Monday, August 31, 2015

Anniversary Story: "The People I've Met" by Cindy Kreifels

"The People I've Met" 
by Cindy Kreifels, The Groundwater Foundation

The majority of my adult life (22 years) has been spent working for The Groundwater Foundation.  So when I was asked to write a story for the 30th anniversary celebration, it was quite difficult to decide where to start, and stop for that matter.  So as I sat back to reflect on what has made the most impact on me personally over the years, I realize it is the people – the people who put their heart and soul into protecting groundwater.  Getting to know and work with so many wonderful people who share my passion for groundwater is why I come to work each day.

In 22 years, I have had the honor of working with 38 Groundwater Foundation staff members, over 70 board members, hundreds of Groundwater Guardian team members, and educating thousands of youth who will someday be our groundwater stewards.  All of these individuals are some of the greatest people I have had the privilege to know. 

Let’s start with Susan Seacrest, founder and first president of The Groundwater Foundation.  Susan is one of the most strong, passionate people I have ever met.  Susan took a concern over the health of one of her children, researched the issue of groundwater contamination, and created an organization which is 30 years strong.  Whether they know it or not the citizens of the world have much to be grateful for as people have become more aware of a vital resource and the importance it plays in their lives.

The many staff and board members that have been involved in spreading the word and supporting The Groundwater Foundation by giving of their time and expertise have brought the Foundation to the point it is today.  Many have come and gone, but most are still very connected to us in some way.  Protecting groundwater is not a passing fancy, it is something that must continue to happen throughout time.

As for the Groundwater Guardians I’ve had the joy of meeting, I cannot say enough.  I would like to name them all by name but I would surely leave someone out so I will not go there.  What I will say is that these are the people who make the true difference, protecting groundwater at the local level.  Thank you all for your dedication and hard work!  I call you each my friend.

And the children – what can I say?  They are the ones who hold the keys to the future.  And, through groundwater education, they will understand its importance and no matter their profession, they will understand groundwater’s impact on them and the great impact their role may have on groundwater.  This is the most important step of all.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting children from Australia to Zimbabwe and working with youth of all ages; this has been a true source of gratification for me.

And last but not least, are the great crew of staff members I currently get to work with each day.  Jane Griffin, Lori Davison, Anthony Lowndes, Doug Sams, Jennifer Wemhoff, and Jessica Wheeler – you are all awesome.  I so enjoy the opportunity to work with all of you and can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring.  Another 30 years, bring it on.

So as I look back over 22 years of the Foundation’s 30 years, I can honestly say it is the people who have made the difference – both for me and for groundwater.  Thank you all!


7 Weeks Until the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Anniversary Story: "Was it Kismet?" by Jamie Kelley

Was it Kismet?
by Jamie Kelley, Former Groundwater Foundation Program Manager

Jamie Kelley presents at the Nebraska 
Children’s Groundwater Festival, which she also 
attended as a student.
The Groundwater Foundation has seemed to weave in and out of my life since I was young. As a girl in elementary school, the first time I heard of The Groundwater Foundation, or anything about groundwater for that matter, was when my class was invited to attend the Children’s Groundwater Festival. This was a special opportunity, not all classes got to go. It was like we had won the lottery. We arrived to school early that day to get on the bus and traveled to Grand Island. It was a big deal to be spending the day learning about groundwater.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, I was doing a project for class. My partner and I wanted to find out about local groundwater issues so we interviewed Susan Seacrest, the founder and then president of The Groundwater Foundation. We met at her house and jotted down notes about the importance of motivating others to care for and about groundwater. Her enthusiasm for the cause was invigorating.

The next time The Groundwater Foundation crossed my path was in college. A small sign posted in my advisor, Bob Kuzelka’s, office jumped out to me. The Groundwater Foundation was looking for an intern. Was it fate that all those years ago I attended The Children’s Groundwater Festival and then interviewed Susan for a class project in high school?

Four years of college flew by, interning at The Groundwater Foundation was a huge part of those years. My spring breaks were spent in Grand Island at The Children’s Groundwater Festival, my summers were spent at The Groundwater Foundation office, and my senior thesis was focused on community asset mapping and behavior change, studying Groundwater Guardian Communities. As my college career came to an end, my time with The Groundwater Foundation was just beginning. After I graduated I was offered a full time job with The Groundwater Foundation. The fresh faced young college graduate excited about environmental education and about inspiring others to make a difference gladly accepted the opportunity to continue to work for a great organization.

