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#MissionMilkweed: A Golden Opportunity to Save The Monarchs

Rumson, NJ - It takes a great deal of time, effort and energy to do something that has an important impact on your community. However, it takes something special to have that impact be sustainable, long after the time, effort and energy has passed.

It takes something golden.

Rumson resident Reagan Volk has put the finishing touches on the sustainable efforts of her Girl Scout Gold Award Project "Mission Milkweed" with the addition of a custom #missionmilkweed bench along the Riverside Park walking path.

"Mission Milkweed" was created to educate the local community about the importance of planting milkweed. Without community milkweed plantings, the monarch population will continue to decline.

"I first became interested in the plight of the Monarch Butterfly as a third-grade student in Mrs. Schoenfeld’s class at Rumson’s Deane Porter Elementary School," Volk told Rumson Recreation. "We learned about the declining Monarch population and the importance of milkweed planting during her butterfly unit. Mrs. Schoenfeld even provided the class with free milkweed seeds, which I happily planted in my backyard. That experience planted the seed for what has now become my Girl Scout Gold Award Project, 'Mission Milkweed'".

According to the Girls Scouts of the USA website, The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable—and it’s only available through Girl Scouts! To earn this unique award, Seniors and Ambassadors don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good by tackling issues dear to their hearts while driving lasting change in their communities and beyond. Only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award.

In May, Rumson Councilwoman Sarah Pomphrey, Councilman Clay Kingsbery, Rumson D.P.W. Superintendent Mark Wellner, Rumson Rec Director Charlie Hoffmann, as well as Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore CEO Eileen Higgins honored Volk's efforts with a dedication to her painted bench in Riverside Park.

“It was my honor and pleasure on behalf of the Rumson Council to present the proclamation in Reagan's honor based on her hard work and dedication to the Mission Milkweed project," Rumson Councilwoman Pomphrey said. "The hand painted bench Reagan did is beautiful and now sits in a perfect setting overlooking the water. I encourage everyone to stop by and visit it and take a brochure with seed packet. Rumson is a wonderful town, and we so appreciate young and passionate individuals such as Reagan who are sincerely dedicated to further enhance its natural beauty and keeping it environmentally friendly.”

“This project of Reagan’s is an amazing compilation of her passion and effort around a topic she loves," Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore CEO Eileen Higgins said. "All of us at Girl Scouts are so proud of her accomplishment and are thrilled that she is earning her Gold Award – not an easy task but one she completed with grace and kindness to her community.”

In addition to the bench, Volk, Wellner and Councilman Kingsbery spoke about the addition of milkweed and a brochure stand next to the bench in the near future. The stand will house an educational brochure as well as free milkweed seeds for individuals to plant on their own.

"It is very important for everyone to get involved in conservation efforts as many species are in desperate predicaments," Volk told Rumson Recreation. "The Monarch Butterfly qualified for endangered species status in 2020 but the US Dept. of Fish & Wildlife announced Monarchs would not be formally added to the list due to the long line of species ahead of it. Instead, the department called on 'everyone' to get involved in helping the monarchs. The best and easiest way to do that right now is to plant milkweed."

Volk took the time to thank the community, as well as the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, for all their support throughout the #missionmilkweed project.

"Local organizations, including Rumson’s Oceanic Free Library and Sickles Farmer’s Market also joined me in the effort to educate our local community about Mission Milkweed by distributing information and seeds. And of course, the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore has helped me every step of the way. I couldn’t wait to become a Girl Scout when we moved to Rumson from New York City when I was in first grade. While my role as a girl scout has changed over the years, my local troop (Rumson 60967) is still going strong. We have evolved from cookie sales and field trips to important and very meaningful volunteer work, and I plan on always being involved in this amazing organization.

Those interested in following Regan and the #missionmilkweed journey can do so on Instagram: @missionmilkweed.

"'Mission Milkweed' is an example of how a community can come together on a common goal, and I hope to take this experience and expand on it as I continue in my work in conservation," Volk said. "I plan on majoring in environmental science in college,

and I know this experience will influence my future efforts in this important field."

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