SPRINGFIELD, IL - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will honor four individuals and four groups for exceptional volunteer service to the department and the people of the State of Illinois at the Illinois State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 16. The IDNR “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards” are presented each year during a ceremony in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
“The annual volunteer awards program is one of the ways in which we say ‘thank you’ to some of the dedicated individuals and organizations doing great work at our state parks, state museums, and all over outdoor Illinois,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Whether helping youth and families learn about nature, instructing safe hunting practices, or welcoming visitors to our state parks and state museums, volunteers provide valuable service to their fellow citizens throughout Illinois.”
This year’s volunteer recognition awards ceremony begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Illinois Green Industry Association Amphitheater in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
This year’s honorees are:
Lyle Behl, Rochester
Lyle Behl volunteers at Sangchris Lake State Park in Sangamon and Christian counties, focusing his volunteer efforts on the site’s equestrian campground and trail – and in the historic Taylor Cemetery located within the park. Mr. Behl has worked on cleanup and restoration of the cemetery, which dates to 1838, documenting grave sites and family histories of those buried there. Mr. Behl also coordinates a New Year’s Day trail ride at Sangchris Lake, and provides year-round monitoring of the equestrian trail to assist park staff.
Mike Lauer, Gurnee
Mike Lauer has served as a volunteer hunting safety instructor for the IDNR for 14 years, teaching at least six classes each year with a minimum of 40 students in each class. During his tenure as a safety education instructor, Mr. Lauer has certified more than 3,500 students who have completed the state Hunter Safety course. As a Lake County safety educator, Mr. Lauer holds his fellow instructors and his students to the highest standard of knowledge of hunting safety course material, while at the same time making the safety education experience fun and enjoyable.
Jasmine House, Chatham
Jasmine House, who began her volunteer service at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield as a Chatham Glenwood Middle School student, will enter the 9th grade as she has begun her second year of volunteer service at the Museum. Ms. House volunteers in the Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum, the State Museum’s hands-on children’s exhibit area. She is an active volunteer, helping visitors of all ages with Museum activities, and is particularly helpful in working with children. Jasmine House was the State Museum’s “Junior Volunteer of the Year” award winner in May.
Dr. Clark Olson, Springfield
Dr. Clark Olson has worked as a volunteer at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield since 2005, volunteering weekly in the Museum’s Changes Ice Age exhibit. As a retired environmental toxicologist, Dr. Olson has a passion for science and scientific literacy. Over the years, Dr. Olson has worked in the Museum’s Research and Collections Center library and helped at special events. He also supplies Museum staff with research material on the arts and science. Dr. Olson was presented the Illinois State Museum “Volunteer of the Year” award last spring.
The “A Team” (ISM Research and Collections Center), Springfield
The “A Team” at the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center in Springfield are Steve Kapple of Rochester, Donald McWilliams of Springfield, William Rudolph of New Berlin, and William Weedman of Springfield. The “A Team” works to improve the Museum’s Anthropology collections. The four men provide a variety of assistance to Museum staff by improving box inventories, sorting and organizing unsorted collections, culling rough rock from collections, and working on other tasks. The “A Team” was selected as the Museum Research and Collections Center “Volunteer of the Year” award recipients in May.
Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, McHenry
Members of the Friends group provide a wide variety of services at Moraine Hills State Park and the nearby McHenry Dam park site in northeast Illinois. Group members assist park visitors and help staff with interpretive programs, tend native gardens, monitor bluebird trails, and assist with habitat restoration projects. The Friends of Moraine Hills established a 501 (c) (3) to raise funds through donations, memberships, and a 10K and half marathon They also fund grants to provide seeds and plants for habitat restoration, security cameras, a TV and DVD player for the park nature center, family fishing and archery programs, International Migratory Bird Day programs, bird houses, and other assistance for the park. Bob Vetter serves as the Friends of Moraine Hills State Park board chairperson, and Judy Wooderson serves a board vice-chairperson.
Kohl’s Associates in Action Committee, Ottawa
The Kohl’s Associates in Action Committee, employees of the Kohl’s Distribution Center #890 in Ottawa, has provided service to Starved Rock State Park in La Salle County by working with the Starved Rock State Park Foundation. Under the leadership of Kohl’s supervisor Chad Kinzer, teams of Kohl’s employees assist on a number of projects at the park. Kohl’s associates helped with 20 volunteer events during a five-week period in 2013. Thanks to the work of the Kohl’s volunteers, the Starved Rock foundation was presented with a check for $12,000 for park programs and equipment, more than making up for losses of donations due to flooding which closed the Starved Rock Visitor Center and parking lot numerous times during the year.
Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club/The Nature Institute, Alton
The Sierra Club and The Nature Institute have partnered to restore historical cabins in the upper group camp area of Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County. The cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, and have been used for decades by scouts, church youth groups, civic organizations and families. The groups have partnered on an “Adopt-A-Cabin” program for restoration – one in 2012, three in 2013, and one during the spring of 2014, with a commitment to work on another cabin this fall. They have overhauled the cabins with siding, roofing, shutters, doors, windows and painting, raising more than $15,000 for materials and providing more than 2,200 volunteers work hours on the cabins. Group leaders are Virginia Woufle-Beile (Sierra Club) and Kevin Bennett (The Nature Institute).
As part of the IDNR Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony, the Illinois Conservation Foundation will introduce the 2014 inductees of the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame. The ICF will also honor the Outdoor Hall of Fame members at the annual ICF Gala – celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Illinois Conservation Foundation – to be held at the Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale on Oct. 4. For more information on the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame, and the annual ICF Gala, check the Illinois Conservation Foundation website at www.ilcf.org
For more information on volunteer opportunities, check the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at www.dnr.illinois.gov/outreach/Volunteer