Volunteer Appreciation Dinners
December's first Thursday of the month is set aside for a Voulunteer appreciation potkuck dinner for the volunteers of Volo Bog and Moraine Hills State Park. The dinner takes place in the Volo Bog visitor center, and is Supervised by the site naturalist and site superintendent. After dinner, Certificates of Appreciation are handed out with plaques for anyone withh volunteer hours totaling 100 or more. To top off the evening Volunteer of the year plaques are awarded to the most outstanding volunteers of that year. The group photos are from different years, but the award photos are from the current year.
A total of 6654 contributed hours in year 2015 covering both sites to these Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites! Special Recognition was given to three individuals as Volunteer of the Year – two at Volo Bog State Natural Area and one at Moraine Hills State Park/McHenry Dam.
Judi Downey of Round Lake Beach was one of two volunteers named Volunteer of the Year for Volo Bog State Natural Area. Judi began volunteering in 2013 as a youth program naturalist leading tours of Volo Bog for visiting students on field trips. She created a middle school version of the activity guide that introduces students to Volo Bog before they visit, and developed an expansion of a bird migration activity from the Flying WILD curriculum for use at the site’s International Migratory Bird Days celebration. She also helps with special events at Volo Bog SNA. Judi retired from teaching middle school but isn’t ready to completely sever her ties to the profession she loves. She contributed 136 volunteer hours in 2015.
Robin Pollack of McHenry was also awarded Volunteer of the Year for Volo Bog State Natural Area. Robin began volunteering in 2013 as the new leader of the site’s Youth Art Guild (YAG). YAG is run by a team of volunteers and supported by volunteer artists from the community. Robin is the group’s artist recruiter and coordinator, and a huge inspiration to the group overall. With a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, Robin steps up to lead the students on days when other artists are unavailable, or when they have to cancel last minute. Robin began volunteering with YAG two years before her oldest daughter was old enough to join the guild! She contributed 135 hours in 2015.
Neil Whitman of McHenry was awarded Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park & McHenry Dam. Neil is a regular docent at the site’s nature center, a gardener for one of the native gardens, and Keeper of the Kiosks. Neil also is a bluebird monitor spring through fall, and in winter he tends the park’s multiple bird feeding stations. The stations are funded by Friends of Moraine Hills State Park of which, in 2007, Neil was a founding member. He has recently returned to serve on the FOMHSP board of directors. Neil is a regular at special events such as International Migratory Bird Days and Run for the Hills, the latter being FOMHSP’s major fundraiser to help support projects and programs at the state park. If that’s not enough, Neil also contributed 55 hours to habitat restoration and butterfly monitoring at Volo Bog State Natural Area, racking up a total of 180 volunteer hours between all these IDNR sites!
Volunteer-of-the-Year plaques were presented to Downey, Pollack & Whitman by Site Superintendent Greg Kelly, Natural Resources Coordinator Stacy Iwanicki and Site Assistant Superintendent John Laskowski. Each also received a Certificate of Appreciation and a Centurian Award Plaque which is presented to all volunteers contributing over 100 hours in a given year.
Also receiving Centurian Award Plaques for contributing over 100 hours each in 2015:
Dave Albright of Crystal Lake, Nancy Bodinet of Lake Zurich, Kevin Click of Wonder Lake,Marie Corns of McHenry, Julia & Nina Denne of Arlington, Steve Domski of McHenry, Jerry Donahue of Fox Lake, Nancy Doughty of Barrington, Bill Ewert of Ingleside, John Fairgrieve of Hawthorn Woods, Crissy Geary of Ingleside
C.C. Geist of Island Lake, Barb Gosh of Ingleside, Marilyn Huster of Libertyville, John Holmes of Lake Villa
Tom Kearns of McHenry, Caryn McAndrews of Woodstock, Myrna Nelson of McHenry, Michelle “Micki” Noble of McHenry, Joan Proell of Wauconda, Bonnie Sheehan of Berthoud, Colorado, Bob Vetter of Grayslake
The following received Certificates of Appreciation for contributing 50 - 99 hours each to Volo Bog and/or Moraine Hills/McHenry Dam in 2015:
Claudia Chrusciel of Island Lake, Brian Gilbert of Lake Zurich, Mark Ginger of Des Plaines, John Katzenmayer of Johnsburg, Kathy Kozacky of Roselle, Esther Larson of McHenry, Yvette Liautaud of Streamwood, Tom McAndrews of Woodstock, Scott McMillion of Gurnee, Chris Oszak of Villa Park, Nancy & Randy Schietzelt of Crystal Lake, Ann Shanks of Grayslake' Karen Sherman of Elgin, Jan Wemple of Ingleside, Judy Wooderson of Crystal Lake, Barbara Zander of Mundelein
Thirty additional volunteers received certificates for contributing between 25 - 49 hours each, with another 45 people offering their help on smaller (often one-time) projects.
Volunteers contribute in numerous ways to educational programming, public relations and habitat restoration at Volo Bog State Natural Area, Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam. Trained volunteer naturalists lead tours of Volo Bog for individuals and small groups on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. Youth Program Naturalists lead environmental education programs including Bog Life tours. About 4,000 school and youth group children are introduced to Volo Bog each year.
