Banner Year for Volunteers

Volunteers install native aquatic plants which will grow into lush colonies.

The river has so many friends, with nearly 4,000 volunteering their time and energy this year to improve and protect the Chicago-Calumet River system. Dedicated volunteers racked up more than 19,000 hours helping at all of Friends’ events, acting as advisors on our Board and Planning Committee, reducing their water use on Overflow Action Days, and doing the hard work on the ground of cleaning up trash, removing invasive species, planting aquatic plants and more. Together they made an immediate impact on the quality of the river’s habitat for people and animals, and contributed the equivalent of more than $604,600 in donated time.

Get Involved

“Volunteering creates a meaningful pathway for engagement, education and greater understanding of the challenges faced by the river system and how we can work together to make long-term, positive changes to protect it,” said Friends’ Volunteer, Events, and Canoe Program Manager, Annette Anderson. “These friends show how much they care about the river by doing what they can to help, and many go above and beyond with their time, enthusiasm, and generosity. They play a critical role in carrying out our mission by creating equitable opportunities for people to connect to the river and its wildlife. They also help us call attention to the essential role it holds in our history and future in building a community that makes a truly significant collective impact on its vitality.”

As always, a bright spot for new volunteer engagement was Chicago River Day where 57% of participants were first-time volunteers, and 100% of volunteers surveyed said they would volunteer again. This year 64 volunteer canoe guides –including 16 new guides – supported 43 canoe and paddle events. These devoted volunteers bring out more people to connect with the river and have an incredible impact as 80% of canoe program guests report that they plan to take action to help the river. Also this year, Friends and corporate groups organized River Action Days for hundreds of their employees to strengthen bonds between them and encourage giving back to the community.

Interested in coming out next year to help? Sign up for our monthly volunteer e-newsletter – CREW, join the CREW group on Facebook, or reach out to schedule a River Action Day for your group. It was banner year for volunteers, and we thank each and every one of them for creating a true community of Friends.