SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will honor Outstanding Volunteers of the Year for their volunteer service to the IDNR during a ceremony at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield on Saturday, Aug. 18.
“The annual volunteer awards program is one of the ways in which we say ‘thank you’ to some of the great volunteers who do great work at our state parks, state museums, and all over outdoor Illinois,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Whether helping youngsters learn about wildlife and outdoor recreation, providing stewardship at natural areas, or assisting biologists in fish and wildlife management, these and many other volunteers provide a valuable service to their fellow citizens throughout Illinois.”
The volunteer awards ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18 in Conservation World at the Illinois Green Industry Association Outdoor Amphitheater. This year’s Outstanding Volunteers of the Year are:
RALPH BUETTNER of Waterloo has been volunteering with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) and IDNR for seven years. During this period, Ralph has contributed more than 2,000 hours doing a variety of natural resource activities including stewardship, monitoring, protection support, research support, and outreach education. In addition to his activities directly for and with the INPC and IDNR, Ralph is a founding and current board member of local conservation group CLIFFTOP, an important partner in natural areas conservation. Ralph Buettner is also a participant on the Southwestern Illinois Wildlife Action Plan partnership and has put significant effort into stewardship of his own 251-acre natural area. Staff members with the INPC and IDNR Division of Natural Heritage consider Ralph Buettner to be an exceptional team member in southwestern Illinois. Ralph’s work with and on behalf of the INPC and IDNR have provided advocacy and helped build relationships and partnerships among staff, volunteer groups, researchers, landowners and the public with positive impacts on thousands of acres of important high-quality natural areas and wild lands in southwestern Illinois.
MARCIA and KEN POLHAMUS of Galena are this year’s Safety Education Outstanding Volunteers of the Year. Marcia and Ken are well-known among IDNR staff for their years of valuable work on IDNR programs and projects. The Polhamuses became certified Hunter Safety Education Instructors in February 2005, co-teaching 12 classes and certifying 519 students. The magnetic personalities of Marcia and Ken Polhamus show in all the work they do. They work as a team and share their passion in getting more women and youth involved in hunting, a key to the future of the hunting. As Hunter Safety Education Instructors, they are very active in organizing and teaching classes in Jo Daviess and Stephenson counties. They work closely with the IDNR Regional Volunteer Services Coordinator to recruit and train new instructors for the program. Marcia and Ken Polhamus are self-motivated team leaders and their energy and desire to provide instruction help motivate other instructors to be active in the program. They offer classes in the spring and fall prior to the busiest hunting seasons. They make the learning experience an enjoyable one for all individuals in the classes and have received many positive remarks from parents and students.
ILLINOIS BEACH STATE PARK CAMPGROUND HOSTS are being honored for their exemplary service on the evening of June 30, 2011, when a devastating storm with winds up to 90 miles per hour struck Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. The severe storm uprooted, knocked over and sheared off hundreds of trees throughout the park, with the most significant damage occurring in the campground. With only one IDNR park staff member on duty at the time of the storm, the campground hosts took charge and assisted the IDNR Conservation Police in checking on the well-being of campers and escorting them out of the campground and onto the main beach parking lot for safety. The campground hosts provided support and encouragement to campers during the entire evening in the aftermath of the storm. Conservation Police were quick to realize how instrumental the campground hosts were in assisting in the safe evacuation of the campground. The campground hosts in the park at the time of the storm were DICK and DARLENE BELL, DICK and JOAN CLAY, PETER and KATHY HRU, TOM and LINDA MASON, RANDY and TERRIE SIMMONS, and MIKE and CATHIE YELK.
SCOTT BRYANT and THE MIGRATORY WATERFOWL HUNTERS of Alton have volunteered hundreds of hours, including more than 200 hours in 2012, for the free Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair at Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton. The 2012 Family Fishing Fair exceeded past participation numbers, with more than 2,000 youth plus nearly 2,500-3,000 adults in attendance. The Migratory Waterfowl Hunters provided 15 volunteers to help children learn how to catch a fish at the bluegill pond station. The group has dedicated assistance with the Free Family Fishing Fair at Pere Marquette for the last three years, logging more than 600 hours for the event to help facilitate, teach, mentor and develop children’s appreciation of fishing and the outdoors. The group is also instrumental in a number of other IDNR programs and projects, thanks to the leadership of President Scott Bryant and members of the Migratory Waterfowl Hunters.
GLEN McNELLY and JARED McNELLY of Grafton have been involved with many restoration projects at Pere Marquette State Park as part of their business, McNelly Contracting, LLC. Recently, they volunteered their time and talents to work jointly with the IDNR staff and the Friends of Pere Marquette State Park Foundation in restoring a park entrance sign, which was once a local landmark. The sign had fallen into disrepair in recent years, and many area residents expressed concern and requested that it be preserved. Glen and Jared stepped forward to organize the project, with Glen arranging purchase of cedar lumber through a local saw mill and then delivering the lumber to the IDNR Region 4 Hot Shot Crew, where the sign lettering was inscribed by IDNR staff using a computerized router. The McNellys took it from there, re-constructing and staining the sign for installation at Pere Marquette State Park.
