Celebrating 10 Years at ACRES
By Heather Barth
June 3, 2023, marked the 10th anniversary of my time with ACRES. As I reflect back over the last decade, I am honored to have played a role and astonished at all the organization has accomplished.
I first learned about ACRES in a most unexpected way. In 2013 I was working for another regional nonprofit when, out of the blue, a friend asked if I was looking for a job, explaining she knew of an opportunity that might interest me. I wasn’t actively searching for employment, but my interest was piqued. We met at an Irish pub after work and she introduced me to ACRES Land Trust.
She explained ACRES was searching for a full-time fundraiser, and knowing my personal values, interests and hobbies related to nature, along with my experience in nonprofit fund development, she thought I would be a good fit. During the coming weeks, I met with Jason Kissel and a few other staff and board members for conversations and interviews. The rest, as they say, is history.
ACRES mission is to protect local land. When I started, the group had just secured its 5,000th acre of permanently protected land, this new land located at Blue Cast Springs. For the first 53 years, ACRES and its members acquired an average of 95 acres per year. Today’s average is 120 acres acquired per year! This speaks volumes to the amount of support for our mission, as well as the dedication of our leadership to managing a financially sound organization and building a highly skilled team of staff.
During my time, ACRES has worked to hone the process for acquiring new land. Standards were set as to how much and what type of land the group could protect. A checklist of more than 100 tasks was created to help keep the acquisition process moving along. Conservation priority areas were identified such as the Cedar Creek Corridor and the Quog Lake area in LaGrange County where ACRES works alongside partners such as county parks, Indiana DNR and other land trusts to protect the region’s most unique natural areas.
One aspect of the organization that stands out to me is the solid foundation laid by predecessors: founders, board members, volunteers, members, donors, funders, staff and everyone else who had a hand in making ACRES what it was when I started 10 years ago, and what it is today. The significance of this isn’t lost on me, and I gladly carry the responsibility to do what I can to ensure that foundation remains intact, is sustained and perhaps even strengthened for future generations of the people of ACRES.
I am genuinely humbled by the generous nature ACRES members and volunteers exhibit. The collective dedication and effort of each individual doing what they can to ensure local land is protected is astonishing. The ACRES community cares deeply and is always ready to jump in and help out when needed. That was true in 1960, in 2013, and remains steadfast today.
I never tire of hearing stories about a founding member, about past excursions to scout for land for new preserves or “that time when…” I’m ever-grateful that folks stick around for as long as they do, friends who have a story ready to share any time our paths cross. I very much look forward to being one of those individuals in the future, spinning tales with the next generation of ACRES.
When asked in my initial interview what nature means to me, I shared that I am most grounded and feel most like my authentic self when I’m in the woods. Places protected by ACRES are teeming with life, my own included. And the opportunity to daily immerse myself in an office environment situated in a nature preserve (the icing on the cake!) has bolstered my spirit more than I ever imagined. I’m one of the few fortunate to be uniquely positioned in the very center of the “purpose” Venn diagram, doing what I love and am good at, and what the world needs – all in a way that enables me to make a living to support my family.
The last 10 years have been a fantastic ride full of fun and challenges. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.
With gratitude, Heather
It’s worth noting, Heather’s 10-year milestone in her role with ACRES defies the odds. The average tenure for a nonprofit fundraising professional in the U.S. is 18 months. ACRES attributes her longevity to the culture and people of the organization – you!
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 ACRES Quarterly, mailed to members each season. The 20-page Quarterly features ACRES news, stories and events. You can subscribe by becoming an ACRES member with a donation of $20 or more. Click here to learn more!