Nature Center still in business but looking for help

       Two years ago, when a tight budget forced the El Paso County commissioners to halve the Bear Creek Nature Center's 2009 budget, all its staff and volunteers could say was that they would work hard and try to keep the environmentally focused facility alive.
       Today, the center's doors remain open (Wednesdays through Saturdays). “The volunteers really kicked in and filled the void, thank goodness,” said Paula Megorden, the only paid staffer (there had been two).
       But fundraising has become part of the scenery. That includes the annual Bear Creek by Candlelight Friday, Dec. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the center, 245 Bear Creek Road. The event will be free, but donations are requested.
       It will be a joint fundraiser, with the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and the Children's Literacy Center participating as well as seeking monetary help.
       The Nature Center has no illusions that the night will reap enough in donations to restore that second staff position and/or the previous 5-days-a-week schedule, even if the usual 100 or more people drop in. What Megorden would like is help with the expense of refurbishing the center's indoor exhibits and putting on its summer nature camps. Dating back to when the building was new, “some of the exhibits are eight or nine years old,” she said. “Changing exhibits now and then can help get return visitation.”
       As for the camps, volunteers with the Friends of El Paso County Park Nature Centers typically help out, but funds are needed to pay experienced professionals to be camp leaders, she said.
       Looking to 2011, Megorden said she will be “looking at new ways” to raise money, including grant applications and other fundraisers. She also continually recruits volunteers and provides training classes quarterly for docent hopefuls.
       Anyone interested in volunteering at the center can call her at 520-6388.

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