I spent over 11 years working at The Groundwater Foundation and saw many times how the work being done made a difference. Was it a coincidence that The Groundwater Foundation impacted many lives, just like it had mine? An encounter with a young girl at the Outdoor Adventures in H2O summer camp is just one of these examples. On the first day of camp she arrived wearing a white sweater. We were puzzled by this, the camp’s name pretty clearly explains that we will be outside, going on adventures. So we asked her if she had another shirt, something more comfortable for the hot June day. It was then that she told us that it was not her idea to come to camp, that she did not like nature, and that her mom signed her up. Although she didn’t pretend to be enthused the first day, she came back, and each day she was more adventurous, more willing to dig into the exploration activities. By the end of the week she was having a good time…Success! But then camp was over and summer came to an end. You don’t know what impact those days at camp might have on the young students. Maybe they raise their hand in science class to answer a groundwater related question, maybe they told a parent not to water the lawn as much to conserve groundwater. Usually don’t know the impact. However, this camper’s story continued on to the next year. The first day of camp, there she was, ready, looking forward to the adventures of the week, and not wearing white or a sweater. Not only was she prepared and enthusiastic about the week ahead but she had brought friends along and they too were eager for what was to come.

Her story, my story, maybe its kismet how our lives were changed because of our interaction with The Groundwater Foundation. Maybe enthusiasm is spread through groundwater… No, is not luck or fate or some magic in groundwater. It is a passionate founder, Susan Seacrest, it is successful projects, it is innovative ideas, it is a dedicated and committed staff, board members, and Groundwater Guardians. It is all of these reasons that The Groundwater Foundation reaches so many lives, impacts so many communities, and makes a difference throughout the nation. It was not kismet at all. It is The Groundwater Foundation. 


8 Weeks Until the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Anniversary Story: "What Nebraska Gave Michigan" by Christine Spitzley

What Nebraska Gave Michigan
by Christine Spitzley, Greater Lansing Area Groundwater Guardian Team, Michigan

I was born and raised in Michigan and am proud to have attended Michigan State University in East Lansing and my decision to live and work in the Great Lakes State has been very rewarding.  Pure Michigan has the longest coastline in the lower 48, where the water is salt and shark free.  We also have a quiet little secret, aquifers, which provide almost half of the state’s drinking water. Underestimated, under looked, and certainly underappreciated, groundwater is vital to our health and economy.

Christine Spitzley poses with the water drop mascot
at a water festival in Michigan.
In 1994, I was four years into my professional career as the Environmental Programs Planner at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC), and the focus of my job was to provide groundwater education and policy guidance to 78 local units of government in a three county region.  The W.K. Kellogg Foundation had committed over $35 million to its Groundwater Education in Michigan (GEM) Program.  As a grantee, TCRPC focused on educating elected officials, but the long term goal was to expand that to a broader audience so that everyone in mid-Michigan would know, understand and want to protect its groundwater.  GEM provided money to universities, governments, NGO’s, health departments, etc. and emphasized the sharing and dissemination of each grantees successes and challenges.  But all good things come to an end and the mid 1990’s saw the conclusion of the GEM Program.  We had momentum, we had tools, we had success, and we now needed sustainability.

In 1994, sustainability was generally thought of only in financial terms.  Thanks in large part to our education efforts, local communities stepped up and replaced the funding we had been receiving from GEM.  But that was only part of the equation.  We had benefitted greatly from the GEM network and immediately missed the support and camaraderie of like-minded organizations.  We wanted to continue to share our ideas and to glean information and lessons learned from others.

A postcard from Nebraska inviting me to a conference in Washington D.C. to learn about the newly created Groundwater Guardian Program turned out to be the connection we sought to broaden our network of groundwater communities.  Sitting in a hotel meeting room, I saw dozens of people who spent their days working to raise awareness and increase the protection of this valuable resource.  People loaded with creativity, passion, and a commitment to an unseen resource that is frequently misunderstood and mistreated.  Their mission, like mine, was to help educate people so they cared enough about groundwater to change their behaviors.

The Greater Lansing Area was first designated as a Groundwater Guardian Community in 1995.  Our annual application is an opportunity for reflection as we select key projects for recognition.  Through the years, these have included wellhead protection, public awareness campaigns, children’s water festival, college curriculum development, and changes to public policy. The Groundwater Guardian network has also been a valuable source of information when we seek answers to emerging issues. 

