Luis Gutierrez is currently a junior studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.
I volunteered at the Deering Estate located off 172nd Avenue in Miami, Florida. This estate contains the Stone House which was built in 1922 and the Richmond Cottage which was built in 1896. It all belonged to the Richmond Family and Charles Deering but shortly after in the early 1900’s, Charles Deering bought hundreds of acres of land including the Richmond Cottage. After Deering’s death, it was passed down through his family and finally became part of the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986 when it was bought by the State of Florida. Today, they offer a bunch of events that can be enjoyed through an inexpensive membership that lasts the whole year!
I did this specific volunteer opportunity thanks to my Professor John Bailly in the Honors College at Florida International University. Our goal was to pick up as much trash from the mangroves as we can.Though this volunteer opportunity was not an interest of mine nor has any relation to my major, it was very fun and satisfying to give back to the environment.
I connected with this opportunity through my professor. It was one of our planned class meetings to do a clean-up at the Deering Estate.
WHERE & WHAT
On April 20, 2020, Professor John Bailly sent an unfortunate message to his class regarding the morning clean-up at the Deering Estate. He had postponed this class two weeks due to strong winds but still, the strong winds had followed the class. The original plan was to go out to Chicken Key on canoes and pick up any form of trash on the island. I believe I can speak for the entire class, including the professor, that we were quite disappointed with the entire situation that was completely unavoidable.
Luckily, the Deering Estate and the professor had an alternative to still be able to make an impact. The plan was that we were still going to be able to pick up trash in the mangroves but this time it would be through the mangrove boardwalk nearby. This boardwalk, however, did not look like a boardwalk. To quote Professor Bailly, it was “Minecraft gone wrong”. The boardwalk was destroyed and the remains of wood were scattered everywhere through the mangroves which made traversing through them a bit more difficult.
In the mangroves, I found small bottle caps, chip bags, lines of plastic, and many more miniscule things that tend to be the more dangerous in harming an ecosystem rather than the large items. The class was given large bags that would tie on the top once filled to transport the trash easier. Through this, I wore my water shoes due to the amount of mud and water that slowly grew in quantity the deeper you went in. I tried to carry a stick with me to swat the spider webs and to keep my balance if I took a misplaced step.
Afterwards, a handful of students took the bags of trash to the dumpster on the other side of the estate. We dumped the trash into the bin but kept the bags to reuse for another clean-up. To celebrate our accomplishment and also our final class together, the class had lunch together by the water in the windy yet beautiful weather.
This experience was extraordinary and really fun to accomplish, even with the change of plans in the morning. The picking of trash is always a great time to reflect and immerse yourself physically and mentally with nature so it is always an adventure. Though I am not a fan of the amount of spiders I ran into during the clean-up, I pushed forth and focused on the reason that I was here. Overall, I enjoyed it entirely and would do it again in a heartbeat.
“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 21 Oct. 2021, https://deeringestate.org/history/.