It’s not every day someone joins us and instantly connects with our staff and community, but when they do, we take notice!
Meet Merrill Koss, this month’s featured volunteer.
Merrill started volunteering with us in November 2014, after discovering one of our flyers in one of his favorite places to hike: Coldwater Canyon Park, our headquarters.
“I was always rushing all the time and for some reason I decided to stop,” he recalled. “And I said, I’m going to read one of those TreePeople pamphlets. It said, ‘Come be a volunteer for TreePeople.'”
He soon attended one of our Thursday Park Work Days, and then another. He kept coming back. He’s already volunteered 10 times in the first 3 months of this year, the first volunteer to hit that mark!
Now, in addition to weekly Park Work Days, Merrill also lends a hand to Jim Hardie, TreePeople’s Director of Park Operations, with general repairs around our very own Yurt Village.
“Merrill’s an all-around warm person,” says Volunteer Manager Nicole Liner-Jigamian.. “He always gets to Park Work Days early and grabs a broom and starts sweeping the parking lot and even offers rides to other volunteers. We don’t often get new volunteers who come in and instantly have such a positive effect on our events and our staff, but he really has connected with lots of different people at the organization.”
For Merrill, the benefits are mutual. “Everyone is fantastic, everyone’s so nice, and I learn something every time,” he said. “Now that I’m retired TreePeople is my priority.”
“It’s so important,” he added. “Without trees we’re dead. They make the oxygen we breathe. We gotta have ’em.”
A Tree Dedication For A Dedicated Volunteer
Recently retired, Merrill found he suddenly had a lot more time for the things he really cared about, like his long-time personal goal to plant trees in the city.
“Before I retired I was stuck behind a computer all day long,” Merrill said. “Retirement has saved my life. Now I’m outside every chance I can be.”
“I love being outside and at TreePeople. It’s very tranquil, it’s the highlight of my week,” he said. But in the back of his mind, he knew he wanted to do more. “I’ve always wanted to plant trees but never had the opportunity.”
This March, he finally got his chance, when he participated in a tree planting in Los Feliz. And to show our appreciation for his hard work and dedication, we presented Merrill with a t-shirt for his devotion, and honored him by dedicating a tree in his honor.
“TreePeople dedicated a tree in my name, which I was able to plant with Julie and Nicole,” said Merrill, referring to Liner-Jigamian and Senior Forestry Manager Julie Prejean.
“It was a very special event for me. It was an honor, it really was.” Merrill was especially grateful to Vahagn Karaptyan, a former volunteer of the year, whose training and knowledge, he says, was instrumental. “Vahagn was very beneficial and very helpful to me.”
“It’s just nice to be outside, getting your hands dirty, doing things together with people like Jim and Nicole, who are very knowledgeable. They make it very special.”
You too can be a part of our volunteer family! Check out our calendar for opportunities to help out in our park, on school campuses, and in the Angeles Forest.