Register for CEED Nature Adventure Summer Camp 

Register for CEED Nature Adventure Summer Camp 

New Year Volunteer Potluck Gathering and Acknowledgements

New Year Volunteer Potluck Gathering and Acknowledgements

New Year Volunteer Potluck Gathering and Acknowledgements

In January, we started our annual Volunteer Potluck Gathering and Acknowledgements. Being the first year, selecting the perfect candidates was a challenge. CEED has so many dedicated volunteers.

Our Sea Star CEED Friend award went to AHRC, the Clean Team: Joey and ToniAnn.

Our Golden Holly CEED Festivities award goes to Eileen Dugan for her dedication with coordinating events.

Our Golden Maple Seed award went to 3 people this year, it was just too hard to narrow it down. These volunteers go are true pillars to CEED’s success. Dwayne Stephani, Michael Kaiser, and Barbara LaGois all really go above and beyond.

Lastly, our Silver Acorn Board award went to Tom Pelletier, our dedicated Board Chairperson.

We enjoyed good food and many laughs, it was a great evening all around!

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Meet a Board Member – Jennifer Vorbach

Meet a Board Member – Jennifer Vorbach

Meet a Board Member – Jennifer Vorbach

Talk about perfect timing. Jennifer Vorbach, one of CEED’s newest board members, joined the Board just in time for us to co-host a groundbreaking art & nature exhibition, our very first. To know why this is such exquisite timing, you have to know where Jennifer’s life has taken her so far.

Born in Paris, and growing up in Geneva, Switzerland, Jennifer has also lived in London, and traveled extensively in Asia, South America, and Europe. She remembers being entranced by nature as a child, especially during summer vacations spent in the Swiss Alps watching chamois, a species of alpine goats, bound across the mountains. She kept salamanders and other creatures in large jars in her bedroom.

So it’s no surprise that when she came to the United States to attend college, she first majored in biology. She later found an even stronger career pull toward contemporary art, however, and eventually ended up following that path. She has been a buyer, seller, consultant, and even an auctioneer. She’s been employed by Christie’s no less than three times! Eventually, she helped form a gallery in Manhattan, started her own art business, and then moved to Bellport in 2014. 

Jennifer noticed CEED right away and began attending and enjoying CEED events. “I love that CEED is focused on education and connecting people to nature. It’s wonderful to see the community explore nature in an unmanicured place and get lost in the beauty. And it fits with my love of art. I have always felt that Mother Nature invented everything that artists strive to do.”

Jennifer was also attracted to what she describes as “The Edward Hopper-like Washington Lodge.” She met CEED’s Treasurer, Swazi Clarity, at local events, and then discovered they shared a dog walking route. Their dogs became fast friends first, and then Swazi and Jennifer followed. So when Swazi suggested Jennifer might be a good candidate for CEED’s Board, Jennifer was all ears.

And just a few weeks after joining the Board in April, CEED began a wonderful collaboration with Inspiration Plus, an organization on the South Fork that fosters the arts. What perfect timing for a new Board member with an arts and nature background to jump in with both feet. We’re so fortunate and grateful to have Jennifer lending her enthusiasm and expertise to the creation of this unique new event, Sculpture on the Trail … an Art & Nature Exhibition, to be held on August 20, 2022. 

Jennifer describes it as “a journey of discovery along the trail.”

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Questions for a Co-Founder – Eric

Questions for a Co-Founder – Eric

Questions for a Co-Founder – Eric

As with many people, I had the fortune of knowing Ranger Eric Powers for a very long time, but not really knowing him beneath the “Ranger Eric” persona.  The past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to learn more about who he is and understand how he got to the point of starting our successful non-profit organization Art & Nature Group, Inc. dba CEED. 

We first met many years ago, before cell phones were the norm.  I worked for a summer program through SCOPE outdoor education when I was a teacher and Ranger Eric was a full-time employee for SCOPE/ Western Suffolk BOCES outdoor education program. We were camping at Blydenburgh County Park with a bunch of pre-teens and Eric stopped by.  It was August of 2003 when we had the big blackout in the Northeast.  We had no idea there was no electric on Long Island because we were camping. What I remember most about Eric were his bird calls and his ability to get the children away from talking about video games and other non-nature activities.  He had and still has a gift of getting people excited about nature.  I jumped at the opportunity to interview Ranger Eric Powers because I know we would all love to learn more about this what brought him to Long Island almost 30 years ago and how he got to where he is now. The following is my interview with Ranger Eric Powers, co-founder of CEED. Sally Wellinger, Executive Director

1) What inspired you to enter the field of conservation and environmental education?

