Featured volunteer Natali Steinberg has been volunteering with PEEC since 2005. She will also be featured in the naturalist exhibit at the Los Alamos Nature Center later this month. Her involvement with PEEC spans three generations! We hope you enjoy reading about Natali and her dedication to the natural world.
PEEC: Where are you from and how did you end up in Los Alamos?
N.S.: I grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The day after I graduated from high school I moved to Boulder, Colorado and lived there for 54 years. We raised two daughters and one son on a small farm just outside of Boulder.
When my husband developed Lewy Body dementia we felt the need to be closer to family so we moved to Santa Fe. When he died in 2005, I moved to Los Alamos.
PEEC: Tell us about your family.
N.S.: I am very proud of my amazing family. My husband and I were married for 52 years. We now have seven grandchildren, all of whom are doing wonderful work in many different professions all over the world. I believe that ours is the only three-generation PEEC family. Our daughter, Sarah Gustafson, was one of the PEEC founders. Her two daughters volunteered and worked in PEEC’s Nature Odyssey summer program for several years.
PEEC: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
N.S.: I love the natural world and have spent much of my life outdoors, hiking, camping, gardening, and farming. A love of travel brought me to many places of natural beauty. I’ve camped all over the Northern hemisphere and have hiked in Ireland and the U.K.
PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?
N.S.: I joined PEEC’s membership program on Earth Day of 2005, the day PEEC moved into the small building on Orange Street. I didn’t know that my daughter, Sarah, had been one of PEEC’s founders. I immediately became involved as a volunteer docent and also started helping our one and only part-time employee with office work.
PEEC: What other volunteer work have you done in our community?
N.S.: When we moved to Santa Fe I looked for volunteer jobs where I could bring my husband. I became a docent at Randall Davey Audubon Center and then at the Leonora Curtin Wetlands Preserve, managed by the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. Since moving to Los Alamos, I have continued volunteering at those two places because of the marvelous environmental work they do and to see the good friends I’ve made there. I also volunteered for several years at the Valles Caldera before the visitor center was built. I worked as a docent in a pull off on Highway 4. Most recently, I was asked by the Los Alamos History Museum to help on a very exciting project – a Victory Garden at the Bethe House.
PEEC: Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?
N.S.: Volunteering is a way to help preserve the natural world and help teach younger people the importance of nature. Non-profits would have trouble existing if it weren’t for volunteers as they have limited resources for paid help. Volunteering is where I prefer to spend most of my time, I am happiest when away from home and/or out of doors. I’ve worked professionally and as a volunteer in preserving farmland from development.
PEEC: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
N.S.: Volunteer work gives me that opportunity to meet and interact with folks from all over the world. Because my own children and grandchildren are grown, I enjoy being with youngsters and helping them to appreciate nature.
PEEC: What are your jobs at PEEC?
N.S.: At PEEC I have helped in various capacities; I served on the Board of Directors for 7 years, have been docenting for the past 14 years, helped to design and build our garden beds, maintain our gardens, teach gardening classes, lead field trips, and am now chairman of the Landscape Committee. I also raised one of PEEC’s founders!
N.S.: I think PEEC’s emphasis on educating young people about the natural world is the most important of the many fine environmental things PEEC does.
PEEC: What outdoor hobbies do you enjoy?
N.S.: Much of the year I spend time in the gardens at the nature center and at Oppenheimer Place, where I live.
PEEC: What do you love about the Pajarito Plateau?
N.S.: My favorite place is the Las Conchas trail in the Jemez Mountains. I love being near and hearing the sounds of the creek, observing the wildflowers, and looking at the stunning rock formations. I also enjoy walking on the Canyon Rim Trail here in Los Alamos.
PEEC: What is on your wish list for PEEC for the next ten years?
N.S.: To finish the nature play area outside and make steps from the parking lot to the picnic area.
PEEC: Best memory working with PEEC?
N.S.: The friends I have made! When I moved to Los Alamos I only knew my family. PEEC has given me a chance to find wonderful friends with common interests.
PEEC: Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering?
N.S.: PEEC is a unique opportunity to make new friends while serving the community.
PEEC: If you could be a local animal which would you pick and why?
N.S.: I would fly into PEEC’s wildlife area as a chickadee. There’s plenty of good food and fresh water and other birds with whom to make friends!
-If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please email Christa Tyson at email@example.com.
Article by Christa Tyson, PEEC Visitor Services Manager