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Steal This: Helping Others is Good Business

by Jennifer Hutchins

From the desk of Jennifer Hutchins, MANP Executive Director

Talk about digging in! Last Thursday was exquisite in Bridgton, Maine. Our team spent a perfect August day cutting brush and lifting granite at Holt Pond Preserve–a 400-acre nature preserve owned by the Lakes Environmental Association–a nonprofit that has been protecting Maine lakes since 1970.

Every year, MANP invites our members to submit proposals for how we might lend a hand with a full-day of volunteering. In the past, we’ve assisted members in all corners of the state, including Habitat for Humanity in Brunswick and the Maine Farmland Trust in Unity. While, at its core, this annual activity is packed with fun and goodwill, the “ROI” for taking a full day from our daily tasks to help someone else’s mission is multi-fold:

  • Strengthening Our Team (Prof. Development): We always come away having learned something that we can apply to our teamwork in the office. This time it was trusting your intuition and speaking up when you have a feeling the group might be steering off course. Don’t be afraid to use that great sense of direction!
  • Investing in Members (Client Relations): While we still aren’t convinced we worked as hard as our LEA hosts Peter and Alyson, we know that making the extra effort to help and, ultimately, show sincere appreciation for the incredible work of one of our members earns us the “Walk-the-Walk” badge for collaboration and support.
  • Encouraging Self-care (Employee Retention): Common drivers among nonprofit professionals are selflessness and altruism, which can also mean we don’t take the time and space needed to refresh and rejuvenate. As hard as it might be, given the endless, pressing tasks for an under-resourced nonprofit, there’s plenty of research that shows creativity and innovation are increased when the brain has a chance to experience a different pace, place, or perspective.


If we helped facilitate appreciation for preserving Maine’s lakes one iota, it was well worth it. LEA preserves and restores the high water quality and the traditional character of Maine’s lakes, watersheds and related natural resources, providing comprehensive water testing for 37 lakes. With its research team, LEA has helped set state standards for “budgeting” phosphorous over an entire watershed and developed a computer mapping program that has become a national model for tracking the effects of land use on lakes.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out LEA and its many acres of easy, well-groomed (!!) trails, including a fascinating covered bridge that boasts beams made of different varieties of Maine trees (can you name them all?), it’s time to don your trail shoes and take a hike!

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