Joy Hakola Dardin | Volunteer of the Month

Joy & Magnus along Cache Creek

Interviewed by Haley Sutton, Land Stewardship Associate

Meet Joy

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?

I was born in Oakland in 1963 but was raised in the City of Concord and have lived here my entire life.

How did you learn about Save Mount Diablo?

As a contributing member and volunteer for multiple nature-related conservation and restoration organizations, I learned about Save Mount Diablo though a sister organization.

When did you start volunteering with us, and why did you get involved?

I began volunteering for Save Mount Diablo in 2021. Since Mount Diablo has been a constant in my life—I grew up in its shadow; I graduated from the high school with the same namesake in 1981; I lived on Mount Diablo Street for many years; I have hiked these hills since I was a wee child . . .  the thought of being able to assist in its restoration appealed to me.

Which Save Mount Diablo programs are you involved in?

Because I am a relatively new member, I’ve only helped with the Diablo Restoration Team (DiRT). I look forward to exploring other avenues of service.

About Joy’s Work

What do you enjoy about the volunteer work you do?

You’ve heard the saying, you can’t help someone else without helping yourself . . . that is how I feel about volunteering. It is fulfilling on so many levels. You get to be in nature with other interesting people. The physical work is cathartic. Knowing I am contributing to effective land stewardship and restoration of my home county is a bonus!

What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on as a volunteer?

I don’t consider any of the projects challenging. I’m invigorated by hands-on work. Haley and Roxana are there to explain the what, where, how, and why, of everything. They stress you never have to take on more than you can handle. Plus, the workday is kept to three hours. I can do anything for three hours! If anything is challenging, it is making time in my busy schedule to volunteer.

Is there a memorable experience you’ve had as a Save Mount Diablo volunteer?

The last time I volunteered we had to cross a creek to get to the site. I’m a big chicken where heights are concerned. There were two paths: through the creek or over it. My knee-jerk reaction was to wade through the creek. I am a creek kid after all. But after watching most of our group navigate the narrow log bridge, I felt compelled to try.

I made it across no problem. I watched as others struggled to decide which path to take. It ended up being great fun cheering people along. Each person who took the log bridge was congratulated for their safe passage.

I joked that if anybody fell off it would make for a great photo. If nothing else, a good story to tell. How many people could say they fell off a log into a creek today? Everybody made it across the creek safely in both directions. No drama.

How do you spend your time beyond your volunteer work with us?

I work full-time as a research analyst for Contra Costa Community College District. Many of you are familiar with our colleges: Contra Costa, Diablo Valley, and Los Medanos. When not on the job you can find me with my Shiloh Shepherd, Magnus, tromping around in the open spaces of the Diablo Range or exploring the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with my husband, Steve.

As a life-long naturalist, nature photographer, avid birder, and kayaker, I am drawn to the wild. I can’t help but notice, in my lifetime alone, the loss of diversity of species due to habitat destruction and degradation. I am beyond concerned.

It is important to me to support organizations whose mission and vision align with my own. Protecting, restoring, and supporting native habitats has never been more vital. Tending the wild is a gratifying purpose. It is my pleasure to serve an esteemed organization like Save Mount Diablo.

Being selected as Volunteer of the Month is a great honor. Thank you! If you see me, say hi. I’d love to meet you. Happy Trails!

We Depend on You

Given limited staff, resources, and time, Save Mount Diablo depends on volunteers to take organizational effectiveness from excellent to exceptional. Save Mount Diablo seeks to connect a passionate community to our mission, cultivating a sense of ownership and proficiency in every volunteer position offered.

Whether you want to help with restoration and stewardship, build and maintain trails, help with events, assist in the office, lead hikes, or advocate for us, there’s a place for you. For more information, check out Save Mount Diablo’s volunteer opportunities.

Top photo courtesy Joy Dardin

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