“Well, it was a series of events.  After college, I landed my dream job as a park ranger.  After 2 years, I realized it was more of telling people what they can’t do instead of teaching people why you would want to protect the Earth.  I found myself gravitating to helping at the nature center whenever I had the opportunity.  When the director left, I asked if I could fill in and they said yes.  I really felt I was making a bigger difference in the world and loved creating programs and teaching about animals.”

2) Is there one person who comes to mind as an inspiration for you?

“There actually are two people that come first in my mind, for two different reasons. First, David Attenborough with his nature videos, that have always inspired me to learn about the natural world.  Second, Larry Rogstad, a game warden who I worked with in Colorado, helped me find my career path.  I would ride around with him and learn what he did as a game warden and discuss different opportunities.”

3) What brought you to Long Island from Colorado?

“My career plan was to travel around the United States taking seasonal jobs. After two years of travelling the country, I saw a full-time position with Western Suffolk BOCES posted as an outdoor educator.  I applied, got an interview, and flew to Long Island on my last dollar.  I felt great about the interview and was offered the position the next day.  I put all of my belongings, which were mostly skulls, furs, rocks, and camping gear in the back of a pick-up truck and drove to Long Island.” 

4) Who was your first friend on Long Island?

“I have to say my first friend I met on Long Island is Barbara LaGois. (Who by the way is one of CEED’s most dedicated volunteers!). I went on an Audubon night hike looking for owls.  They were repeatedly playing a recording, which I am not a fan of recordings.  After a while, I started using my Eastern Screech Owl call to answer back to the recording.  The crowd was excited to hear the owl respond back to the recording.  Barbara was the only person who noticed it was me calling back and we became fast friends.  Another early friend, Patrick …., took me kayaking on every stream and river on Long Island, which really helped me learn about all of the natural places on the island.”

5) When did you start your own company YC2N (Your Connection to Nature)?

“I started my own company in 2005.  As an outdoor educator for schools at Caleb Smith State Park with BOCES, I noticed there was a huge calling for bringing environmental education programs into schools, especially with live animals. It was a perfect way to blend my interests of handling animals and environmental education into a career.”

6) What were your feelings about taking the jump to start your own company?

“It was terrifying and a huge leap of faith.  My mom and all my friends supported the idea, but I had no funding and no idea on how to run a business. I used all my savings to start and took a business class on writing business plans.  I was taking any program that came my way, which gave me the phrase of doing programs from ‘Manhattan to Montauk’.”

7) What was your biggest surprise when starting YC2N?

“Honestly, that it would take off so quickly.  I was immediately booking programs left and right.  My biggest stumbling block was getting the website running.  Back then creating a website was much more difficult and I did not have the technology experience.”

8) Can you remember the first moment when the thought of the Art & Nature Group, Inc. came to be?

“I had known John DiNaro, local Brookhaven Hamlet artist, for a long time prior to the start of our art and nature collaboration.  He was gifted at painting environmental murals in schools with students and we met through BOCES.  We noticed an increase in requests from art teachers wanting art programs that were connected to nature.  We started meeting with other artists and discussing possibilities. 

“At the same time, I was doing some work with Journeys in Native American Territories.  I learned my survival skills through a Native American survival teacher, so these skills paired well with teaching Native American methods. Through this program, I met Uaian, a Taino story teller.

“At dinner one night, we just came up with a potential theme of art and nature combined and the four of us would each take a corner of a gym for an interactive assembly.  We called it the Art & Nature Group.  I listed it with BOCES and the first year several schools booked our program.”

9) Once the assembly Art & Nature program became successful, what was your next step toward where we are today?

