Saving Coral Reefs, Protecting Coasts and Sea Life
What began in 2001 as a grassroots 4-H project started by Amway IBO Ken Nedimyer and his daughter, Kelly, has expanded into a non-profit organization that attracts volunteers from countries as far away as Germany and England.
The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) has planted 4,000 corals on 22 different reefs in the Florida Keys, but according to Ken and his wife, Denise, they are just getting started. “Just in the last two weeks we planted 1,000 corals,” notes Ken. “We expect to plant another 8,000 to 10,000 this year.”
Often referred to as the “rainforests of the ocean,” coral reefs help to prevent floods and reduce the impact of hurricanes and typhoons in coastal areas as well as provide a home to 25% of the world’s marine fish species. Since the 1970s coral reefs have been in rapid decline, particularly in the Caribbean, where elkhorn and staghorn coral are now considered critically endangered. “I realized that nobody else was doing anything about the reefs’ dying,” says Ken, who has been diving for the past 40 years. “I figured somebody had to do something, so it might as well be me.”
The CRF team and visiting groups of volunteers grow staghorn and elkhorn corals in an off-shore nursery for a year before transplanting them onto reefs. Ken notes that CRF continues to tweak its techniques in order to make the process efficient and sustainable on a large scale; in the past four years, they have seen dozens of corals spawn naturally. “There was no book written, no formula to follow. We had to innovate and learn from our failures,” says Ken. “All the things we’ve learned in the Amway business – the value of education, the idea of duplication, leadership training, how to treat and respect other people – we’ve applied to the coral business and everyday life.”
Denise, who is a CRF board member, explains that her and Ken’s Amway business works hand in glove with their passion with the environment. “Because we live on islands, some of the water we use washes into the ocean, so we encourage resorts to use Amway environmentally sensitive laundry products” she says. “Integrity is such a big thing for us, and Amway is a company that cares about integrity, the environment, and its people. We try to impart that on the community.”
This past March, Ken was named CNN Hero for his ongoing work in coral restoration, and the news of CRF’s work has been spreading. “Tanzania has asked us to put in a nursery,” says Denise. CRF recently received a permit to plant 50,000 corals from North Key Largo through Key West, where CRF developed a small training nursery to assist the Florida Keys Community College marine biology program.
Over the years the coral restoration project has been passed down to each of Ken and Denise’s four daughters, all of whom are Amway IBOs. Having originally intended to sell the corals, the Nedimyer family finds it more rewarding to put the corals back onto the reefs, and to this day they have not sold a one. Ken shares, “If we’ve learned anything as a family, it’s more important to make a difference than to make money.”
For more inspiration about things you can do in your community, visit www.amway.net.