Special events such as WinterFest, International Migratory Bird Days, Family Fishing Day, International Bog Day, Run for the Hills and Ghost Stories rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteer Docents greet visitors in both sites’ Visitor Centers. Members of McHenry County Audubon “wear two hats” while they lead Bird Walks at both Volo Bog & McHenry Dam. Volunteers monitor bluebird trails and tend to demonstration Prairie & Woodland Gardens at each site. The Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps took shape at Volo Bog State Natural Area and has branched out into Moraine Hills State Park. The VVCC is a group of veterans from different generations and conflicts who come together around a common cause - protection and enhancement of the natural environment in Illinois.
Many volunteers from the sites are also members of Friends of Volo Bog and/or Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, but membership is not required in order to volunteer for state Department of Natural Resources sites. The Friends groups are each 501(c)(3) organizations that offer financial and volunteer support to their respective sites.
Photos from previous dinners
Some of FOMHSP current year's awards (Click on photos to enlarge)
Volunteer of the Year History
In December of 2007, the Friends of Moraine Hills first year of operation Special Recognition was given to Bob Vetter as Volunteer of the Year for both Volo Bog Natural Area and the Moraine Hills State Park. Bob's tireless devotion (over 580 hours) between the two sites), which spanned multiple duties and talents. He serves as a Weekend Naturalist, leading guided tours of Volo Bog on one or more weekend day each month. He also coordinates the Prairie Gardeners (Volo Bog) and Native Gardeners (Moraine Hills) who tend to various Native Plant Demonstration Gardens. Bob serves on the board of directors of the Friends of Volo Bog as vice-chairperson and is a founding member of the new (2007) Friends of Moraine Hills State Park where he serves as treasurer & membership Chairperson. Perhaps his biggest contribution in 2007 has been his time put into establishing web sites for both Friends organizations.
At the end of year 2008 and year 2009 Special recognition for a second and third time was again awarded Bob Vetter as Volunteer of year at Moraine Hills State Park. He continued doing what duties he did in 2007, plus added on roving naturalist and participating in our new special events program. He is a resident of Saddlebrook Farms a retirement community in Round Lake Park, mailing address Grayslake. Hours created between Volo Bog and Moraine Hills 613 in 2008 and 608 for 2009.
Bonnie Sheehan of McHenry was named 2010’s Volunteer of the year for Moraine Hills State Park/Mc Henry Dam. Bonnie is the founder of Friends of Moraine Hills State Park’s inaugural "Run for the Hills" 10K and Half-marathon. Her tireless devotion to this fund raising event "did more in six months to bring the name Friends of Moraine Hills State Park to the community than the rest of us put together were able to do in four years" said Friends of Moraine Hills then Chairperson Neil Whitman. The event was sponsored by dozens of area businesses and was run with the help of volunteers from Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, running clubs and a local high school. Bonnie is an avid runner who not only runs the trails at MHSP but also acts as the park’s eyes and ears. She and her husband Bill Sheehan were instrumental in establishing Park Watch Patrol, a broad network of park volunteers and visitors, that helps keep the park safe for all users. Although she was never a member of our board of directors, in 2013 she founded our Scholarship program.
Dave Albright of Crystal Lake was named 2011’s Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam. Dave began volunteering in early 2009. He contributed 132 hours in 2011. His tasks included: tending the native gardens near the park nature center; co-stewarding Osprey Meadows as part of the site’s Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Team; Roving Naturalist; and assisting with special events including International Migratory Bird Day and Family Fishing & Nature Discovery Day at McHenry Dam and Run for the Hills 10K and Half-Marathon at MHSP. Dave also serves on the board of directors of the Friends of Moraine Hills State Park as their treasurer.
Judy Wooderson of Crystal Lake was named 2012’s Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam. Judy began volunteering in early 2011. She contributed 111 hours in 2012. On two Fridays per month, Judy can be found greeting visitors at the park office and Nature Center where she answers questions and gives tips on enjoying the park. Soon after starting as a volunteer, the Friends of Moraine Hills State Park recognized her passion and willingness to step forward when need arose. She joined the FOMHSP board of directors in March 2011 and in October of that year, as the Friends fundraiser Run for the Hills (a 10K and Half-Marathon) came around, Judy jumped right in to help organize the event. In 2012, she took on an even larger role with this fundraiser that has raised nearly $16,000 over three years for the young 501(c)(3) organization. In addition, Judy has taken a leadership role in helping the Friends seek grant funding from McHenry County Community Foundation and support from The Human Race. 2012 also saw Judy’s assertiveness put to task as she took on the role of editor of the Friends’ newsletter.
Steve Domski of McHenry, was named 2013’s Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam. Steve began volunteering in early 2011. He tends a prairie garden, assists with habitat projects and serves as a docent in the Nature Center most months. In 2012, Steve joined the board of directors of Friends of Moraine Hills State Park. He has been a regular contributor to the Friends’ newsletter including articles about the history of the park and the surrounding area. Recently, Steve has taken on coordination of the site’s bird feeding stations. Steve contributed 163 hours in 2013. Steve also volunteers at Volo Bog State Natural Area where he is active with the Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps.
Joan Proell of Wauconda was named 2014’s Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam. Joan began volunteering in 2007. She tends a prairie garden at McHenry Dam and serves as a docent in the Nature Center once or more each month. Joan is an active contributor to special events including International Migratory Bird Days, Family Fishing Day and Discover Archery. She serves on the board of directors of Friends of Moraine Hills State Park as their secretary and has been a regular contributor to the Friends’ newsletter. Joan contributed 181 hours in 2014.