“Since we had attracted several other environmental artists into the group, we knew our next step was to find a physical location for two reasons.  First, we needed space to put all of our accumulated supplies and equipment. Second, we wanted a location where we could provide our offerings. At that time. I had just met Rebecca Muellers in a Master Naturalist program I was teaching.  She jumped right in and offered to help.

“We travelled all over Suffolk County viewing potential locations that were recommended to us.  John DiNaro knew Jim and Pauline Hazard, also local residents.  Jim Hazard is the Facilities Manager for the Post Morrow Foundation.  Jim and Pauline were working hard at trying to think of ways to use the Washington Lodge and the surrounding grounds.  Jim Hazard had connected me and Rebecca with Tom Williams, one of the board of directors for the Post Morrow Foundation.  Rebecca crafted a proposal to the Post Morrow Board of Directors, who in turn introduced them to the Town of Brookhaven.  From there, Rebecca opened negotiations with the town and here we are today, located in this amazing community that has been connecting art and nature for over a century.”

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Questions for a Co-Founder – Rebecca

Questions for a Co-Founder – Rebecca

Questions for a Co-Founder – Rebecca

CEED was co-founded by Rebecca Muellers and Ranger Eric Powers.  Volunteer Monisha Rosenfeld caught up with Rebecca to ask her about creating CEED:

1) Do you remember the moment when you knew the inception of CEED and/or acquiring the legal use of the Lodge was a reality?

“There were two pivotal moments in the beginning. First was the 2016 wine and cheese event that was hosted at Pete & Jennifer (Puleston) Clement’s barn in Brookhaven Hamlet. This event introduced CEED to the community and our plans to create a nature center at the Washington Lodge. We created the logo, the name CEED and a multi-phased plan with color-coded, architectural plans to transform the Lodge into a nature center. We presented to the group that gathered, telling them about our plans to renovate the Lodge into a retreat center, provide environmental programming for all ages and that CEED would be a collaborative center for the community. Seventy-five people were in attendance, including special guest, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. The event was a huge success, and during a short speech, Supervisor Romaine called CEED ‘a beacon of light’ in our community. This event paved the way for Eric and I to get a meeting with the Supervisor, where we formally asked the Town for use of the Lodge as a nature center. Event attendees gave us our first donations, which continued to flow in after the event, including a $5,000 check from Yaphank-based Precision International.  It was THE event that launched CEED and was most definitely a catalyst for everything else that followed!

“The next pivotal moment was when we successfully executed the license agreement with the Town of Brookhaven and were handed the keys and stewardship of the Washington Lodge. It happened a full year after the wine and cheese event, and after more than 10 months of tedious negotiation. There was a joint press conference with the Town and a celebratory dinner at Bellport’s Café Castello to mark this momentous occasion. It was truly glorious!”

2) How do you describe your feelings during the early days of it all?

“It was a roller coaster of emotions! There was so much to do and it was hard to know what to do first. We learned a lot from our mistakes, and there were many days when I felt like we took two steps forward and five steps backward. But there were also a lot of ‘wins’ and turning points that propelled the organization forward, which was exciting! Eric and I got to know each other very well and we gave each other pep talks a lot. From early on I would say, ‘It may take us awhile, but I feel it in my bones that this thing is going to happen.’”

3) What is one of the funniest moments that you recall working with Ranger Eric?

“One of the funniest moments happened after we had just managed to remove 6 raccoons that were living in the Lodge ceiling. It had been Eric’s mission to evacuate the raccoons, and one by one he made it happen just a few days before we would be hosting one of our first nature festivals.  Eric was giving a tour of the Lodge, when all of a sudden Eric, his dog and the person he was touring were covered in fleas! They all went jumping and screaming out of the Lodge! It turned out that removing the raccoons also removed the hosts for the fleas, so all the fleas descended from the ceiling to find new hosts. The way Eric told the story to me afterwards was absolutely hysterical. It was so fitting at the time that despite his hard work to get rid of the raccoons, there was still one more ‘kicker’ to contend with…a flea infestation!  There were so many surprises, twists and turns that we faced in those early days.  But we usually triumphed in the end. We had the Lodge ‘bombed’ and there were fleas and raccoons no more!”

4) What were some of the biggest challenges or surprises with starting a non-profit?

