The wind was high and the temperature was dropping, but it didn’t stop a group of determined East Texans from gathering at the Brushy Creek area of Lake O’the Pines to celebrate National Make a Difference Day. Staff members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Collin’s Academy, Cypress Basin Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, and Jefferson High School students from the Horticulture Class partnered in a day of native seed planting on a four acre plot prepared by the Corps staff. The seeds included over 40 plant species that will bloom throughout the growing season beginning in spring. The blooms will serve as a food source for pollinators and other wildlife species, plus make for an attractive area for visitors to the lake to view.
Make A Difference Day was started in 1992 by USA today, as a way to encourage individuals and organizations to help improve their community. It is the largest day of community service in the U.S.
Jonathan Bush, Civil Engineering Technician for the Corps, who prepared the land, said that “the Corp partnership with Collins Academy is a really good thing. We enjoy being involved with volunteer programs, especially those that involve young people, many of whom haven’t had the opportunity to work in the forest and learn about the importance of forestry management and how to improve habitat for wildlife and pollinators.”
Ricky Maxey, who is a Natural Resource Specialist for the Corps said, “the area will help provide a food source for butterflies and bees, whose numbers have dwindled. If we can do anything to help pollinators, we have truly made a difference. This is the first time the Corps has participated in Make a Difference Day, but it will not be the last. We are planning to run water to the area, and install signage. Resident volunteers for the lake along with Corps Staff will be caretakers of the area.”
Ryne Sikes, Agriculture instructor at Jefferson High School brought 13 members of the Horticulture Class to cast about fifty pounds of native seeds, along with seed balls made by the Jefferson Primary and Queen City Middle School students. The Horticulture students, no strangers to working on community service projects with Sikes, were excited to be helping cast the seeds, and all agreed that they would return to see the area when the seeds sprout. Dee Hill, a junior, was complimentary of all the people involved, especially the Corps members. Comparing the plot they were working on, with the overgrown fields beside them, he said, “They really did a lot of work, and I want to thank them for all they did to prepare the plot for us to work on. He said he would be bringing his family to Brushy Creek Campground to see the flowers when they bloom. C.J. Woods, a sophomore said “that he and his class members appreciate Mr. Sikes. Because of his dedication, and the help of Collins Academy, our community looks better, and instead of being strangers, we are more like a family. We are giving back to our planet through natural resources. We are helping the bees, butterflies and our environment and we are making a difference”.
Gary Endsley, Director of Collins Academy said there would be an-other work day in February to cast more seeds and invited anyone interested in participating to contact him by phone at (903) 665-2900 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.