My Dad – the volunteer consultant

Kailey Setter, NCC Conservation Volunteers coordinator and her dad construct nest boxes (Photo by Cindy Setter)

Kailey Setter, NCC Conservation Volunteers coordinator and her dad construct nest boxes (Photo by Cindy Setter)

June 21, 2015 | by Kailey Setter

When you're the father of a Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) employee you become a volunteer by default. It's hard to avoid getting drawn into a little pro bono work when your son or daughter comes to you seeking help or advice.

I know many NCC dads who have attended Conservation Volunteers events to clear trails or remove fencing, and others who have offered expert advice at no cost to the organization. They freely share their wealth of personal and professional knowledge because they want to help their kids succeed and show support for the work they do.

My dad never formally signed up to volunteer with NCC either, but when I began my job as Conservation Volunteers coordinator four years ago, he was quickly pulled into the mix. They never asked me in my interview if I knew the difference between a rip saw and a cross-cut saw, so I quickly discovered that there were some aspects of my job I'd have to learn on the fly. Thus began the first of many phone calls to my dad, who I now lovingly refer to as my "volunteer consultant."

Made-by-Dad willow planting tools (Photo by NCC)

Made-by-Dad willow planting tools (Photo by NCC)

Me: "What type of shelving should I buy to store our shovels?"

Dad: "I looked online and none of the shelving is very good quality. I'll make you a wooden tool rack myself. How many shovels do you need it to hold?"

Me: "We need some specialized tools to plant willow cuttings. Could you weld these pieces of rebar together?"

Dad: "Sure, bring them out with you on Saturday."

Me: "How the heck do you assemble these bird house kits? They didn't come with instructions."

Dad: "Bring them on the weekend and we'll figure them out."

Me: "Umm, since they're cedar the manufacturer says we should also pre-drill holes for all the screws..."

Dad: "Don't worry. We'll take care of it."

(Poor Dad. I forgot to tell him we'd be drilling over 360 pilot holes that day.)

Dad - the volunteer consultant (Photo by Cindy Setter)

Dad - the volunteer consultant (Photo by Cindy Setter)

Needless to say, Dad is pretty fantastic. He's logged his fair share of volunteer hours with NCC, and rarely reaps the glory because all his work is done behind the scenes. He sharpens all of our pruning tools so volunteers can clear trails. He provides advice on what equipment to use for projects so I can plan our events. He also answers my many technical questions time and again, giving me with the confidence to lead volunteers in a variety of hands-on activities.

I put a lot of stock in my dad's opinions and advice. Deep down I inherently believe he has all the answers. I guess some things never change!

So this Father's Day I want thank all the unsung dads of NCC for the time, effort and expertise they provide to the organization indirectly by supporting their kids. Dads – you'll likely find yourself "volunteering" more often than you'd like, but your impact will extend far beyond a few bird houses or trails. The hours you give is a priceless gift to your kids.

Kailey Setter

About the Author

Kailey Setter is the national manager of conservation engagement at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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