Volunteer Spotlight - Justin Heyerdahl
TP: How did you hear about TreePeople?
JH: When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived in Beverly Glen Canyon. One day it was gridlocked and so I took Coldwater instead. I passed right by the park here and I saw the TreePeople sign. That was my first time seeing it and I was intrigued. I have always been interested in animals and nature. So, I looked it up online and found out that you guys have volunteer opportunities and participated in my first one in December of last year.
TP: How did you get into volunteering? Was TreePeople the first group that you volunteered with?
JH: This was the first time in a long time that I had volunteered. Last time was middle school. At the time I discovered your organization and did the research, I was working at a talent agency. It was really long hours and really high stress. For my New Year's Resolution I decided to do something really different and opposite. I wanted to use my time in a different way. So, I started with TreePeople. It was one of the first New Year's Resolutions that I have ever kept! It was the first time I had volunteered in at least 10 years and now I have been doing it steadily for the past year. I wanted to get back to doing things that interested me, like environmentalism.
TP: Have you had been interested in environmental issues for a long time? What drew you towards this issue as opposed to others?
JH: The interest in environmentalism goes back to when I was very young. For most of my academic career I was interested in both Communications and Environmental Science. I decided that I wanted to study Communications in theatre, though I wish that I could have studied both. So this has been a way for me to get back to my roots and childhood interest to get to doing what I love.
TP: Can you recall a specific time, event, or person who helped spur your interest in environmental issues?
JH: The true source of it all comes from my Mom. Ever since I was little, she has fueled my interest in the environment by taking me to zoos, aquariums, gardens, parks, museums, and nature centers, and constantly provided me with a wealth of literary and media resources such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and ZooBooks. My Mom is my greatest supporter and I'm her biggest fan. She always taught me to follow my passion and lead by example, which is what I now aim to do through TreePeople.
TP: When you encounter friends, families, or other Angelinos that are not as connected to the environment as you and TreePeople are, how do you bridge that disconnect?
JH: I used to feel a great disconnect with other people around the city that I met and hung out with. But it is actually through TreePeople that I have realized how small the city really is. Volunteering at different sites around the city has helped me gain perspective on what LA has to offer. Meeting people from all over the city has brought the city from a big metropolis in my mind down to something that is much more manageable. Now I have met and know people in every part of the city, and have heard their stories. This has helped me to interact with them through TreePeople, because we do have a common interest even though distance separates us.