Getting to Know Debbie Seabrook, 2023 Carl Cole Service Award Recipient
Debbie Seabrook was this year’s recipient of the Carl Cole Service Award for her time and dedication to the Coastal Master Naturalist Association. Most of us know Debbie, but do we really KNOW her? I spent some time with Debbie, and I’m here to “spill the tea” (hint, it involves snakes…)
Debbie, how did you hear about CMNA and the Master Naturalist certification?
I had been wanting to do the course for years, but I was still working. Taking one class a month on a weekday throughout the year just wasn’t feasible. So I waited until I retired. I graduated in the Fall of 2015, which was one of the wettest falls ever!
Why did you want to become a Master Naturalist?
I have always been fascinated by the natural world, even though I have no science background. I enjoy learning new things and prefer group classes over independent learning.
How did you become involved with CMNA?
Immediately after I graduated, I joined CMNA. During my first year, I had a huge problem finding volunteer hours. I had no contacts in the community.
At the end of 2016, I responded to the call to volunteer for the Board of Directors for CMNA. The Vice President Ray Ward (who was also the Nominating Committee chair) told me that the two positions available were Membership Chair and President. I was willing to do either one, and that's how I got on the slate for President.
I was nominated in 2017, but I didn't attend the annual meeting and wasn't even sure I was elected. I contacted Ray Ward to ask. He replied, "Let's put it this way: Congratulations, Madam President!" I’ve been volunteering with CMNA ever since.
When I asked the outgoing President, Bill Thielfoldt, for advice on what I should do as the new President; he said "just start and end the meetings on time".
Talk about your volunteer experiences since graduation?
For two years, I was President, then a year as Interim President. In 2019, I was one of the instrumental people in organizing the State Retreat. After that, I took on the role of Board Advisor and Events Committee Chair. I’m currently a member of the Events Committee.
As a CMNA volunteer, what are you most proud of?
Definitely the Retreat - some people were doubtful that we could do it. In no particular order, the team also included Linda Rowe, Laura Murray, Rick Calvert, Jeff Kline, Tara Bailey and Jen Jerome. If I forgot anyone, I apologize.
Previously, there was a very successful SCMNA conference. We wanted to do it again, but more informally. The Retreat was an affordable alternative that offered participants the chance to learn and be together in a fun atmosphere. We received great feedback from attendees!
Do you know how many volunteer hours you’ve accrued?
I really don’t. I’d guess I volunteer at least five hours a month outside of Board and Committee meetings, which are usually a couple of hours long. So at least seven hours a month.
What is your favorite type of volunteering?
I love talking to people and introducing them to aspects of nature for the first time. Whether it’s butterflies, plants, or mushrooms, I love helping people see them in a new light. That spark of excitement can be infectious. Unfortunately, I don't get to do that very often.
Anything you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
I’d like to get my statewide certification. I’m looking for carpool buddies to drive to other regions!
Can you share a story of a favorite memory?
I love holding snakes! Jake Zadik and Tess Moody brought some snakes to the 2019 retreat, including a 12-foot boa. I helped Tess hold it, and it tried to hide in my pocket!
What advice would you give new graduates?
Talk to the more seasoned people if you are having trouble finding volunteer or advanced training opportunities. I wish that we could offer more group volunteer opportunities through CMNA.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I knew Carl, and he was an amazing person. He was incredibly funny, an excellent cook, and a dedicated volunteer.
Read more about Carl Cole and the Carl Cole Service Award here: https://www.coastalmasternaturalists.org/page/1829530-carl-cole-service-award
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