Featured Volunteer — October 2007
Allison Thrash sees a strong connection between her work at the Minnesota Department of Health and her volunteering for Friends of the Mississippi River and the Mississippi River Challenge: “You can’t have good public health without good public water.”
Photo by Tim Boyle
Growing up in Moose Lake, Minnesota, set the foundation for “Junior Naturalist” Allison Thrash. Her family camped every weekend in nearby state parks and she prided herself on collecting the kids’ naturalist stamps and badges. She had them all and was sure she wanted to be a professional naturalist when she grew up.
But, as is often the case, Allison’s career path didn’t develop exactly the way she had planned.
She began her vocational career with a degree in kinesiology and exercise physiology, working specifically with individuals to improve their health. She soon realized, however, that she needed to refocus her inner macro-lens to more of a wide-angle setting — that she wanted to “do the most good, for the most people.”
This led to her achieving a Masters in Public Health and a position as Communications Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Public Health.
Allison says her knowledge of public health “just ties in naturally” with the environment, especially with water quality issues. “You can’t have good public health without good public water.”
To learn more about doing her part, Allison attended a rain barrel workshop in spring 2006. She organized a committee at her condo that has been working on urban gardening projects, including minimizing lawn and exploring landscape solutions for dealing with excessive runoff.
Allison approached FMR about volunteering at a more substantial level late last year. It wasn’t long before she took on the role of developing communications for the Mississippi River Challenge.
She developed several press releases and other critical materials for the 2007 Mississippi River Challenge, which she and her husband hope to paddle in 2008. Mississippi River Challenge coordinator Kay Yanisch described Allison as “totally organized — she gets stuff done that she says she’s going to.”
She added that Allison’s straightforward, look-you-in-the-eye style instills confidence, and that this came through in the writing and work she has done for FMR.
Allison believes many her age are increasingly interested in volunteering their hard-won personal and professional skills.
Photo by Tim Boyle
The one-time Junior Naturalist said she believes many of her generation are feeling the need to give back to nature, with many, like her, preferring to use the personal and professional tools they have earned rather than simply writing a check. She also noted that volunteering “is a good way to build your portfolio and getting to do that with issues that you care about is really satisfying.”
Allison plans to keep her writing muscles fit, in part, by continuing her pro bono communications work for FMR — including writing profiles of future featured volunteers and River Heroes.
Even when she’s volunteering at her computer, Allison said the connection to the Mississippi River is always there — for her and everyone else. “We’re all connected to it, whether we realize it or not. It’s always there, calming, aesthetic, vital to the economy, a water source, a way of life. With all its tangibles and intangibles, it connects to everyone.”
Although our outdoors events season is winding down, FMR needs skilled volunteers year-round. If you’d like to offer your photography, communications, office, or other skills, please contact volunteer coordinator sue rich at 651-222-2193 x14 or e-mail her a little bit about yourself, your interests, and your availability through our contact form.