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News / Clark County News

Vancouver dad, daughter dig spending time together volunteering

Dedicated duo encourages others to follow in their muddy footsteps

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 10, 2023, 6:04am
6 Photos
Pat Henderson, left, talks to his nephew, Elijah Osborn, 8, during a planting event hosted by the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington. More than a dozen of Henderson's family members joined to celebrate his 46th birthday.
Pat Henderson, left, talks to his nephew, Elijah Osborn, 8, during a planting event hosted by the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington. More than a dozen of Henderson's family members joined to celebrate his 46th birthday. (Elayna Yussen for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Weekend mornings are sacrosanct: an essential recovery period to comfortably twist in the confines of soft blankets and thoughts of having nothing to do and the whole day to do it.

So, to those who subscribe to this routine, opting to spend them shivering outside during a tree-planting event may come as a head-scratcher.

Yet volunteering on the weekends is an endeavor that Vancouver father-daughter duo Pat and Paisley Henderson enjoy, and it’s something they’ve done regularly together since 2019.

“I think everybody has that ability in any walk of life to do something on some level without going full tilt,” he said. “There’s plenty of people on this planet, so if everybody does a little bit, it makes a huge difference.”

Last Saturday, sun rays fell flat and still in the sky, the light obstructed by thin clouds harboring mists of rain. A breeze occasionally wafted through loose collars and sleeves, exacerbating the existing chill’s sharpness and drilling it deeper to the bone.

Paisley adjusted her hand warmers as she prepped the native shrubs, flipping and patting clumps of dirt and roots from their plastic containers. The grand scheme, organized by the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, was to restore native woodland on semiconductor manufacturer WaferTech’s property in Camas.

Though white splotches grew on distant hills, the corner of Northwest Lake Road and Parker Street remained untouched by snow and was soft enough to scoop soil from.

Paisley followed Pat as he dug holes quicker than they could be filled. It was a rhythmic operation, and it was evident they were a good team — a reflection of the numerous plantings they joined together. The best part of it all? Seeing how their contribution alters the landscape in the coming years, she said.

Anna Wilde, Watershed Alliance deputy director, described Pat and Paisley as regulars and said she always notices their presence.

“They’re really good-natured,” she said. “They’re up to do whatever we have in store for them.”

Pat estimated they invest anywhere between six and 12 hours a month to volunteering. It’s something they try to convince others to do, as well.

To commemorate Pat’s recent 46th birthday, more than a dozen of the Hendersons’ family members joined the planting Saturday — traveling from as far as Sandy, Ore. He’d occasionally look over his shoulder, checking to see how the massive cadre was faring.

“(Being involved) is something we’ve always done growing up,” said Wendy Osborn, Pat’s sister. “We also have a big family, so we try to take care of each other.”

Inherently helpful

Growing up, Pat’s parents and siblings often helped those who didn’t have money, time or certain expertise. They’d roof or do landscaping for their neighbors. At one point, the family’s basement even served as a closet where folks explored neatly sorted racks, finding what they could to “make it through until things were in better shape,” Pat said.

That passion to help never dissipated, and only became more instilled in his own family and their attraction to spending time outdoors.

“I’ve always loved nature in general, so I want to help preserve it,” said Paisley, 15, who aspires to become a wildlife biologist. Sometimes her brother William, 12, even tags along — emphasis on “sometimes,” she laughed.

During trash clean-ups at Frenchman’s Bar, Paisley’s gaze is quick to jump from the colorful food wrappers and miscellaneous plastic bits and pieces scattered along the shoreline.

Instead, her eyes dart to the forest nearby to catch signs of life, searching for wild rodents scurrying between hanging limbs or reptiles that may camouflage themselves in the grass. Beyond the canopy, birds draw invisible shapes as they glide with the breeze.

Of course there are plenty of other opportunities outside of volunteering where the Hendersons explore nature’s quirks. Trips to pinpoint Steigerwald Lake’s herons and egrets or Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge’s otters, beavers and cranes are commonplace, they said.

To those who want to volunteer, Paisley suggested not jumping in too quickly — it can be a lot all at once. She remains adamant that investing a handful of hours when possible is worthwhile.

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“I wish people would do more,” Paisley said, emphasizing that small acts can be meaningful.

“(We) don’t need the recognition or anything,” Pat said. “We just do what we all should, I guess.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer