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Illinois Department of Natural Resources honoring 12 volunteers     Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 13, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is honoring 12 individuals and three organizations [see related article] for exceptional volunteer service on behalf of the agency's programs and constituents. The IDNR Volunteer of the Year awards are presented each year during ceremonies at Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair

"Our volunteers are doing great work at state parks, at our other facilities and in their own local communities. This recognition program is one way we can thank them for the valuable service and expertise they provide to us and to the people of the state of Illinois,” said Joel Brunsvold, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Thousands of volunteers provide tens of thousands of hours of volunteer service every year. We salute each and every one of them -- and offer a special thanks to those being honored as volunteers of the year.”

This year's volunteer recognition awards ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Conservation World amphitheater on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. This year's honorees are:

Ron Boeser, Mattoon

Ron Boeser is an avid trapper who has for more than 10 years served as a volunteer certified trapping education instructor and a certified boating education instructor as part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources safety education effort. For more than nine years, Boeser has also volunteered as a certified hunting education instructor. During the past 10 years, he has taught or participated in nearly 50 courses and has achieved master instructor certification for both trapping and hunting.

His commitment to safety education provides many benefits for his students. He has invested his own money in classroom equipment and gear for all three safety education programs in which he is involved. He has also been actively involved in recruiting and training new instructors for Department of Natural Resources safety education programs.

John Dyer, Springfield

Joe Sefton, Decatur

John Dyer and Joe Sefton have a shared commitment to helping youngsters learn how to fish -- and how to enjoy fishing -- at ponds miles apart in central Illinois. Dyer has served as a volunteer Urban Fishing Clinic instructor at Washington Park in Springfield, while Sefton volunteers at the clinics at Fairview Park in Decatur.

Dyer and Sefton distinguish themselves among fishing clinic volunteers with their dedication to the program. Both are on hand virtually every day at their respective clinic locations -- twice each weekday for nine weeks during the summer.

Dyer and Sefton also volunteer at the Department of Natural Resources youth fishing clinics conducted at Conservation World in Springfield during the Illinois State Fair. They are committed to the program and its goal of helping youngsters learn to fish while teaching them about the environment.

Both are particularly adept at helping kids with little or no experience with fishing. Their energy and positive attitudes are inspiring and make them a joy to be around.

Norma Harris, Springfield

Norma Harris has been a valuable member of the volunteer corps at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield since January 1996, donating her time to help children in the museum's “A Place for Discovery” gallery for youngsters.

Harris' friendliness, commitment, enthusiasm and reliability have made her a great asset to the museum. She works a regular schedule at the museum and is often available to cover shifts for others or to volunteer extra time during the busy “spring rush,” when large numbers of school children visit the museum. She greets each young person with enthusiasm and provides important information about the hands-on exhibits. Her warm and welcoming personality make everyone feel welcomed and excited to learn.

Harris taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the Springfield Public Schools for 35 years. She is a dedicated, generous educator and a definite asset to the Illinois State Museum.

Joe Kovacs, Mount Zion

Joe Kovacs is the man for whom Kovacs Field, the soccer field at Spitler Woods State Natural Area in Mount Zion, is named. He emigrated to the United States in 1956 from Hungary. Kovacs helped found his community's youth soccer program and was the key organizer of what would become the Mount Zion High School soccer program.

He led the volunteer effort more than 20 years ago to find a place for youth soccer in Mount Zion. After a drive through Spitler Woods, he and a group of volunteers worked with local officials and site staff to convert an open field of weeds and brush at Spitler Woods into soccer fields. What is now Kovacs Field is used daily for soccer games and camps.

Kovacs has donated countless hours to local soccer programs and to improve Spitler Woods.

Bev and Jack Mommsen, Crystal Lake

Bev and Jack Mommsen have been assisting the Illinois Natural History Survey's successful purple loosestrife biological control program since 1998. The Mommsens asked for help with a severe infestation of the invasive purple loosestrife plant in their Wedgewood subdivision in Crystal Lake, and the Illinois Natural History Survey provided the neighborhood association with Galerucella beetles and Hylobius weevils -- insect species that consume and help control the spread of purple loosestrife. The Mommsens volunteered to assist in the Natural History Survey's successful beetle-rearing program and received training to rear their own insects and to train others in their neighborhood in purple loosestrife control.