“There were so many challenges and surprises, so it is very hard to choose just a few! When you are starting a non-profit, everything takes longer and is more work than you think it will be. Building trust in the community, fundraising, marketing, program development, networking….it all takes a lot of time and ‘people power’. And if you want to be effective, it can’t be rushed. Probably one of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to prioritize. There were so many goals and tasks that needed to be accomplished, all at once. Building a network of volunteers, finding grants, connecting with donors, developing organizational processes and infrastructure, program development and repairing the Lodge were all ‘front burner’ priorities. But in reality, there was simply a limit to our bandwidth, and funding, for getting things done. It was particularly tough with CEED, because we were building the organization at the same time we embarked on the capital project to renovate the Lodge. There has always been no shortage of great ideas and passionate people at CEED. So we have learned to prioritize and think and plan incrementally.  I think it is one of the most important keys to CEED’s continued success.”

5) Was it an instantaneous decision or did the decision evolve to form the Art & Nature Group, Inc.?

“It was more of an evolution. The Art & Nature Group (ANG) originated as a program within Eric’s mobile nature education business, Your Connection to Nature (YC2N). It was structured as a school assembly that included both art and nature themed stations that student groups would visit, in a round robin style. Eric had a network of artist and environmental educator colleagues that he collaborated with, and even expanded the program to outdoor festivals. Eventually, the group decided the program would have more potential as a non-profit organization with art and nature education as its core mission.  Just as Eric formed the non-profit, he and I met through a master naturalist course. We shared a mutual passion for finding a new way to deliver environmental education to Long Island, and he convinced me to join ANGs Board of Directors. It was that first Board that decided the organization needed a programmatic ‘home base’. Once we discovered the Washington Lodge, we were driven to make it our home, and Eric and I lead the charge.”

6) What about the inception of CEED?

“We created the name CEED (Center for Environmental Education & Discovery) because we thought it would better represent the organization’s programmatic goals and home. It would also translate our mission more effectively than ANG in marketing.  We had so many ideas and goals for the organization. Using the words ‘art’ and ‘nature’ in the name started to feel somewhat limiting.  Environmental education was a wider reaching term, and the word ‘discovery’ kept an open door to many more possibilities, which we loved.  Calling it a ‘center’ also really pulled it all together in a way that evoked our collaborative and inviting nature.  We also loved that CEED is pronounced like “SEED”!  I’d like to give a shout out to volunteer Barbara Lindemann for her valuable input during those early name discussions!”

7) Did you have any moments when you felt overwhelmed? Scared? Excited?

“The first few festivals we had at the Lodge grounds were very exciting! We had not executed the license agreement or gotten the keys to the Lodge yet, but the Town gave us permission to host the festivals on the grounds. It was the first time we gathered at the property as an organization and invited the public to join us to celebrate and learn about nature! About 15 people gathered for the occasion. We had a fire pit, snacks, decorated a tree with nature-friendly ornaments and volunteers played music and performed a traditional antler dance in celebration of the solstice!  It is awesome to think back about how far we have come since then.

“A time that felt overwhelming, scary and exciting all wrapped in one was when I decided to approach State Senator Tom Croci for a grant to help repair the Lodge. I had heard that he was offering mobile office hours to citizens at the South Country Library in Bellport. I had also heard that he had a ‘discretionary fund’ from which funds could be granted to improve and help the community. So I signed up for a 5- minute meeting (That’s all each person got with him…and it was timed!). I gave the fastest and most succinct ‘pitch’ of my life! I told Senator Croci about CEED, its mission, our plans to renovate the Lodge and asked for the State’s financial support. Much to my surprise, he said, ‘Sounds like a great project. How about $50,000?’ It was a great day for CEED, and later this year, those funds will pay for the installation of new energy saving windows on the Lodge’s first floor.”

8) Why did you pick the Washington Lodge?

