The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Those Little Bits Add Up

Posted by | May 6, 2022 | Filed under: Culture

For Nan Graves, the reserve's access road is a journey to calm. In the parking lot, she takes a deep breath and begins to relax in a place she finds both beautiful and vital. She gets out of her car and makes her way up the path to the Visitor Center. Nan volunteers at the reception desk each Friday morning, sharing her winning smile, positive attitude and knowledge with visitors lucky enough to stop by. 

I like being with people, and helping people who come into the Visitor Center. I enjoy talking about what it is we do here, and how the Reserve came to be. It's my idea of a really good time!


Nan describes herself as an environmentalist. In addition to volunteering at the reserve, she serves on the board of the York Land Trust, and is an elected official—also a volunteer position—in her hometown of York. 

Anything I can do to support environmental efforts is important to me. The Reserve is a small snapshot of what we need to be doing on a large scale in terms of protecting our environment. Many visitors don't know we do research here. That is an eye opener for them. 

Nan encourages visitors to check out the Coastal Ecology Center, which reopened as art exhibit space in 2021 and still allows visitors to view scientists working in the lab. 

I'm a geek, and I think the window view to the lab is so cool! For part of my career I was a teacher. I taught math and physics to apprentices at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The classes were 4 hours long. It was part of the apprentices' workday and they didn't always want to be there. It was an interesting problem to solve but I figured out how to structure it. One student told me, "You're really funny! You keep cracking jokes!" It was a wonderful compliment. Humor works really well to put people at ease when they feel uncomfortable or stressed. Even just smiling at someone really works. 

Nan helps the visitor who shows up with a trail map and a quizzical look, or visitors seeking the fastest route to the beach, a shady spot out of the sun, or the best areas for birding. She takes calls from members who have misplaced membership cards, answers questions about programs, and sells gift shop items. Volunteers like Nan help visitors get to know the reserve better and make memories of their time here. 

It is neat to see what people's interests are. One couple walked all around the Visitor Center, looking at the interior doors and molding. Visiting antiques dealers noticed the original weathervane on exhibit, and I learned something about it from them. One day a hawk was sitting in a tree just outside. I brought some visitors over to the window to see. They were fascinated! To be able to show something like that to visitors is a lot of fun. 

Spring is the time of year when new volunteers join the community. Nan has some welcoming words for them:

If you get stuck, just ask. I've never bumped into any staff person who wouldn't take 5 minutes to explain something or help. You can also say, "Give me a minute, I'm new here." With volunteering, doing a little bit is better than none. All those little bits add up to this beautiful place. Each volunteer here is doing their little bit, and the volume of work that gets done is incredible. 

Nan's words remind us that no one is ever "just" a volunteer. Every volunteer role is important. It all adds up. As a volunteer and a member of Laudholm Trust, Nan feels a sense of ownership. The "we" of this place includes her and every volunteer. She says:

When you feel a sense of ownership about something, you take care of it. 

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