The Groundwater Guardian designation provides acknowledgment for the work we do to protect groundwater.  Work that is not a state or federal mandate.  Work our communities are committed to because it’s the right thing to do.  Work that will gift future generations a legacy of safe water.       


9 Weeks Until the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration!

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Anniversary Story: "Internship Changing Behavior" by Melissa Allen

Internship Changing Behavior
by Melisssa Allen, Groundwater Foundation Intern

Hi, my name is Melissa Allen, and I’m the intern here at The Groundwater Foundation. I began this internship with a two-month project of organizing and digitizing the photo archive, which stored an abundance of photos of almost every program, tour, festival and conference since the organization’s founding in 1985.

Through this first project, I acquainted myself with the history and people of The Groundwater Foundation. Through the Groundwater Guardian community networks, Groundwater University, the Children’s Groundwater Festivals – and the list goes on – individuals and communities across the country have worked together to educate the public about the importance of groundwater and its conservation.

The fact is, our environment is rapidly changing, and our uses and needs of water are changing along with it. Linking individuals and communities together to engage in water education is vital for its care and conservation.

I’m excited to be involved with an organization that is working at the forefront of this issue. For myself, I have not always been the most water-conscious person. In fact, I fancy myself as a hot-and-long shower enthusiast. But since joining The Groundwater Foundation as the intern, I have learned so much about the necessity of water for communities of all shapes and sizes. I’ve noticed changes in my own daily behavior that has lessened my water use based off of all that I’m learning here at the Foundation. As I learn more, I become more and more excited to help in the environmental education of my own community to keep our water flowing healthy and strong for generations to come.


10 Weeks Until the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Anniversary Story: "Learning About AquiFIERS" by Brian Reetz

Learning About AquiFIERS
by Brian Reetz, former Groundwater Foundation Program Coordinator

It’s awesome to see The Groundwater Foundation celebrating such a historic anniversary. It shows the lasting impact that such an amazing organization can have on the local, national, and world scene. I was very fortunate to work for the Foundation for four years. I came into the Foundation with very little knowledge of groundwater and kept soaking it in (recharging, you might say), during the time I was there. I also knew there were a lot of experts in the area to lean on. 

A lot of my time with the Foundation was spent on the road with the Growing Groundwater in Nebraska program. I loved going into different communities across the state and talking about groundwater and how to keep it plentiful for future generations. I made a lot of lifelong friends because of this, who I’m still in contact with even though I’m now at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Glenn Korff School of Music.

In each of those communities there was usually an aspect where I worked with kids, the next generation so to speak. They were always so enthusiastic about learning more about water. We also worked with kids as part of the Outdoor Adventures in H2O Bright Lights camp in Lincoln, and it was here that I got to know Groundwater Foundation staff even more. Jennifer Wemhoff and Jamie Kelley were very kind to me when I started and we continue to have great relationships. They also knew how to keep me humble. During one day of the Outdoor Adventures camp, we did an activity where we made aquifers with ice cream – Edible Aquifers. Jamie and Jennifer thought it would be good for me to lead the activity. I thought, “Sure I’ll give it a whirl.”

Brian Reetz enjoys his Edible AquiFIER with students at 
the Outdoor Adventures in H2O Camp.
“Today, we are going to talk about AquiFIERS,” I said to the kids. My memory is that Jamie and Jennifer both looked at me in stunned silence, then smiled and laughed, and Jennifer said, “Don’t you mean aquiFERS?” “Oh yes, AquiFERS,” I said. AquiFIERS would be a running joke throughout the rest of my time at the Foundation and yet to today. As I said, they kept me humble. I think I rebounded quite quickly, but of course the kids were more consumed in making an ice cream treat that they could soon eat. As for me, it taught me to keep learning and reading about all I could about one of the world’s most important resources. 

During my time with the Foundation, I was proud to help develop the Water1der groundwater awareness app, currently out on the market in the Apple App Store. I think it’s a fun way to engage people in this tech savvy world and it’s been fun to see it continue to grow as well. 

I learned a lot about teamwork while working at the Foundation. Everyone pitched in all different areas to help push the mission forward and I’m so proud to always be a part of that, and can’t wait to see where the next years lead for such a fine organization. 


11 Weeks Until the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration!

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