Our Interact Club of Longview, sponsored by the noon Rotary Club of Longview, is doing projects that span both local and international goals. The club’s students selected an environmental project/fundraiser, distributing milkweed seed packets for a $2 donation each to help save the monarch butterflies. They will then use this “seed money” to fund an international project to buy “Shoes That Grow” – durable leather shoes for children that can adjust up to 5 sizes. The shoes are given to children in Africa to protect bare feet that are vulnerable to parasites. These projects fulfill multiple Rotary International priorities for the environment, child health, and disease prevention. The students in the club are focused on “Service Above Self” and have found these meaningful projects and fundraisers that are impactful while maintaining their own safety during the pandemic.
The monarch butterfly depends on the milkweed plants to lay seeds and feed the caterpillar stage. Each of us likely remembers our early childhood science lessons of the stages of the butterfly, and hearing of the rapid decline of these nomadic butterflies saddens us. One of the main causes of their population crisis is the impact of urbanization on their natural habitat, but there is something we can do.
The adult monarch butterflies can eat from various flowers and plants, but the caterpillars need the milkweed plants. Growing milkweed plants in home gardens can help assist the beloved monarch butterflies in their life cycle and journey.
How it works?
Each packet contains about 20 seeds of Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), a common variety that can grow almost anywhere. An informative Rotarian in our club reminded us not to plant them near livestock or in fields with feed as they can poison or make livestock sick.
The planting instructions for cold germinations of the seedlings is on the back of the packet. For best results, this is done by putting the seeds in wet paper towels in the refrigerator for 30 days prior to planting. Once the seeds are planted in soil, they like a sunny place and should be watered for at least two weeks. It takes them 3-4 weeks to germinate and 60 days to be full grown. It states that one caterpillar can eat 20-25 leaves!
How you can help:
We plan to continue to distribute the packets for $2 donations each until we run out, and at that point, decide how much money we have made to give towards the “Shoes That Grow” project. Those who live close to or come through Longview can arrange to pick up seed packets. And for those who would like some sent to them, we can arrange that as well! At this point, we have about 100 packets left. Please contact Erin Harnish, Interact Advisor, by email (email@example.com) if interested.
Some Rotarians have generously donated to the project and offered that we give the seed packets away, which has been fun for the club members. So far, we have been able to give them to students who attended our meetings and to our local emergency support shelter. The shelter was especially meaningful because the Interact students have already developed a tradition of working on volunteer projects there, including two outdoor projects: clearing the grounds and doing yard work.
The Larger Impact:
The international project was an interesting one as the students like to learn about ways to help children around the world. The seed project had the interest of doing something local for the environment but also had an interesting science lesson to share about the environment as well. It offers people an activity to engage with the environment and make a positive impact. “I think what we are doing is important because it raises awareness for the environment while also giving back to people in need. It is kind of a two for one!” says Andrew Harnish, high school senior and president of the Interact Club of Longview. The club has already been able to exceed the original goals of the project, but learning and teaching about the environment, seed distribution, donations, ability to give some seeds away due to others’ generosity, and money gathered for next purchase – the “Shoes That Grow.”