There are fond farewells and sad goodbyes in life, and the Land Trust’s recent parting with Caroline Eliot was surely both. At the end of 2017, after seven years of service to BTLT, Caroline Eliot moved on to pursue other challenges.
To understand Caroline’s influence is to understand how far BTLT has come as an organization since she was hired. Before her, the only staff we had was Angela Twitchell, our Executive Director. Angela has a knack for finding the right people for BTLT and it was never more apparent than when she found Caroline Elliot seven years ago to provide “a little help” as we were preparing for our initial Land Trust Alliance accreditation.
Caroline had all the right academic credentials and interests to work in a conservation organization, but we did not know then of her strong organization skills and her tireless work ethic to assure that what needed to get done DOES get done. Well, we all know that now.
Through the extensive Accreditation application and requirements, Caroline kept the Board aware of the priorities and milestones that needed to be reached, and that leadership was always coupled with her invaluable advice. When there might be some confusion on the best course forward, or how to get something completed it was usually Caroline who would say “let me do some research,” or “I can do that,” and, sure enough, she did. She readily made connections with the greater land trust community to get and give credible advice on the issues we dealt with, many for the first time. She also worked to clean up our records/filing/systems/procedures.
Her hard work and invaluable direction eventually made us realize that what we were accomplishing was exactly what the accreditation process was supposed to do for a land trust – building a more sustainable, community-focused organization. Fortunately, we had Caroline in that key position.
With the valuable policies and procedures associated with accreditation in place, only then did Caroline turn her attention to stewardship, leaving Angela to concentrate on funding and long-term strategy. In so doing, Caroline became not only indispensable to Angela but also a character well known to the trail crew.
“She would come to the woods from time to time to observe what we were doing and offer suggestions for improvement,” says Gary Fogg, our long-time trail crew leader. “Her principal concern was to do things faster and get more projects done with the time and materials available. In response, I would explain that trail work was a sacred ritual that could not be rushed and that attention to details was important. Caroline was very patient in dealing with explanations of this kind and so I always thought we made a great team in spite of our differences.”
Caroline was not simply an observer on the Land Trust’s properties. She put in many hours running a chainsaw, leading youth in hauling stone, developing trail routes and signage, and most any task that was needed to keep our properties, safe, ecologically healthy, and inviting to the community. This hands-on approach extended to whatever needed to be done at the Farmer’s Market; Community Garden; Labyrinth; and the list goes on. When she felt the need to recognize some of her volunteers she had them out to her house for a field trip, a celebration, and lots of home-baked cookies.
Caroline was in her element in the field building infrastructure and recruiting volunteers, but also doing the necessary record keeping and the tough job of negotiation, both calmly and professionally explaining easement requirements to landowners.
Caroline’s contributions to the Land Trust, tangible and intangible, are far too great to ever innumerate. A critical eye, creative problem solving, ceaseless willingness to help where needed, impeccable research skills, encouraging mentor, unparalleled record keeping, inspiring friend and mother, spot-on editing, unequaled desserts, remembering every staff birthday, and crucial grounding for a staff and Board that aspires for the stars. These are just a very few of the much-loved assets Caroline brought to our organization that will be sorely missed.
BTLT has made many significant progressive moves in the past years and Caroline has played an imperative role of most of them. She cannot be replaced; she will be missed; and we all wish her well in her ongoing work (and play) – whatever she decides to do next. She has trained us well and imparted her wisdom and skills and we, as an organization, will do even better because of her contributions.
Contributed by Jeff Nelson & Gary Fogg
Occasionally, we ask a staff member to share a bit about themselves and what they do each day at BTLT. We hope that this gives our readers some insight into the great people that are involved with the organization, as well as all the work that goes into strengthening our community through conservation.
Sarah Walpow is a part time, seasonal staff person, helping with administrative tasks.
Sarah writes, “I have a garden design & install business, which keeps me busy March through November. Come December I’m always on the lookout for jobs to fill in the dark, snowy months. The first place I call every winter is the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Of course I love that they protect many of the special places in our neighborhoods, but I especially love their commitment to building community and encouraging engagement with the natural world.
“This winter I had a stroke of luck because I called just two weeks after the land trust’s Development Assistant had given notice, and just as the busy end-of-year fundraising season was ramping up. And ramp up it did!
“My first few months I did nothing but help enter data and generate thank you letters for the flood of donations. Among other types of gifts, I processed community garden plot payments, memorial gifts, grant awards, and piles of membership renewals. Each donation has a different processing protocol, depending on its purpose, how it was paid (cash, check, stock, paypal, etc), and its size (our pals at the IRS ask for more copying & filing for larger donations). Coding all this correctly in the database turned out to be a far bigger job than I’d anticipated. Nevertheless, it was gratifying to go into work and spend the day immersed in this generous outpouring of support from our community.
“It has been great fun working with the dedicated folks at the Land Trust, and seeing firsthand the incredible amount of work that goes into keeping things running smoothly. I will soon be winding down my time with them, but I hope they hold a spot for me next winter! Oh, and, if you happened to get a thank you letter that was printed up-side-down, with donut crumbs on it, I had nothing to do with it.”