from UW – Eau Claire, and now runs her own business, called Embrace Your Essence. She conducts classes of five to 15 people focused on holistic healing, including Reiki, an energetic healing therapy. Her husband also works in healing arts and is a photographer who has taken pictures of various Silverwood features.
Now Barlow is also supporting FoSP’s efforts to improve the condition of Silverwood.
“I took the job because of the land,” she said. Silverwood became even more impactful for Barlow when the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stop socializing, and she visited the park more frequently and found some very special places at Silverwood.
“I’ve received insights, guidance and healing here,” she said.
Barlow is working on several projects to build volunteer power at Silverwood: She has revised FoSP’s volunteer application and posted it on the Volunteer page of the Silverwood website. She is also putting together a volunteer handbook for new park volunteers to use as a resource.
“Sarah has done a tremendous job of getting us moving in a positive direction,” said FoSP Board vice president Barb Gausman. “We’re now in a process toward improving volunteerism at Silverwood.”
On Saturday, June 26 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., Barlow will hold an orientation session for prospective, as well as existing, Silverwood volunteers. Attendees will learn more about the park, current volunteer opportunities, and the new procedures in place to support volunteers. She is also at work constructing a database to help the organization train, track and retain its volunteers.
The FDCP grant is part of a permanent endowment created to support education, interpretation, and volunteerism in Dane County parks. FoSP will report to the foundation on its progress on improving volunteerism at Silverwood before the end of this year.
Silverwood’s website now has regular announcements for volunteer opportunities at the park. Those opportunities vary greatly, from one-time or regular maintenance jobs, to serving a three-year term on the FoSP Board of Director. Barlow says there are a wide variety of tasks that volunteers of different ages and abilities can enjoy while supporting the Silverwood mission.
“As an educator and healing practitioner, I think of what we need to do to take care of our volunteers. My goal is to help them get what they need so they can show up the best they can,” she said. “Volunteers are all here because they care. My job is to help them serve.”
One way FoSP can help volunteers is through new volunteer orientations. So Barlow is encouraging anyone new or familiar with volunteering at Silverwood to join her from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 26 from for Silverwood’s first scheduled orientation. Interested individuals should contact her in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org, so she can provide materials for all participants.
“This place is a gem,” Barlow said. “I want volunteers to feel supported, and to know how to get involved. I want people to know that they matter here. And for them to enjoy this is a beautiful, sacred place with friends and family.”
“There’s a lot to learn here about regenerative practices,” Barlow said, “and being in better relationship with the earth.”
Silverwood Park is a collaborative effort of the Friends of Silverwood Park, Inc., a non-profit organization, and the Dane County Parks Division. FoSP was formed in 2013 and incorporated in 2014. For more information about volunteering at Silverwood, contact FoSP at email@example.com.