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Crest students empty pockets to preserve blue heron habitat

The students of Crest Learning Center have decided that saving Puget Sound’s herons is a cause worthy of Island attention. Last month, the members of Crest’s service learning class voted to donate $1,200 raised in the Mercer Island High School penny drive to the Heron Habitat Helpers (HHH) conservation group of Seattle.

“I can’t tell you how excited we were at the news. We’re a small, all-volunteer organization, so any money that we get is significant,” said HHH member Gail Lassman.

According to Crest teacher Gavin Tierney, who co-led the project with colleague Sommer Whitmarsh, junior Jordan Turner was the one who initiated the idea to support the heron helpers.

“Jordan really did all the work with this. He wanted to find an unique organization that needed the money,” Tierney said.

Heron Habitat Helpers is a Seattle-based group working to protect the Kiwanis Ravine, near Discovery Park, which is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the largest active Great Blue Heron colony in Seattle. Volunteers are committed to keeping the ravine’s population of herons and other wildlife thriving. After proposing HHH as a worthy recipient of the $1,200, Turner and his fellow classmates voted on a select five organizations. The heron helpers won.

“We had individuals from a few other organizations speak to the class. We took a few site visits, including one to [the Kiwanis Ravine] and created a round table to go through the process,” Tierney said, adding that HHH impressed his students the most.

During the MIHS Day of Service on April 28, a group of Crest students spent four hours pulling weeds and planting vegetation for the heron helpers of Kiwanis Ravine.

“They’re wonderful workers. They weeded, mulched and planted,” said HHH co-founder Heidi Carpine.

According to Carpine, the $1,200 raised will be used to purchase a new Web cam, allowing the public to watch heron chicks in their nests. Any leftover funds will go toward habitat restoration.

Meanwhile, Tierney expects to keep Crest’s relationship with HHH alive next year.

“Ideally, we’ll work with the penny harvest again and continue to help Heron Habitat Helpers,” he said.

For more information on HHH, visit: www.heronhelpers.org.

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