SIDNEY — When Lynda Adams walks out of her office at the Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District for the last time, today, April 30, she leaves with the knowledge that she has touched the lives of thousands of people — both adult and children — in Shelby County through her educational programs.
“In 1990, Shelby Soil & Water (SWCD) board members Wayne Gerber, Lenny Albers, Don Leist, Tom Faullkner and Mark Ditmer had a vision to expand the education aspect of the district”s services to the people of Shelby County,” said Adams, who has been with the district for nearly 28 years.
“In the interview, I can remember them saying they felt like it would be a wise use of taxpayer’s dollars to try and prevent some of the county’s conservation problems as opposed to only looking at ways to remedy them after the fact,” she said. “I’ve always thought of our conservation education program as ‘preventative medicine for our environment.’”
When she was first hired, Adams was a part-time employee. The board quickly realized the position needed to be a full-time position.
“Much credit must be given to Maxine Allen, the district’s first office secretary,” said Adams. “Maxine took me under her wing and taught me the ropes about the district’s long-standing conservation poster contest, Forestry Field Day and other programs.
“In addition, she introduced me to Mr. Lew Blackford and Mr. Tim Bickel, both with Sidney City Schools. These gentlemen, along with many other administrators and educators across Shelby County, quickly embraced conservation education as a way to enhance learning for their students.”
When Adams first started on the job, there was no email for communications with teachers throughout the county.
“When I first came to Shelby County, the teachers would try to call me and I would be at another school giving a program,” said Adams. “I would try to call them back and they would be busy in the classroom. Now, we just shoot an email or a text to one another and the communication is dramatically quicker.”
Adams said one of the biggest changes she has experienced has been the increased school security at all the schools.
Meeting the people of Shelby County has been the most rewarding aspect of her job.
“It has been such a privilege to be given this opportunity to design and conduct a conservation education program for the people of Shelby County on behalf of the Shelby Soil & Water Conservation District,” said Adams.
“The best part of the job has been the amazing number of friendships and relationships that have come as part of this amazing opportunity,” she continued. “Preschool through high school students, teachers, administrators, co-workers, partners and the list goes on and on. These people have made my life so much richer for having met and worked with them.”
Adams has been instrumental in the development or enhancement of programs such as Conservation Day, which was developed with the assistance of the Shelby-Auglaize County Farm Bureau, the natural resource programs for children during the Shelby County Fair, various events at local farms and Forestry Field Day. She conducts various programs for school students both in the classroom and at Tawawa Park. She also works with high school students for the soil judging contests.
“Seeing children’s eyes light up as they’ve experienced a stream or a woods, some of the first time, has been very memorable moments,” said Adams. “One day, while doing stream monitoring with a group of young students at Tawawa Park, a little boy looked up at me and said, ‘Miss Lynda, I’ve never been to the ocean like this before.’ We had the perfect opportunity to discuss how we were in a stream but some of this water would very likely end up in the ocean somewhere along with water cycle.
“These types of ‘hands-on – minds-on’ experiences have truly made learning come alive for many children. Conservation Day Camp, Images from the Land, Growing Women in Agriculture, Forestry Field Day and countless other programs will also be part of my ‘Shelby County Memories.’”
Adams said she will miss the people of Shelby County as she begins her retirement.
“I love the people of Shelby County,” said Adams. “They warmly welcomed me to Shelby County nearly 28 years ago and have come to be dear friends over the years.”
She will also miss the partnerships she has made with the school districts in the county.
Adams said she’s looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Paul, along with their children, Jon and Kim Adams, Lee and Melissa Adams and Matt and Karri Low, and grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Douglas Ellison and Kyle and Elizabeth Low, and their extended family.
“There are some volunteer opportunities I would like to pursue,” said Adams, who lives in rural Miami County. “I have a passion for helping children learn to read and for teaching very practical life skills to those who would like to learn them.
“I love farming, gardening and being outdoors,” she said. “I hope to never again have to plant flowers or weed a flower bed using the headlights of my car!”
And using the headlights of her car has happened, said Adams. After long days of planting crops on their farm, she’d return home and plant her flowers after dark using the car’s headlights.
“I believe most people (of all ages) continue to become more keenly aware of the importance of taking care of our environment, both for current and future generations,” said Adams.
And she can retire knowing that she had a hand in changing the public’s perception of taking care of the environment.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.