JIM TALLMAN and SHARON KOENIG are among the valued volunteers who help stage the Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair at Pere Marquette State Park each June. JIM TALLMAN of Jerseyville and members of his VENTURING CREW NO. 9093 have volunteered with the fishing event for 20 of its 21 years. Jim Tallman has brought volunteers, along with valuable knowledge and fresh ideas intended to enhance the annual event. The largest group ever of members of the Venturing Crew helped staff the trout pond at the fishing fair this year. SHARON KOENIG of Dow and members of her VENTURING CREW NO. 2032 have volunteered for the past eight years at the Family Fishing Fair at Pere Marquette. Sharon Koenig was a Venturing Crew member and became an adult leader and advisor of her own Venturing Crew when she turned 21. She has volunteered at the fishing fair trout pond since she was 14 years old. Both Venturing Crews volunteer tirelessly throughout the day each year at the fishing fair, helping children learn how to catch fish.
DR. BILL ROE of Pinckneyville contacted the site staff at Pyramid State Recreation Area about whether there was anything area people could do to help promote Pyramid. The site drafted a wish list and Dr. Roe took it from there, working countless hours soliciting volunteers to serve as members of a group that is now called the Friends of Pyramid State Park. In two years, Dr. Bill Roe and members of the Friends of Pyramid State Park have raised more than $12,000 for a water line to serve the site’s field trial areas, a huge help to the staff at Pyramid, since they no longer have to haul water during field trials. Dr. Roe solicited the funds and commitments for the planned installation of two cabins in Pyramid’s Heron Campground.
LORI SPEAR of Springfield has been a volunteer at the Illinois State Museum since 2008. She was a regular volunteer in the Museum’s children’s area known as “A Place for Discovery” until 2011 before becoming a volunteer in the Museum’s new children’s area, the “Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum.” Lori also volunteers at the Museum’s monthly “Super Saturdays” program for children. Lori’s background in early childhood education makes her a natural fit for volunteering in the Play Museum and for helping at “Super Saturdays.” Lori Spear’s warm and friendly presence puts visitors at ease, and the understanding of children’s development levels means that she understands young visitors and how best to help them learn.
MARK FLOTOW of Springfield is a volunteer in the Anthropology Section at the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center. Supervisor Dawn Cobb said about Mark Flotow: “Mark has been a terrific help to me in continuing the analysis of human skeletal collections that the Museum curates. He has finished a large project that I began several years ago and a lack of funding prevented me from finishing the documentation. In addition, he is working on different collections as they are transferred to the Museum to ensure that all information is gathered for our various…databases.” The ISM Anthropology Section has benefited from Mark’s help and he exemplifies how important “behind-the-scenes” volunteers are to the Illinois State Museum.
AYLA KHAN of Springfield is a Museum Junior Volunteer of the Year at the Illinois State Museum. Ayla is a junior at Glenwood High School, volunteering at the Museum’s “Super Saturdays” program. She has a special interest in art and a special gift for helping children with arts and crafts projects and other hands-on activities. Ayla is warm, caring, patient and very creative. The Illinois State Museum appreciates her great attitude and willingness to volunteer during such a busy time in her life.
RUSSELL McCLELLAN of Springfield is a volunteer in the Anthropology Section at the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center. Supervisor DeeAnn Watt said of Russell McClellan: “For many years the Anthropology Section had wanted to enter all of the information from the Pictorial Survey Books into a searchable database. These wonderful images were taken in the 1930s and 1940s at various sites in 12 different states, including Illinois. Early this year, Russ completed entering all of the site and caption information from the 26 albums into an Access database (nearly 6,000 records). In March, he began entering all site and caption information for the University of Chicago Photograph Collection. The reason this work is so important is because we are now able to search for images of a specific site, or of a particular person, in a second. The old method of finding a particular image was to physically read all of the captions and that could take hours.” Russell McClellan’s work has and will save countless hours for researchers and other Museum staff.
The following Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award winner could not attend this year’s ceremony and was presented with their award in a private ceremony:
SALMON UNLIMITED of Bartlett volunteers, for 30 years, have dedicated their time and effort to assist the staff of the IDNR Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery in Topeka with its annual fin clip. Hatchery managers report that no group has ever been more worthy of the title “Volunteer of the Year” than the dedicated sportsmen of Salmon Unlimited. Fin clipping of hatchery-produced fish is tough, tedious, time consuming work. Salmon Unlimited volunteers make the effort every year help with the marking. The dedicated group of more than 30 volunteers can accomplish in a few days what would take the hatchery staff more than two weeks to complete. Salmon Unlimited members are an enthusiastic and energetic group that has fin-clipped millions of trout and salmon since the hatchery opened in 1983. We salute these volunteers and greatly appreciate their efforts. The Salmon Unlimited volunteers have become a reliable part of the operation and play a vital role in IDNR’s effort to maintain a sustainable salmon sport fishery in Lake Michigan.
To learn more about the IDNR Volunteer Program, check the website at this link: http://www.dnr.state.il.us/volunteer/index.htm