SPRINGFIELD, IL - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is recognizing seven individuals and five organizations as 2007 Volunteers of the Year (including one nomination for Outstanding Student Volunteer of the Year). The IDNR Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards are presented each year to individuals and organizations for exceptional volunteer service to the department and the people of the state of Illinois.
“The recipients of 2007 Volunteer of the Year awards have exhibited dedication to this department and the people of Illinois, whether it be devoting time to help DNR staff manage the land, provide visitor services or educational outreach,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “The contributions of volunteers are vital to the continued success of our programs and these awards are just one way we can show our appreciation. I also want to recognize the contributions of countless other volunteers who have also devoted their time over the years to this department.”
2007 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year honorees are:
Earl and Juanita Dickey, Carbondale
Since May of 2003, Giant City State Park has had the good fortune of Earl and Juanita Dickey spending their Friday afternoons at the park. They have donated 596 hours of volunteer time to the park as of May 2007. Earl and Juanita sit at the front desk of the Visitor’s Center and offer information and directions, as well as assemble and fold park brochures. Due to their vast experience at Giant City, there is no shortage to the information they offer.
As a young man in the 1930's, Earl was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Giant City State Park. One of the projects for which he is most proud is the grading of the front lawn of the Lodge with a hand-held maddox. The Dickeys, along with the Civilian Conservation Corps Chapter 102 in southern Illinois, were responsible for coordinating and arranging funding for the newly dedicated bronze statute “The CCC Worker” located at the Giant City Lodge honoring the hard work done by the CCC at the park.
Earl and Juanita Dickey have been married for 65 years and have endless stories for staff and visitors of their experiences growing up in the 1930s, Juanita’s days as a school teacher and preacher’s wife, Earl’s work in the CCC, and their eventful family camping trips across the country. In consideration for IDNR’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award, there is no question that Earl and Juanita are loyal and dedicated volunteers.
Delbert Koch, Steeleville
Delbert Koch was certified to teach hunter safety for IDNR in October of 1982. Since that time, he has taught or been involved in an estimated 124 hunter safety classes. According to records available, he has certified approximately 5,281 hunter safety students. During this time, Delbert became the Randolph County Master Hunter Safety Instructor. He was certified to teach boating safety in November of 1996. He has taught or been involved in an estimated 13 boating safety classes and certified approximately 336 boating students. Delbert became certified to teach tree stand safety in February of 2007. This certification allows him to train other safety instructors the fundamentals of tree stand safety. In addition, when his schedule will allow, Delbert volunteers his time to help run the trap range at the National Hunting and Fishing Days celebration held each September at John A. Logan College. Delbert is always willing to help whenever and wherever needed and is a great asset to the IDNR Safety Education Section.
Marilyn Lisowski, Charleston
Marilyn Lisowski has been a volunteer facilitator of Project Learning Tree for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources since 1993. During this time, she has instructed nearly 500 pre service teachers, teachers, and non formal educators about Project Learning Tree through her classes at Eastern Illinois University and in other venues. Marilyn is a tireless advocate for environmental education, and her enthusiasm for her subject matter is infectious to her students.
Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders, Inc., Red Bud
The members of the Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders, Inc. are a group of individuals that have a common goal of “making the river better.” This group is made up of business owners, farmers, elected officials, boaters, hunters, and fishermen in the Kaskaskia River basin region. They have been very influential with helping recreation and other outdoor activities on the Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area. They have organized annual river cleanup days. They assist with ideas and suggestions that benefit the river. This group and what it stands for will be an asset to the area and Kaskaskia River SFWA for many years to come.
John McKee, Ottawa
John McKee is an outstanding volunteer at Starved Rock State Park. He has spent many years working in and around the park. Currently John runs the small but successful LeRocher Book Store in the Starved Rock Visitor Center. He helps purchase inventory, stock and arrange shelves. In 2006, John volunteered more than 300 hours in the shop and has logged more than 1,100 hours since 2003. Without his dedication and skill, the book store would not be the success it is. Beyond that, John has volunteered countless additional hours. He is an avid bird watcher and member of the Starved Rock and Illinois Audubon Societies. He has tirelessly worked on the successful acquisition and restoration of Plum Island. He has spent many hours conducting the annual bird and butterfly counts at Starved Rock and throughout Illinois. He has also been instrumental in organizing and funding the annual Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock, which brings thousands of visitors into the park every January.
Mascoutin Deer Crew, DeWitt
For the past nine years, the Mascoutin Deer Crew has made it possible for the participants in the Clinton Lake Handicapped Deer Hunt to have an opportunity to harvest a deer. Their success at harvesting a deer is above 96 percent for the last nine years. The annual hunt is three days and the volunteers put in as many as 18 hours per day. The “group of guys” who made up the crew in the beginning are now a group of friends. They have developed skills in dealing with people with disabilities and today are more conscientious and dedicated than ever before. A lot of the hunters have participated multiple times, and a genuine friendship and level of comfort now exists between the participants and volunteers. Everyone has learned from the experience. Some of the participants have recently become disabled and this hunt and the interaction with other hunters and volunteers has helped them, to a small degree, deal with their situation. The participants believe in the program and the dedication of this group of volunteers.
