Seventeen-year-old Anna DeVolld of Soldana, Alaska, has grown up learning about community service and the value of helping others. So, it didn’t take long for her to identify a problem while working in her garden and decide to do something about it.
In 2018, after being fascinated by the number of bees her sunflowers were attracting, she did some research. Pollinators, especially bees, are vital to food production and plant sustainability, but The Science Times estimates that nearly 90% of the total bee population has been destroyed because of habitat loss and pesticide use. With a bit of thought and planning, Anna founded Promote Our Pollinators.
“My first goal was to educate others about the importance of pollinators, their decline and what we can do to help, so I created a flier, activity book and website,” she recalls.
The flier was geared toward adults and the activity book toward children. From there, she designed Pollinator Packs, six-packs of pots with pollinator-friendly seedlings to hand out for free.
She then started presenting Plant-and-Take lesson at schools, senior centers and community events, sending learners home with Pollinator Packs. She sent out Curriculum Kits to help elementary and middle school teachers lead lessons on the topic as well. When COVID-19 hit, Anna redesigned the curriculum to be used online.
As a family, the DeVollds annually travel to the “lower 48” to see the country and often spend time outdoors. They enjoy camping, skiing and kayaking. Maybe it’s this connection to nature that drives Anna to take such momentous steps towards saving it.
Even while running and growing P.O.P., Anna donates her time freely to other causes. Among other things, she teaches seven- to 12-year-old dance classes twice a week with her younger sister. As a dancer from the age of three, she also participates in Peninsula Artists in Motion, a local dance nonprofit that puts on shows for the community.
“I love being able to share that experience and that love of dance that I have with younger kids, because that’s what I felt when I was younger,” she says.
Working toward increasing the pollinator population has grown from an interest to a passion. After five years of spreading the word, and over 670 hours of her time, Anna’s community knows her as “The Bee Girl.”
“When she finds something that she’s really passionate about or really interested in, she goes all in. She is an incredibly hard worker and has longevity of interest,” Anna’s mother, Shona, observes.
Shona has served the organization as a driver and designated adult when one is needed to order and sign things. She also serves as the group’s—and founder’s—biggest fan.
Today, people carry P.O.P. tote bags, and families stop Anna in the street to tell her they’re planting for pollinators at home after going to her online class. She’s distributed over 2,000 Pollinator Packs and has raised more than $5,700 to differ the cost of those along with curriculum kits. Local business sponsors and grants have also been helpful.
“I think it’s been both exciting and humbling to see the long-term impact it’s had and how enthusiastically the community has embraced the message,” Anna says. “I believe it’s [especially] important for youth to be involved in environmental actions, because we’re the generation whose future will be affected by the choices of today.”
Her work has garnered national and international attention and has earned her a spot on a local environmental government advisory commission. On top of that, over 20,000 people follow P.O.P.’s social media account, and that number is growing every day. Even her family has jumped on board becoming more cognizant of dragonflies, butterflies, and of course, bees.
“We’re trying to make our home area more pollinator-friendly and not quite so much just grass but using more of our acreage for blooming plants,” Shona adds. “And because of Anna’s project, some of our growing space in the spring is now dedicated to her Pollinator Packs.”
Despite focusing on wild pollinators, the DeVolld family has also started keeping honey bees as a hobby sparked by their newfound interest in the species. What used to be just another cool bug is now a respected yard guest.
So, what’s the future of P.O.P look like? Anna plans on ramping up her services.
“I’m being contacted by teachers and organizations around the world who would like to participate in Plant and Takes and order Pollinator Packs and curriculum kits,” she states, “But right now POP is not equipped for this kind of worldwide demand.”
She hopes to expand accessibility in the U.S. before eventually being able to branch out further. Funding is an issue, but so are the logistics of shipping pollinator packs. Those are the problems she’s working on now. In the meantime, Anna recommends that anyone who can research native plants and pollinators and plant flowers that will act as a habitat and food source, particularly ones with longer bloom times. She also warns against using chemicals.
“Instead of using chemical pesticides, which can be very dangerous for our pollinators, there are a lot of natural pest control methods like ladybugs that are far more pollinator-friendly,” she mentions.
Pollinators aren’t the only ones building their future. Her work building P.O.P. has inspired Anna to major in communications at University of Alaska in Fairbanks next year with the hopes of using her knowledge and experience to help a service-based organization or business in her home state. Along with her career goals, Anna has found something else.
“I also discovered a confidence that I never knew I had. Time and time again, I had to step out of my comfort zone to accomplish POP’s goals, and as I did, I realized I was far more resilient, brave and strong than I ever thought possible.”
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Anna? Find local volunteer opportunities.
This post was written by Kristin Park. Points of Light collaborates with voices from various writers to help tell inspirational stories of leadership, volunteerism and civic engagement. We recognize that there are many ways to be civically engaged, as outlined in the Points of Lights Civic Circle®, and we are grateful to our writers for helping us illustrate the impact of how everyday actions can change the world.