River of Life project provides ecology education to area

The River of Life project at St. Daniel’s Church hopes to not only educate its own parish about how to take care of the environment around them, but other individuals living in watersheds throughout southeastern Michigan.
Since its inception in 1998, the project has created handbooks on how to better care for the Earth as well as doing research of local residents to find out just what people do and don’t know about safe protection practices.
‘We have a responsibility to use them (watersheds) wisely, to protect and care for them,? Lola Koch, chairman for River of Life environmental justice at St. Dan’s, said. ‘We want people to become more aware of what they can do in their homes and community.?
The project’s mission is to ‘bring environmental issues, especially water-related, to the attention of residents and congregations, encouraging their practice of good stewardship in protecting creation.?
That philosophy is evident at St. Dan’s, thanks in part to the work of Koch and Debbie Riccardo, manager for the River of Life- Clinton River Watershed Project.
Working with help from Michigan State University’s Extension Program and the Clinton River Watershed Council, Koch and Riccardo are able to provide community members with valuable resources to help make a difference.
Not only is the Clinton River involved in te project, but the Detroit River, Huron River, Lake St. Clair and Rouge River are all bodies of water that dedicated individuals throughout SE Michigan, like Koch and Riccardo, are working hard to protect.
One such effort was to survey parish members at St. Dan’s to get an idea of what people thought about environmental issues. Using the statistics gathered, informational programs were presented at the church to try and better inform people.
‘We found that a lot people didn’t know fertilizer with herbicides was a problem,? Koch said. ‘We told them that they can use fertilizer to spot certain areas only.?
In addition to informational sessions, St. Dan’s also offers an Ecology Sabbath every year. The program provides a wealth of environmental knowledge to church members and people wanting to learn more about the community around them.
This year’s program is scheduled for April 24 and 25 at St. Dan’s Cushing Center. The group’s ecology awareness handbook will be featured during the event. Mass times can be found by calling the church for updated event information.
The work to help water and environment issues does not stop at St. Dan’s. Koch and Riccardo work with other parishes along watersheds to promote awareness as well. And community members not associated with St. Dan’s specifically are always welcome to join activities.
‘We partner with any group helping water,? Koch said. ‘I like getting information out to people that might not know what they’re doing,?
Riccardo is responsible for recruiting support and donations for the program, which is a non-profit endeavor. Together with Koch, the two have been helping spread awareness about water appreciation, a fact important to the Clarkston area since the Clinton River head waters are located here.
‘Lola gathers up information and gives it out in digestible bites to people in the pews,? Riccardo said.
The hard work continues all year long. Park clean ups, educational presentations, the annual Creekfest and River Day and even ice cream social are all events aimed at raising support and awareness for ecology efforts.
The River of Life project is always accepting donations and volunteers for its projects. For more information on how to get involved, call Koch at (248) 623-0973 or Riccardo at (248) 623-9340.

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