Touch of Nature and Green Earth celebrate MLK through volunteer work


Tiffany Young | @photographybytiffa

Charles Ruffner opens Saluki Service Day by discussing safety precautions with the student volunteers on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022 at Touch of Nature in Makanda, Ill.

Touch of Nature and Green Earth hosted a volunteer day on Saturday Jan. 22nd as a way to embrace the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through volunteer work.

Stephanie Eichholz, the executive director of Green Earth, said the organization will be removing invasive species around their nature preserves to keep the native plant life healthy.

Eichholz said with racial injustices being seen more often and people working together to bring attention to these situations, the event would be a good way to bring the community together to help out as a whole.


“You know, obviously, we’re bringing light to situations that have existed all along and people’s eyes are being opened mostly with the help of technology,” Eichholz said. “More eyes can be opened and we can work together to better ourselves in our community by coming together and supporting each other.”

Eichholz said nature preserves, like the ones Green Earth has, are vital to people’s health and are important to keep clean.

“Having access to natural areas has been shown in several different types of disciplines to improve people’s moods, overall health and our sense of place,” she said. “By giving people access to these natural areas, we really try to improve the Carbondale community for the whole person. We can provide places for exercise, for outdoor exploration and for improved mental health.”

Thomas Brummer, the interim director of Touch of Nature, said that group is also glad to bring the community together by cleaning out invasive species from its camp site.

Brummer said Touch of Nature prides itself on being inclusive and thinks it is important for everyone to work together.

“Dr. King’s big vision was really being everybody’s equal and [being] inclusive. That’s what we do out here. How can we all work together to build a better community ties into our mission out here as well,” Brummer said.

Brummer said a part of their mission at Touch of Nature is to work together to build a better community. Having people from all different backgrounds and places working together to give back to the community shows how people are willing to be there for one another she said.


He said having volunteers come out was great because people got a chance to help out and learn a little bit more about nature.

“A lot of people that come out for the volunteers in the school have never experienced the outdoors in this way. This is another opportunity for us to actually achieve our mission with that outdoor experience and that gives them an exposure they haven’t had before,” Brummer said.

Kylie Lancaster, a member of the Society of American Forestry (SAF) and volunteer said the event will do a lot for people who decide to come down for Touch of Nature.

“It’s just to make the place look a little nicer and people come out here a lot and stay in the cabins and things like that,” Lancaster said. “So [we do] whatever we can to make them like the place more and want to come here more often.”

Charles Ruffner, a forestry professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU), attended the Touch of Nature volunteer event. He said it allowed students to gain some useful skills they can use in life.

“So we’re working here to kind of better our community, better our landscape forest, and get them some training and then it also gives them a little bit of leadership opportunity to work with,” Ruffner said. “Students from on-campus that really don’t have the skills but want to go spend the day in the woods can learn a thing or two.”

According to Ruffner, King was a person who encouraged people to do their part to help.

“I think he would praise all the students for their kind of dedication to their alma mater and their dedication to doing something bigger than themselves. I think he was definitely a man who preached that and lived that,” Ruffner said.

He said people should try to make an effort to help out and take pride in the fact that the work they do will make a big difference down the line.

Green Earth and Touch of Nature organizers said they were glad to be a part of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through volunteer work because it brought the community together.

“I want to celebrate coming together as a community so that we can support each other. Carbondale has a wonderful legacy of nonprofits partnering and working together,” Eichholz said. “I just hope that we can reach out to all parts of Carbondale to all communities to work to make our community a better place for everyone.”

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @DEJaniyah. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.