This year was the toughest yet... it was also our most successful.
In August a fire tore through our headquarters. Equipment, tools, furniture and files were either damaged or destroyed. Nevertheless, as has been the case since our beginning, tough times yield stronger bonds for those that make it through them together. What was destroyed was not the Jolly Rovers, only some of the stuff we owned. Once the flames were extinguished, the fight to recover began.
Crew members and supporters rallied quickly to sort through the wreckage, salvage and account for damaged items. An online fundraiser shortly thereafter was successful in raising over $10,000 to cover the cost of lost time and revenue caused by the fire. We received support not only in the form of money but materials and endless good will. All the while, our crews continued to operate on the ground, at a reduced capacity for a while, but active nonetheless.
Even though we were in a state of disarray, this support got us back on our feet and operational to the point where we were able to put more volunteer hours on the ground than ever before. Over 7,600 service hours, totaling over $177,000 worth of time was contributed to State and National parks this year; with the outlook for next year looking to be even stronger. The scope of our projects was also greater than ever. From launching our first ever historic restoration at Manitoga, to restoring our first "Cave Trail" in the Ice Caves of the Sam's Point Preserve, to crafting the largest yet most organic staircase we've ever built at Stony Kill Falls in Minnewaska State Park. We even managed to launch our annual volunteer vacation to complete work on the most hiked mountain in the country, Mount Monadnock.
All of this represents a fraction of the achievements made by our volunteers. Stepping back and seeing how far we've come despite obstacles big and small feels good. What feels better is that despite the challenges this year, we still have the spirit that joined us together when we first started in 2011. It's a spirit that's a bit older and wiser, a spirit that's gained a lot of experience and has it's figurative scars, but one that still makes people smile, laugh and hug whenever we gather up to do the volunteer work we love.
As I type this, hammers are pounding and saws are cutting; the barn that was damaged by this disaster has risen from ashes in the same form but with subtle changes that will suit us better than ever. The crew will be gathering up sometime in January to paint the new building, a brilliant barn red with white trim. Classic.
Thank you friends of the Jolly Rovers for helping us get through this year and continuing to support the work we love to do. As we always say, and have thus far made it so...next year will be our greatest yet.