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Saturday, Aug. 13


Department of Natural Resources honors volunteers          Send a link to a friend

Recognition ceremony at Illinois State Fair

[AUG. 13, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is honoring seven individuals and six organizations for exceptional volunteer service for the agency. The IDNR Outstanding 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 by helping at state parks and with our other programs, such as nature preserve restoration, the Urban Fishing Program, safety education and the state museum, just to name a few," said Joel Brunsvold, Department of Natural Resources director. "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."

This year's volunteer recognition awards ceremony begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Conservation World Amphitheater on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. This year's honorees are:

Tri-City Ducks Unlimited Chapter, Granite City

Over the past several years, members of Tri-City Ducks Unlimited have taken a volunteer approach to duck hunting. The chapter members have volunteered their time, making sure that there are better waterfowl hunting opportunities for all hunters at Horseshoe Lake State Park at Granite City. They have spent countless hours assisting site staff with the dewatering of the site's feeding area, as well as other projects to enhance hunting at the site. Site and regional staff, wildlife biologists, hunters, and other site visitors have appreciated their efforts. The Tri-City Ducks Unlimited Chapter has helped provide many years of good waterfowl hunting opportunities at Horseshoe Lake State Park.

Friends of Fort Massac, Metropolis

With the efforts of the Friends of Fort Massac, the Living History Program brings history to life at Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis. The Friends of Fort Massac group is dedicated to raising money for various educational and historical projects at the park. Members have raised more than $14,000 to aid the park with special events. They worked with the city of Metropolis to obtain a donation for the Fort Massac Encampment, an annual event each autumn that attracts more than 100,000 visitors. The group helps on the Friday before the encampment with programs for 1,400 grade school and junior high school students. Without their help, this program and other special events would not take place. The Friends of Fort Massac are looking toward the future to do whatever it will take to help Fort Massac State Park with improvements to its historic area.

Rock Falls Chapter of the Rock River Development Authority

The Rock Falls Chapter of the Rock River Development Authority was established in 1985 as part of a larger project that coordinated local municipal volunteers along the Rock River in an effort to improve the Hennepin Canal State Trail in Sheffield. This enthusiastic group of approximately 15 people began by volunteering to open up the canal by hand, clearing a meandering trail along the old canal towpath and turning it into a trail that was safe, clean and attractive for all to enjoy. They also took on another project that raised more than $10,000 in contributions, materials and in-kind services to add a gravel surface, then oil and chip the first three miles of the recreational trail -- the start of what is now a 91-mile Hennepin Canal trail network. Since records were initiated in 1990, this group has provided 12,500 volunteer hours to the Hennepin Canal project. Last year, they purchased 12 can buoys for the Sinissippi channel at a cost of more than $1,200. In May, they sponsored a canal cleanup day with more than 100 participants working. Just last week, they donated $3,000 to the resurfacing of a section of the canal recreational path. Plus, many more projects and volunteer efforts have been donated by the Rock River Chapter. Their efforts are extraordinary, and it shows at Hennepin Canal State Trail.

Friends of Volo Bog, Cary

Since 1983, the Friends of Volo Bog have provided both volunteer and financial assistance to Volo Bog State Natural Area in Ingleside. With 30 active members among approximately 220, they have funded projects such as fencerow removal, installation of a wetland water control structure and installation of a 9,000-gallon garden pond to enhance landscaping and draw wildlife to a viewing area within the Volo Bog Visitor Center, accessible to people with disabilities. The Friends of Volo Bog assist with youth programs, which attract approximately 5,000 students annually, and they help with special events. The group has several committees, including the Adopt-a-Road Committee, the Prairie Gardener Volunteers and the Spurge Patrol. The Friends of Volo Bog have volunteered to help people of all ages experience the Volo Bog wetland, as well as many other natural wonders that make up the biodiversity at Volo Bog State Natural Area.

