Phil & Shar: A Year to Volunteer Spotlight Blog

Phil & Shar: A Year to Volunteer Spotlight Blog

We at Espin are always thrilled to hear what the exceptional members of our community are doing with their electric bikes. Whether it’s living sustainable lives in their tiny houses or travelling the country, we love to see the myriad of ways that our Espin riders are choosing to ride in style.

This week, we wanted to profile some of our community members who are using their Espin bikes to make the world a better place, so we reached out to Phil and Shar of the volunteer project A Year to Volunteer.

In their own words, “A Year to Volunteer is a project that Phil and Shar began when they retired from their respective jobs. In 2018, Phil was retiring after a 36-year career in the U. S. Navy and Shar owned and operated an insurance and financial services agency. Phil had spent a fair amount of time reflecting on his career, and wondering what his future had in store for him. After binge watching some sailing videos on YouTube, Phil came up with the fantastic idea to buy a sailboat and sail around the world.  Shar said, “NOPE!” But the idea to do something adventurous stuck, so they started researching RVing.”  

“Reflecting on the conversation, Shar realized that her happiest moments were not at the office but when she would take time out of her day to read to elementary school kids. Gradually, volunteerism became part of her daily routine.  After a particularly difficult day at work, she came home and told Phil that she was onboard with the idea of retiring and buying an RV and traveling to all 50 states. “But let’s do it with purpose!” she told him.  “Let’s visit and volunteer in every state and we’ll blog about it.  We’ll call it A Year to Volunteer!”  And, the idea was born.  Today, their goal is still to visit all 50 states but fulfill 365 work days of volunteering, whichever comes last.”

Phil and Shar then began travelling the US, with a focus on restoring state parks and public recreational areas and facilities. Shar and Phil realized that state parks and public rec areas were lacking in three things: “time, money, and people.” These spaces are also often more frequently used by the RV community. Phil and Shar began spending their volunteer time beautifying and restoring these areas, along with the help of several other like-minded members of the RVing community. “[The staff are] very receptive to the offer of support to a park, have all been fantastic to work with, and the effect of our work is seen immediately.” they said.

As for their Espin bikes, Shar & Phil are getting great use out of their bikes on their journey to volunteer across the country. At their last project, where they helped restore the Victoria Springs State Recreation Area in Anselmo, NE, they used their bikes to quickly travel from one part of the park to another, and to help haul supplies like paint back to the volunteer sites. In regards to their e-bikes, Phil and Shar said, “Park systems are very diverse in landscape style, size, and the distance between work projects.  The issue is, we only have one car and even then, sometimes using it is just impractical. So, if one of us is using the car to haul supplies, the other has to either hitch a ride or walk from work site to work site.  With our new Espins, we now have the means to move around the parks with ease, even if the topography is challenging for cyclists, and even if the work sites are far apart.”

Shar and Phil have been building a community to help restore parks and facilities across the country by posting their adventures to their YouTube channel, Facebook and Instagram pages, and their website. “RVers possess a treasure trove of skill; many retired who now have idle hands even though they love to travel the country.  So, we research the need, create the opportunity, and they have signed up such that we fill up quickly and often have wait lists.  Since we started, it has been amazing to discover how many people possess the volunteer spirit and love to give back where they can.” To date, Shar, Phil, and their RVing community have completed over 18,000 hours at 15 projects in 11 states.

Phil and Shar are working on completing at least three more projects before the end of the year in Oklahoma, and Arizona, and bringing their Espin bikes along with them. “There’s so much to see by bike in this beautiful country of ours!” said Phil and Shar.

You can learn more about A Year to Volunteer by checking out their website, visiting their Facebook page or Instagram page, or watching their adventures on YouTube!

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