September 2023 Volunteer of the Month

September 06, 2023

The September 2023 Volunteer of the Month at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is Mary Comley.

By Beth MacCallum, Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator

The September 2023 Volunteer of the Month at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is Mary Comley.  Born and raised in Schenectady, Mary and her husband Bill still live in that community. Mary is retired from Capital Behavioral Health Network, and her educational background is in Medical Laboratory Technology. Mary had an early career at St. Clare's Hospital but left that job to start her family. In the early 90's she returned to the workforce at the former Mohawk Pathways Girl Scout Council, then ClearView Center, Equinox, and CBHN. Mary enjoys traveling with her husband, hanging out with Evie and Sylvie, her darling grandchildren, and getting together with "the 6-pack" a group of her and Bill’s dearest friends. Besides the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Mary volunteers at the Central Park Rose Garden. In her spare time, she loves to sew, knit, bird watch and garden, and she loves relaxing with yoga.

Mary loves helping individuals connect with nature. Some of her most cherished memories in the preserve are working with children attending special events and programs. Mary shared “nature at night experiments with kids are fun. I enjoy watching them try to figure out what a particular smell is, trying to see colors when their night vision has kicked in, or listening in hopes of hearing an owl. The best experiment is watching the sparks in their mouths when they crunch on a wintergreen lifesaver. This is usually an "oh wow" moment.”  Her favorite bird in the preserve is the Woodcock and she loves the Kings Road Barrens trails.

Education Director, Erin Kinal, nominated Mary for her many years of service. Of Mary, Erin commented, “Over the past 11+ years, Mary has contributed immensely to education and outreach at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. There are so many ways that Mary contributes to the work of the preserve. From front line outreach events like the Kids Expo, to behind-the scenes work including expert sewing projects, Mary is always willing to jump in and help us promote awareness and understanding of the pine bush no matter how big or small the project. As a Volunteer Program Assistant, she helps ensure all program participants finish hikes safely. Years of Lupine Fests, Smokey Bear Days and other Pine Bush events found Mary assisting visitors with tie dying shirts, leading the fire web interactive activity, setting up, cleaning up, staffing refreshment stations, managing games and craft rooms and much more. Her contributions extend beyond programs and events to clipping and weeding the Discovery Center grounds as a Volunteer Gardener and other volunteer opportunities beyond education. We truly appreciate the vast amount of time and energy Mary has given to the preserve, as well as her wonderful sense of humor and the many great conversations we have had over the years. Thank you so much and congratulations Mary!”

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