The Weldon Springs Foundation

More than 175 associate members pay annual dues that help pay for ongoing interpretive needs at the Weldon Springs State Recreation Area in Clinton. Specific projects include the renovation of the one-room schoolhouse porch, at a cost of more than $500, and new cordless phones for the office. Members helped raise funds for the construction of the $120,000 veterans memorial in the park. More than 30 active members of the foundation volunteer their time by hosting at the one-room schoolhouse and town hall nature centers, maintaining the butterfly garden, assisting with school groups, maintaining trails, and monitoring 50 bluebird boxes, plus much more. The Weldon Springs Foundation is a very special group of unselfish and hardworking stewards who give back to Weldon Springs State Recreation Area in many different ways.

Louis and Frances Borio, Peru

Since March of 2003, Louis and Frances Borio have logged 1,587 volunteer hours at Starved Rock State Park in Utica. The husband and wife are both retired teachers. Louis was head of the Natural Science Department at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby and taught biology for many years. Frances taught many years in the Waltham Public Schools. She volunteers her time in the LeRocher Book Store at the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center. Her efforts to keep the store open are important to the success of the store and the foundation's fundraising activities. Lou helps run the information desk in the visitor center. He has a good working knowledge of the park, its history, geology and park activities. He answers hundreds of questions from park visitors. Together Lou and Fran will do whatever is asked of them. They have become valuable volunteers at Starved Rock State Park.

Joyce Hundley, Winthrop Harbor

In the past 12 months, Joyce Hundley averaged more than 22 volunteer hours per month and she has volunteered as much as 54 hours per month at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor. She represents the Department of Natural Resources and the marina with enthusiasm, grace and dignity. Hundley plays a critical role by acting as the eyes and ears for security, public safety and the protection of the property at the marina. She walks the grounds and reports back on activities and conditions that require immediate attention. She has discovered such things as water leaks and sinking boats. She also distributes literature to visitors, updates the bulletin boards and brings comments to marina management from visitors. She has done an excellent job in communicating to slip holders and visitors the status of maintenance repairs and projects, why they are necessary, and when they will be completed. She volunteers on hot days, in the rain and in the snow. She is well-liked by the staff and visitors at North Point Marina and is a great asset.

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East St. Louis Urban Fishing Volunteers, East St. Louis

Dee Toombs, conservation education representative with the Department of Natural Resources, is on track to having the highest participant numbers yet at the Southern Illinois Urban Fishing Program at Jones Lake in Kenneth Hall Park in East St. Louis. She attributes the success of the East St. Louis program to five faithful, patient, dependable volunteers. Hosting over 1,200 youth -- preschoolers as well as teenagers -- is no easy feat. She could not do it without her helpful group of volunteers. They all share a love for fishing and helping people learn to fish. Porchia Toombs helps the kids net the big fish, she baits and removes hooks, and she makes sure the kids have cold drinks available. Bo Stacker, known affectionately as Grandpa Bo, helps with the classroom training and fishing line knots, but his specialty is untangling lines. He also brings ice every day so the kids can have a cool drink. James Perry, also known as J.P., enjoys helping kids with all aspects of fishing by baiting hooks and teaching them how to cast, while encouraging the kids to do it themselves properly. Arthur Dean, called Coach Dean, brings a wealth of knowledge to share with the participants in the clinics. He is a retired educator and helps with all aspects of fishing. Greg Armour does everything. He loves to fish, has been fortunate to fish in many areas of the country, and shares his travels and expertise with the kids. The East St. Louis Urban Fishing Volunteers are there every day for the summer clinics, through good weather and bad. They are always willing to help the Urban Fishing Program with anything it needs.

