The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region

A fundraising ride for ECOS

When I decided that I really wanted to ride across the U.S. with Woman Tours, I felt that I wanted the ride to stand for something bigger than me, something outside myself.

I knew that many women on previous tours were riding to raise money for a variety of worthy causes, from breast cancer to diabetes to children's charities.

I originally thought to make my ride a fundraiser for Partners in Health, the organization founded by the American doctor Paul Farmer. Partners in Health is particularly active in Haiti, so I thought I would ride to raise money for Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, suffering from the tragic devastation of an earthquake, and now from a horrifying cholera epidemic.

But, Partners in Health, and another organization I support, Doctors Without Borders, are large, international NGOs with professional fundraising capabilities. I decided to ride for a local organization that is near and dear to my heart, ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse. ECOS is small, it's local, it has a very small staff. But, ECOS does a mighty job.

Founded in Schenectady in 1972, ECOS is a non-profit membership organization. Its mission is to provide environmental information and educational programs that enhance appreciation of the natural world, and to advocate for the preservation of our natural resources.

When I moved to Schenectady I discovered the marvelous bike path system, and I also discovered the little pamphlet, "Along the Bike Hike Trail." It was published by ECOS, written and illustrated by ECOS members, and designed to fit in a handlebar bag. I was smitten. I fell in love. I learned that two ECOS members had been highly instrumental in causing the path through Schenectady County to be built.

I've been involved with ECOS ever since. After I retired, I became its president for a couple of years, and in the years since then have watched it grow and prosper. ECOS presents or participates in over 50 environmental programs each year, including festivals, lecture series, guest speakers, nature walks, ski and snowshoe trips, and youth programs. These events are designed and presented by almost 100 ECOS volunteers working in partnership with other local environmental groups, and with schools and colleges.

ECOS has always had a core group of writers and artists to assist with its very active publication program, including the Natural Areas series, the bike trail books, the ski and snowshoe guide, a field guide to the Karner Blue butterfly, and a field guide to wildflowers. Many of these publications have gone into second editions.

ECOS also publishes a monthly newsletter and a regional environmental program calendar which lists events for more than 40 organizations in the Capital Region. Free publications on its website include the "Walking Green Schenectady" map and "Landscaping With Native Trees."

Each year, ECOS holds a celebration to honor the efforts of Rachel Carson. A local environmental hero is also recognized with the Rachel Carson Award.

So I'm riding for ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse. Supporters of ECOS can pledge money per mile of my ride, or make a gift. Pledge forms are available on the ECOS website, (Click here). I'll send a photo at the beginning of the ride next week to the ECOS Facebook page, showing 0.00 miles on my bike computer, and I'll send a photo at the end, in St. Augustine, Florida, showing the accumulated miles. ECOS will send out the pledge reminders.

The route from San Diego to St. Augustine is 3,000 miles. Since I'm a volunteer SAG driver, driving every 4th day to support the rest of the tour, I probably won't accumulate the full mileage possible. But knowing how the miles will help this wonderful organization, I'll try to ride as many as possible.

My next blog post will be from San Diego, and will discuss the route along the Southern Tier, the logistics of the tour, and introduce some of the women participating.

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