Blandford Nature Center is flourishing under the new leadership of alumna Annoesjka Steinman, named its executive director in Sept. 2009.
“Our biggest success has been reconnecting with the community, reminding them of the gem that Blandford Nature Center is,” said Steinman, who earned a master’s degree in natural resources management with an emphasis on aquatic ecosystems from Grand Valley in May 2008.
Blandford Nature Center, located in Grand Rapids, has served as a natural educational learning environment since 1949. Steinman said she enjoys that her position allows her to ‘dabble’ in a plethora of environmental and educational issues, such as stream erosion and land management issues. She also oversees the center’s small farm and 143 acres, which thousands of kids use as a classroom each year.
During her time as executive director, Steinman has succeeded in creating a new vision for the charitable nonprofit. She faced the initial challenge of adapting the centers past business model which included a merger with a garden-to-school organization, to its new nonprofit status focused solely on the mission of the nature center. “Becoming a nonprofit was difficult organizationally and financially, but it has given us full control of our destiny,” said Steinman.
Within this process, she has reopened the center on Saturdays, as well as created and expanded educational programming and self-guided exploration opportunities. She has increased awareness of the center’s new charitable nonprofit status, initiated a new membership program, developed a case statement for donors, and exceeded the 2010 fundraising goal by more than $150,000.
“It is critical for us to connect kids to the outdoors in order to increase their curiosity and love of the natural world, to teach them at a young age the importance of protecting the environment that sustains them through food, shelter, and quality of life, and to help fight childhood obesity through outdoor activity,” said Steinman.
Before starting her new position, Steinman spent four years involved with local watershed efforts around Mona Lake in Muskegon County, educating the community including politicians, organization members, and school students about watershed pollution. She is married to Alan Steinman, director of Grand Valley's Annis Water Resources Institute.