Hartselle native educates on environment through nonprofit organization

By Rebekah Martin

Hartselle Enquirer

Teaching children in Morgan County about the environment and helping develop their love and appreciation for what is around them is the main goal of the Wetland Environmental Learning Projects. The nonprofit organization was founded by Hartselle native Cleo Stubbs.

Started in 2013, WELP is a registered nonprofit that was established to teach the public about the environment – with specialized programs for school-age children and veterans that encourage responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources.

According to its website, WELP believes everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the biodiversity and beauty Alabama has to offer. Participants are challenged to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the environment and are encouraged to be good stewards of the earth through pollution awareness and hands-on learning in outdoor classrooms.

The organization is overseen by a board of six members, who all have experience in various scientific fields.

Stubbs made a career out of working in the environment, but he has devoted his retirement years to WELP to follow his passion.

Stubbs said the vision behind WELP was simple – he wanted to share his lifelong love of nature with others and promote good stewardship of the earth’s natural resources.

“We want them to look at the environment in a totally different way,” Stubbs said.

Spending his childhood on a farm in southwest Georgia, Stubbs said it was there where he learned the intricacies of nature and how things work together. He made a career out of studying the environment and said it has been his life’s passion.

“It’s a passion that I have outside of my career or even payment. We’re not just living here – we do have an impact. We can see that with CO2, with erosion, with the cedar trees dying and everything,” Stubbs said. “We want to be conscious of our environment and cause children to think, ‘Well, what can I do (to help)?’”

One program WELP will host this summer is a student workshop on Lake Guntersville that will offer attendees an intensive, hands-on experience. Stubbs said students will camp out June 4-8 and learn about stream profiles, topographic maps, water well monitoring and the nocturnal environment.

The workshop is open to students in Morgan County in seventh through 11th grades. There is no cost involved to participate, but those who are interested must register online at www.welpalabama.com.

“What I wanted to do was offer children an educational experience,” Stubbs said. “We used to have vocational ag and greenhouses everywhere … I just think there’s a gap there now that we want to fill.

“I think teaching is what make us feel good as humans. I think when we reach out and help we become full,” Stubbs said. “We become valued when we do that, so it’s very fulfilling to me.”

Stubbs said he has enjoyed teaching and giving back to younger generations, like those in his own early years who went above and beyond and positively affected his life.

“The other side of this whole thing is me being able to give back because someone helped me. They saw and reached out beyond their call and helped bring me to where I am today,” Stubbs said. “What happened is that brought economic and educational opportunity for me, for my children and my grandchildren.”

The “semi-retired” Vietnam War veteran said he and others have a responsibility to positively affect change in people’s lives – and there is always someone to help.

“There may be only one kid or two kids, but there will be somebody who you’ll make a difference for in their life,” Stubbs said. “You’re reaching out to some people right now that you have no idea you’re touching. It’s not about getting a lot of recognition – it’s about making an impact.”

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