Deb Burrus, Arenzville

Deb Burrus, her family and a group of local volunteers she organizes have been intimately involved with the dedication and continuing management of Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve in Cass County for more than a decade. She has contributed numerous hours of woody brush control and exotic species removal. She provides oversight to school groups and supervised prison inmate work crews. She coordinates volunteers for the annual prescribed burns on the preserve. She has even shown her dedication by contributing 24-hour follow-up surveillance on all days that prescribed burns are conducted. She also organizes and conducts various nature and educational walks for school groups, senior groups and volunteers on the preserve, helping to pass on a love of nature and an ecology-friendly ethic to future generations. A perfect example is her son Kevin, who began working with his mother on the preserve when he was a young boy. Now, at age 21, he devotes many hours to eradicating exotic species. He has a personal goal to eliminate every invasive plant at the preserve. The IDNR Division of Habitat Resources appreciates Deb's ceaseless efforts to instill a proper ecological ethic in others and her dedication to the maintenance of Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve.

Milt Waltermire, Champaign

The primary engine behind the annual Ron Ward Memorial Bass Tournament is Milt Waltermire. In the event's first four years, $20,000 was raised for scientific research on and conservation of bass, undertaken by the Illinois Natural History Survey in Champaign. In June of this year, the event raised an additional $6,200 for scholarships and scientific research. While several members of the Champaign-Urbana Bass Club assist him, Milt Waltermire almost single-handedly organizes and promotes the tournament year-round. He is also a tireless advocate and soft-spoken voice for the bass resource, including a call for the continued use of sound science in the management of fishery resources. He also speaks of the important partnership that has been created among resource managers, scientific researchers and anglers. When Milt speaks, people listen -- and get excited, often asking what they can do to help with research for the Illinois Natural History Survey.

James Farris, Forsyth

James Farris has been a volunteer in the Illinois State Museum Anthropology Section in Springfield since 2002. He has contributed greatly to the museum's collections program, and his motivation is an inspiration to staff and volunteers. He contributed many hours as the principal assistant on the New Philadelphia pedestrian walk-over survey by helping prepare approximately 7,000 artifacts for cataloging and analysis. He sorted and inventoried approximately 170 boxes of artifacts from the Kuhlman Mound collections. His largest project was assisting with organizing and inventorying 415 boxes of prehistoric artifacts, biological materials and soil samples, together with 20 boxes of flotation samples from the collection of New York archaeologist Dr. Howard Winters when those were transferred to the Illinois State Museum. Farris took this one step further by bringing in his own equipment and photographing unique artifacts so that future users of the collection would have a visual record of some of the more interesting objects. He has become an advocate of the museum and encourages interested volunteers and students to learn from the collections and the expertise at the Illinois State Museum.

Richard McLane, Springfield

If there is an open shift on the schedule for "A Place for Discovery" at the Illinois State Museum, there's a good chance that Dick McLane will call or e-mail and say, "Sign me up." He has been a volunteer since 2001 in the hands-on children's gallery by greeting visitors, answering questions and helping them with the various activities. When asked what he likes most about volunteering, he replies, "I like the chance to make the experience of our visitors as educational and fun as possible." He recently helped obtain partial funding from the Springfield Breakfast Optimist Club, of which he is a member, for a new hands-on microscope for the room. His willingness to volunteer and his dedication will benefit visitors at the Illinois State Museum for years to come.

Edward and Karen Spearing, Bartlett

Ed and Karen Spearing have been promoting safe participation in hunting and boating as volunteer safety education instructors for the past 16 years. They also taught snowmobile safety courses for three years. They are a smooth team, teaching 135 classes and certifying 4,010 students. Between the two of them, the Spearings have donated more than 1,200 hours to the Safety Education Program. Ed serves as a master instructor for the Boater Education Program, and Karen serves as a master instructor for the Hunter Education Program. During their many years of service they have served as lead instructors for various Department of Natural Resources events, such as Becoming an Outdoorswoman and the Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days. They are also NSCA Level 1 instructors for IDNR wing shooting clinics. In addition, they make sure they stay on top of the latest advancements by furthering their own education in hunter and boating safety. The Safety Education Program is fortunate to have Ed and Karen Spearing volunteering their time as they play a major role in the future of recreational activities.

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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