Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, watershed outreach coordinator for the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, answers the questions this week:
Q: What is your name and current job title?
A: Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, watershed outreach coordinator
Q: How long have you been affiliated with the Ogeechee Riverkeeper?
A: I joined ORK as its outreach coordinator 1.5 years ago.
Q: What is your role in this nonprofit?
A: All things outreach. I spend a lot of time speaking in classrooms, guiding paddle trips, leading Adopt-A-Stream monitoring workshops and representing ORK at events and festivals — especially this time of year.
Q: What role does the community play in the Ogeechee Riverkeeper?
A: Community involvement is everything for us. With only two employees, there’s no way we could keep an adequate eye on the state of the Ogeechee River and its tributaries without the help of a large network of supporters. As a membership-driven nonprofit organization, we can only succeed in our work by enlisting communities throughout the river basin to provide us with information, support and feedback.
Q: How can the community get more involved?
A: First off, become a member of ORK! If you haven’t yet paddled the Ogeechee, join us for a day trip (members get to join us for free). Experiencing the river firsthand is the best way to truly understand and appreciate what’s at stake. If you want to dig a little deeper, there are plenty of ways to get more involved. Volunteer for us at one of our many events. Invite us to speak at your school, church or civic club. Attend an Adopt-A-Stream workshop and start monitoring water quality right where you live.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face in working with this nonprofit?
A: One of my biggest challenges is locating and engaging new audiences. For every supporter we have that cares deeply about water quality, there are at least 50 more that don’t know where their water comes from or where their wastewater goes. Stop by any public landing and look around to find evidence that people are still nonchalant about littering. We are perpetually tasked with finding new channels to educate on the importance of our waterways.
Q: How have you seen this nonprofit benefit from community involvement and awareness?
A: One of our biggest benefits of community involvement is hotline calls. With a basin of over 5,500 square miles, we absolutely rely on communities to be our eyes and ears everywhere. Beyond that, our waterways benefit tremendously when communities band together to support clean water. Whenever large businesses or special-interest groups come up with plans that pose a serious threat to our rivers, communities that support clean water are the first to enact local resolutions and ordinances to protect what they hold sacred. Our role in organizing opposition to harmful projects is made much easier when communities rally around the need to protect our water sources.
Q: What originally contributed to the development of your passion for environmental issues?
A: “Captain Planet” probably had a lot to do with it. I always loved exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing and hiking. I have also always been entranced by how remarkably well organisms work together to create robust, thriving ecosystems. From an early age, it was easy to see that our society hasn’t done a very good job partnering with the natural world. It’s all too easy to cut ourselves off from nature and forget all of the benefits bestowed on us for free. I know that we are capable of becoming a beneficial component to the natural world, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that changing tide.