Volunteers of the Month: Starla McDermott and Nick Van Liere

Starla McDermott and Nick Van Liere at this year's Grand River Water Festival, an event that couldn't have happened without a lot of hard work from each of them!

Starla McDermott

“This internship was exactly right,” says Starla McDermott, WMEAC’s Grand River Water Festival ’11 Coordinator. “The experience, connections and friends I made were fantastic! It was also great to be up on all the current environmental news. I’ve heard of WMEAC before I started here, and I was so glad to be involved with this great organization.”

When asked about her work on the Grand River Water Festival, McDermott says she wasn’t disappointed at all, but she wished it would’ve been bigger. “Many of the sponsors and vendors needed to get reacquainted with us, as we did not hold the festival last year. I hope the weather is as nice and the turnout gets bigger every year.”

After 17 years of marketing and fairs in the natural food industry, McDermott decided it was time for a change. She quit her job last fall and headed back to school, enrolling at GRCC and GVSU. She is pursuing a degree in the non-profit arena and hopes to graduate in 2013.

“I’m now looking for a job that includes sustainability, education and communication. I’ve lived in many cities across the US and not one comes close to the community spirit I feel here in Grand Rapids. I definitely plan to stay here.”

Nick Van Liere

Nick Van Liere has been an intern with WMEAC since the end of December 2011, and he has been gaining positive experiences ever since. He is the Lead Intern for BetterBuildings for Michigan and held the Grand River Water Festival Internship, as well.

Van Liere grew up in Holland and has been a Grand Rapids resident for a little over a year. He is studying Natural Resources Management at GVSU and hopes to graduate May of 2012.

“I would love to work in Urban Gardening, specifically in areas where there are ‘food deserts’. For reasons of low income and lack of transportation, residents in these areas are unable to access healthy foods. I want to teach others how to grow, harvest and cook food grown in their backyards to sustain their families.”

Working with sponsors and vendors for the Grand River Water Festival introduced him to other people that are like-minded, in regards to eating sustainably and encouraging and educating others to do the same. Networking and building on outreach, organizational and communication abilities are valuable skills that Van Liere has gained from his experiences with WMEAC.

“More than anything, BetterBuildings is a community outreach program. We go into neighborhoods and work with people on their level to help them improve their home’s energy efficiency levels. The same is true for the work I hope to do with urban gardening.”

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