Volunteer of the Year – Mark Raymaker

From the Bennington Banner:

From New Zealand to Bennington: Shaftsbury man is One World Volunteer of the year

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BENNINGTON—The second annual appreciation luncheon at One World Conservation Center honored a volunteer of the year on Thursday.

Mark Raymaker volunteers every Wednesday for two to four hours. He started about a year ago and wouldn’t have found himself in this field otherwise, until he retired at 63. For a year and a half he lived with his wife in New Zealand as she relocated for work. He quickly got involved with conservation work at Zealandia, an urban ecosanctuary with 18 reintroduced species of native wildlife. Six were absent from the mainland for more than 100 years, according to its website.

“Zealandia is 500-acres of a park that’s fenced in in the city of Wellington,” he said. “You have exotic creatures there. New Zealand is quite the place. There are no mammals, the ones that are there are invaders that we kill. It’s a bird-only place. Very hard work there.”

Thirty to 50 employees worked at Zealandia, in addition to the “army of volunteers,” Raymaker said. “They really exploited the New Zealand ethic of conservation and volunteerism.”

For 17 years Raymaker drove from Shaftsbury to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass. for work. Now he picks up trash on the One World grounds, builds bat and bird houses, fixes up the center, shovels snow and breaks ice, among other things. He said he also assists in technology work for the organization.

“[Conservation] is the most important thing we can do,” he said. “Conservation is very basic, not hard to do, but no one cares.”

One World director Holly Betit said there are about 10 regular volunteers and 20 per year that put on presentations and educational events.

“He stands out and shines,” Betit said about Raymaker. “He comes every week and he’s helping us grow. Whatever he does, he’s respectful about it.”

The One World Conservation Center will continue its `Valley We Live In’ lectures in Winter 2017 sponsored by the Bank of Bennington. It’s located at 413 U.S. Route 7 south in Bennington. Each lecture starts at 7 p.m. and admission is $5 for non-members.

Below is a list of upcoming events at One World

Jan. 12 Your Garden, Weather and Climate — What will the future bring? with Alan Baker

Jan. 19 Our Farms Help Save the Planet with Sally Dodge

Jan. 26 The Bears of Vermont with Forrest Hammond, Vermont Fish and Wildlife

Feb. 2 Hiland Hall: A Political Figure to Respect with Tyler Resch

Feb. 9 Winter Birding and Preparing for Spring Migration with Randy Schmidt, The Vermont Bird Place

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.