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At the Mommsen's urging, the Illinois Natural History Survey developed training workshops specifically for homeowners. These workshops have been conducted annually at the Department of Natural Resources' Volo Bog Nature Center since 2001. Bev and Jack attend each year and share their experiences.

The Mommsens began rearing the purple loosestrife-controlling beetles in 2001 and by last year had produced more than 100,000, releasing them at seven locations in their subdivision. Illinois Natural History Survey staff reports that the Mommsens' efforts have exceeded expectations, with beetles feeding on purple loosestrife plants throughout the entire wetland. Native plants are now being replanted in the wetland.

The Mommsens provide an excellent example of citizens assisting the Department of Natural Resources on an important project in which everyone benefits.

Chuck Oestreich, Rock Island

Ann Schonlau, Edwardsville

Ann Schonlau and Chuck Oestreich are tireless volunteers who have worked for a number of years with Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff to expand trails and greenways efforts in their regions.

Schonlau is a retired recreation professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, a member of the board of directors of the League of Illinois Bicyclists and a member of the Metro-east Greenways Alliance. She served on planning committees for the 2002 and 2004 Southern Illinois Trails and Greenways Regional Workshops, co-sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources, and she has been instrumental in planning and development of trails throughout southwest Illinois. She also participated in development of a Mississippi River Trail user guide.

Chuck Oestreich is a retired high school teacher in Rock Island and a board member of the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the Mississippi River Trail Inc. Oestreich is ride chairman for the annual Grand Illinois Trail and Parks bike tour and has worked with Department of Natural Resources on a user guide for the Grand Illinois Trail and the Mississippi River Trail. His expertise, enthusiasm and vision have helped expand trail and bicycling efforts throughout the state.

Ila Roberts, Springfield

Ila Roberts has served as a volunteer at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield since 1986, having joined the museum's volunteer corps during an exhibit of Edward Worst weavings. As a member of the Prairie Weavers, Roberts demonstrated weaving during that event and has dedicated her efforts in the museum's decorative arts collections and programs.

She assists museum staff in collections management, research and installation of exhibitions. During a special exhibition of Joy Orozco dolls, she helped with conservation of the dolls and their costumes and wove area rugs and bolts of fabric for the dollhouses.

In addition to her volunteer work at the museum, she participates in a number of other Springfield-area service organizations and has demonstrated spinning and weaving at a number of Springfield and Taylorville schools.

Dana Walker, Macomb

Dana Walker is a lifelong resident of McDonough County with a lifelong appreciation for improving the environment in the La Moine River watershed in west central Illinois. Walker has served as past president of the La Moine River Ecosystem Partnership.

His strong leadership and his background in conservation and forest management have prompted his involvement in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ForestWatch ecosystem monitoring program throughout the La Moine basin. He has also been active in the RiverWatch program and in a variety of local environmental and community organizations.

Don Wilson, Gurnee

Don Wilson, who grew up near Illinois Beach State Park in Lake County and knows the park as if it were his own back yard, has for many years led a dedicated group of volunteers known as the Friends of Illinois Beach. Many of the group's members are co-workers Wilson recruited from Abbott Labs. He has served as the Illinois Beach State Park volunteer steward since 1991.

For 13 years, Wilson has organized monthly volunteer workdays to clear brush, help control exotic plant species, monitor and clean up the park. At the time of a cleanup day last year, he was recovering from a stairway accident in which he sustained broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and broken collarbone, but he still spent a day at the park cutting, pulling, stacking and dragging sweet clover out of the sand prairie.

His efforts on behalf of Illinois Beach are almost too numerous to list. He has trained volunteers; leads nature hikes; developed interpretive signs, boardwalks and walking paths; has become a licensed herbicide applicator to help work on exotic species control at the park's natural areas; and helped with rare plant and biological monitoring. He assisted federal officials with recovery efforts for the rare eastern prairie fringed orchid, conducted seed distribution and monitoring, and helped in searches for endangered Karner blue butterflies.

Wilson's volunteer efforts at Illinois Beach are an inspiration to others.

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources
news release]

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