Brandi Excels From Data to Trees (and more)

A Volunteer Hero Success Story

Exciting opportunities await when you sign up to be an Activate Good volunteer. Brandi Ray, a volunteer for We Plant It Forward, took an unexpected volunteer journey. Her story is a testament to how an adventurous nature mixed with tenacity can lead to a rewarding experience.

While browsing for volunteer opportunities on Activate Good, a listing for a bookkeeper caught Brandi Ray’s eye.

“After I had spoken with Maggie [Bailey] about what We Plant It Forward was about, I wanted to be able to use my skill set be able to help someone else. I am motivated to see how I can make an impact by giving my time to help a great cause.”

For Maggie Bailey, director at We Plant It Forward, a volunteer to help with the day-to-day operations came as a great relief.

“It is just me working in the office,” said Maggie “and having a volunteer to help get things done makes my to-do list more manageable.”

Maggie talking trees with kids.
Photo: We Plant It Forward Facebook

Launched in 2012, We Plant It Forward is a small nonprofit with a big mission. They strive to create a chain reaction of tree planting around the Triangle.

Maggie educates young and old alike about the benefits of trees. Each year, she gives away a plentiful supply of seedlings at events so Triangle residents can reap these benefits to their communities. Maggie also organizes tree planting events for companies and community groups and even teaches rain barrel workshops.

Maggie is powered by her goal to help preserve the Earth for today and tomorrow. But with all the work falling on her, she needed more time to focus on program work. This is where Brandi Ray comes in.

“She never thought volunteering as a bookkeeper

would lead to researching sea turtles!”

Brandi started out doing data entry in the office, but it grew to be much more. Maggie soon discovered that “Brandi is a taskmaster with spreadsheets.”

Soon she was compiling information on tree specifications and volunteer history. With Brandi’s attention to detail, Maggie had a resource to find the perfect tree for a planting. And when she needed to report volunteer hours, the data was at her fingertips.

“Brandi is always cheerful, ready to take on any task I give her, and she keeps coming back for more.  When she has not heard from me for a period of time, she’ll send me a text or email asking me if I need anything done.​”

Seedlings given away during a Keep Durham Beautiful Food Truck Rodeo! Photo: We Plant It Forward Facebook

Brandi really enjoyed her new role as a researcher. She got into the nitty-gritty of learning how trees grew, how much water they needed, and how they interacted with their environment. This grew to even more research. Soon she was researching and creating a PowerPoint presentation about animals. She never thought volunteering as a bookkeeper would lead to researching sea turtles!

“I find great joy being able to work on a spreadsheet, putting together a Word Document or PowerPoint or even being part of a tree planting. The time that you take to help someone is one of the most rewarding feelings to have.”

Tree planting in action. Photo: We Plant It Forward Facebook

Soon Brandi saw the culmination of all her work. She volunteered at a tree planting in Hillsborough in January. While helping to plant some red oak trees, she was able to see how all her work came together. The research and the planning all led to this.

“Tree planting is fun to do, but it is also a lot of work. But I learned that trees are beautiful and can make a difference in this world. It showed me to appreciate the time I had to make an impact on the environment.”

Looking to take a volunteering journey like Brandi? Bring one part adventurous spirit and one part tenacity, and check out these opportunities. Be prepared for (good) surprises along the way!

Interested in learning more about We Plant It Forward? Check out their upcoming events.