Dodge Q&A: Margaret Waldock

June 30, 2014

This is the fourth installment of our new series featuring Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff here on the Dodge Blog. We’re going to check in with what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state, and we’ll ask them a few fun questions, too.

Today we talk to Margaret Waldock, Program Director, Environment.

How do you nurture creativity in your job and in your life?

I am fortunate to work in an environment where creative ideas, people, and organizations abound.  You cannot turn around at the Dodge Foundation without tripping over something that’s inspiring.  I have the privilege of meeting and working with some of the smartest people in the state. I am consistently awed by their abilities and passion, and they make me excited to get up in the morning, which is good since working on environmental protection and causes in this state can bring you down and burn you out if you’re not careful! Plus, we do a lot of cross-program work and I get to experience fantastic performances, exhibitions, poetry and programs. Working at Dodge has further cemented my love for New Jersey and given me a deep appreciation for the unique communities and perspectives of this state.

Aside from my work, getting outside anyway possible, whether by wheel or foot, is essential to my well-being and creativity. My go-to sanity savior and preferred tool of decompression is my bicycle.  I am fortunate to live in a community with access to some of the best cycling spots in the state and my town is pretty bike friendly (though there’s always room for improvement — drivers of cars, I’m talking to you). Some of my best ideas come to me when on my bike and I have solved many of the world’s great problems climbing hills in Hunterdon County.

What books/e-books are on your (real or virtual) nightstand?

I have not yet made the leap to the e-book, I spend so much time during the workday on screens I find great pleasure and escape in reading actual, real books.  Plus I really like to fold down page-corners to hold my place.

The stack of books that I have next to my bed is ambitious.  Waiting in the cue are Andrew Zolli’s “Resilience,”Judy Wicks’ newest “Good Morning, Beautiful Business,” Woody Tasch’s “Slow Money,” Robert Sullivan’s “My American Revolution,” and Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation.” I really want to get to these books!  I know they will be well written, informative, engaging and I’ll be smarter for having read them. But fiction always wins with me.

I just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and I am currently in the middle of Alice Munroe’s short story collection, “Runaway.” I have an affinity for Canadian, female writers — Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Munroe.  I spent a fair amount of time in Canada as a kid, growing up close to the border in Western New York and summer vacations at Lake Nippissing in Ontario, so maybe it’s me feeling wistful for the Canadian vibe. Or simply that they are all genius storytellers.

What’s your favorite vegetable, and how do you most enjoy preparing it? What about other snacks?

At the risk of being labeled a liberal, hipster-foodie: Kale. Raw with salt, lemon, and flax oil. Also, beets roasted in the oven, sardines fresh or straight out of the can, hummus, and red garnet sweet potatoes. Not all together, but I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to that.

Tell us about one Dodge environment grantee project or event that you are excited about.

Excited to be working on stormwater and water infrastructure as a relatively new area of focus for us. I get that it’s not likely to engender whoops and cries of enthusiasm but when you consider how vital these systems are to human survival and prosperity and how our failure to invest in maintenance and upgrades is negatively impacting our environment, our economy, and the quality of our waterways and our communities, there’s lots of room for improvements here.

And, there’s this growing focus on how to incorporate and replicate natural systems in the form of green infrastructure to help manage stormwater, which has the added benefit of greening communities and engaging citizens in solving the problem. I think this is a great complement to our traditional focus on watershed protection and restoration and an extension of our work into urban communities dealing with flooding, pollution, and public health risks associated with failing water infrastructure. By coordinating this work, really working on rivers and watersheds as systems, I hope we can begin to move the needle on improving waterways in our state.

Also completely jazzed to see the power and potential of the Sustainable Jersey program evolve. The Dodge Foundation was integral to launching this program and it’s amazing to see how impactful its been in a few short years. The fact that the over 300 municipalities in the state are enrolled in this voluntary effort, and working on an array of local initiatives to advance long term sustainability, is inspiring. I encourage everyone I know that if you want to get involved in your community, and really make a difference doing something that sings to you, find your local green team and jump in.

How are some of Dodge’s environment grantees working together and with other partners?

We are always exploring how to foster non-traditional partnerships at Dodge and some of the work around the recovery from Superstorm Sandy yielded some great new relationships. In response to the storm, we pooled some funding with other foundations and directed it towards nonprofits from our traditional areas of focus — arts, media, environment, but with the intention of fostering closer, more collaborative work to advance long-term resiliency efforts in the state.

I think there is a natural affinity between the storytellers — the arts and media organizations — and those working on environmental protection and planning efforts, and making these connections and supporting this kind of collaboration is integral to their success.