“Once we decided that ANG needed a home, Eric and I drove around Long Island and looked at many different locations. Some of the opportunities required purchase of the property and/or building a structure ‘from scratch’, which was too heavy of a financial lift for the organization. And some locations were too far off a main road and not practical or accessible enough for public programming. Through a friend of a friend, Eric learned about the Washington Lodge, which was a substantial historic building sitting vacant in the beautiful hamlet of Brookhaven.  While the building was in serious disrepair, contractors and engineers all indicated that the house had ‘good bones’ and we felt confident that it still had a lot of life left in it.  The cavernous rooms on the first floor and many bedrooms and bathrooms throughout the building would be wonderful for all the programming we envisioned.  Plus, the property is a great location right on South Country Road that was preserved with open space funding from New York State and rests on environmentally sensitive land. It includes both forest and field—offering great biodiversity. And an even larger parcel of preserved and accessible land across the street connects directly to Bellport Bay (Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve). Plus, there were several farms/CSAs in the area that we believed offered wonderful opportunity for collaboration, including Mama Farm right next door to the Lodge.  When you put it all together, the Lodge and the Brookhaven community were overwhelmingly the right fit for CEED’s mission and vision.”

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Meet a Board Member – Patricia Odusami

Meet a Board Member – Patricia Odusami

Trish Odusami officially became a CEED board member a year ago on her birthday. Since then, she has been an important part of our marketing team and dove into helping streamline Salesforce. We are honored and lucky to have her as part of our team!

Trish was born in England and has lived in London, England, Nigeria, and now calls the U.S. home for almost 15 years.  As a child, she had a wild imagination and loved writing stories and storytelling.  Patricia still loves to travel, mostly because she is fascinated about learning and understanding different cultures around the world.

Her dream one day is to live for a period among Tibetan culture to learn and be a part of their way of life. She loves the Dalai Lama’s quote, “We share this one planet, our only home so we have to take better care of it. We must cultivate compassion not only for our fellow human beings, but also for other animals, birds, and insects with whom we share the world.”

Trish runs her own consulting company focusing on providing Information technology services to Fortune 500 Companies; and providing career planning and professional advancement solutions to individuals interested in the Program and Project management space.

Trish is a lifelong learner and recently started a 2 year Masters program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship to keep up with current digital trends and bring innovative thinking/ideas both to her company and to the marketing space which she supports at CEED.

Thank you Trish for helping CEED grow into an amazing place!

Seasons Greetings from CEED!

Seasons Greetings from CEED!

Seasons Greetings from CEED!

The first snow ☃️of winter, how exciting! What a fabulous way to start the holiday season. From our CEED family to yours, we wish all our friends a wonderful closure to 2021 and new beginning for 2022. This year, I am sure we all laughed, cried, and on occasion scratched our heads with wonder. 2021 has been quite the different year, but through it all, we have learned we can accomplish great things when we work together. All of us at CEED are incredibly thankful to all of you who helped us get through difficult times; joined us for our events and programs; came out and volunteered; or just got outside to enjoy the beauty, marvel, and wonder of nature. There are scary forecasts for the future of our planet, but working together, we can make changes for the better.

Many exciting things are happening with CEED in 2022. We know you have been hearing this for a while, but we really, truly are very close to finally opening the Washington Lodge to the public, beginning with the Great Hall West! Our Bobwhite Quail Project is kicking off in January, bigger and better! We are preparing to empower our young people with the knowledge, tools, and opportunities for change, starting with Wave Makers in February (see below)! Our Spring Farm & Nature Experience and Summer Nature Experience will grow by adding a whole new section, to open the opportunity for more children to get outside and explore! We even have a few new events planned and will be bringing back our CEED and Soil Sale in April with even more opportunities to love our planet.

Please join us, whether near or far, on January 1st in pledging to make 2022 a year where we make our planet a priority and do all we can to create a healthy future. Whether it is just doing a better job recycling, reducing, and reusing; helping clean a trail; shore, or field; using fewer fossil fuels; growing more native plants and removing harmful ones; or donating to an environmental organization or cause that matters to you, locally or globally – all of that makes a difference. When all the small efforts are added together, we create big changes. We see that at CEED. Most of our donations and funds have come from individual donors and volunteers like you, and look how far we have come in just a few short years!

Thank you for all you do for us. We wish you Happy Holidays! Now go outside and make a snow angel, or maybe mud angel by the time you read this newsletter, no matter how old you are, it’s still fun!

Fondly,

Sally Wellinger, Executive Director

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