Jenna Nurnberger, Fieldon (Outstanding Student Volunteer of the Year)
Jenna Nurnberger graduated from Jerseyville Community High School this year and is looking forward to attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on a full scholarship. She has volunteered at Pere Marquette State Park in many areas of the park. She has gone above and beyond what is expected as a volunteer by helping with the annual fishing fair, the owl program, edible foods program, and even baked cookies for the food program. She attends the fishing fair planning meetings and wakes up at 4 a.m. to drive to St. Louis for the Windows on St. Louis television program each year. She is willing to help with any task, even folding park brochures and distributing flyers. Jenna is an exceptional volunteer and her efforts embody the spirit of youth volunteerism.
Shawnee Muskie Hunters, Chapter 28 of Muskies, Inc., Wood River
The Shawnee Muskie Hunters are the Kinkaid Lake Chapter of Muskies, Inc. are observing the 10 year anniversary for the Club. The club has approximately 75 Muskie fishing enthusiasts. They have helped the Illinois Muskie Alliance purchase a youth fishing educational trailer for IDNR; donated funds to repair nets, purchase trap nets, a digital camera, fish feeders, PIT tags and readers and they helped buy a new E-TEC outboard motor for an IDNR fisheries biologist. The group sponsors a kids fishing program and annual lake clean up every year, in which tons of garbage are removed from Kinkaid Lake. They members of the group are currently looking into purchasing hybrid muskies for Eagle Lake in the Peabody River King State Fish and Wildlife Area near New Athens in St. Clair County. This is a new muskie lake for Illinois and recently approved by IDNR for a stocking program with hybrids. The club will help support this effort and with the support of IDNR will help monitor its success. Their enthusiasm is overwhelming – with kids being the chief beneficiaries. IDNR looks forward to a long standing relationship with the Shawnee Muskie Hunters.
Mike Sample, Sesser
Mike Sample is the sponsor of Sesser-Valier Outdoorsmen Club. The club consists of approximately 60 students and has received national recognition for their volunteer efforts. Members of the club have volunteered their service by working the IDNR Annual Rend Lake Shooting Event for People with Disabilities and helping the IDNR Urban Fishing Program at the Southern Illinois National Hunting and Fishing Days in Carterville. Besides helping kids fish and helping people with disabilities hunt, the group has recycled more than 10 tons of aluminum, maintained a flower garden and an apple orchard, conducted a bluebird management program, and planted food plots, among many other accomplishments. Mike Sample also helps organize an annual Deer Hunt Banquet to thank everyone for their help and support, which includes a raffle to raise money for their club trips, such as mountain climbing and white water rafting.
The Sesser-Valier Outdoorsmen Club is an extraordinary group whose mission is to “save and faithfully defend from waste, the natural resources of my country, its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters and wildlife.” Jay Williams, IDNR Disabled Opportunities Program Coordinator said, “Watching hunters ride into the woods on the strong, young shoulders of a teenager is worth it all. This is a group of awesome kids.”
Mike Sample enjoys “helping young people accomplish something they never thought they could, and to see the bonds that are built between the helper and the helped, one that often lasts a lifetime.” He believes that the students give their time because they thoroughly enjoy seeing the excitement felt by those that they are assisting. The group and the IDNR are very fortunate to have Mike as a leader.
The Starved Rock Historical and Educational Foundation, Utica
The Starved Rock Historical and Educational Foundation became very active in 2003 when the new Visitor Center at Starved Rock State Park was opened. The group is run by an elected five member board of directors which meets monthly.
The stated purpose of the foundation is to facilitate the Visitor Center programs that include education, conservation and recreation. The foundation has established a volunteer program to provide educational materials and programs, and raise money for materials and equipment for the park. To that end, the foundation has a growing membership of more than 100 members and volunteers from across the state. The LeRocher Book Store was established in 2003 to help raise money to fund projects within Starved Rock State Park.
In 2006 the Starved Rock Historical and Educational Foundation donated more than $17,500 in equipment and materials to the park. Items such as three free telescopes, 10 Triumph Binoculars, and a wheelchair were placed within the park for visitors to use. Also purchased were a Dell laptop computer and software, bones and furs for display in the Visitor Center, and a spotting scope with tripod. The foundation provided outstanding programs for adults and children during the winter months at a cost of nearly $4,000. Contributions were also made to other groups such as the Audubon Society and the Illinois Archaeology Survey. These are just a few of the items the foundation has purchased that have helped to enhance the visitor’s experience at Starved Rock State Park.
The foundation has established a system that utilizes the expertise of its many volunteers ranging from individuals who run the book store to trail walkers, hike leaders and workers at the Visitor Center information desk to assist the staff at IDNR. During special event weekends at Starved Rock, foundation volunteers have led hundreds of hikers to many locations within the park. These volunteers have spent years in the park learning about the plants and animals visitors might see, the trails used, and the history of the park. Since 2003, the volunteers have donated more than 15,000 hours (4,571 hours donated in 2006). Starved Rock State Park and the IDNR are grateful for the efforts of the Starved Rock Historical and Educational Foundation.
Dean Farmer, Springfield
Dean Farmer has performed extensive genealogical and historical research on individual objects in the Decorative Arts Collection at the Illinois State Museum. The information is placed in the Decorative Arts curatorial database. Curatorial files and the collections management database are the foundation for all future interpretive and educational work in the institution. Dean Farmer’s research has already been integrated into current exhibitions for the education and enjoyment of the people of Illinois.
Even though Dean is a relatively new volunteer, joining the program in November 2006, he has already logged over 255 hours. His enthusiasm for performing this type of historical detective work is admirable. Farmer’s research will benefit the Illinois State Museum’s Decorative Arts exhibition and educational programs for generations. The Illinois State Museum is grateful for his service.
The A Team, Springfield
The four members of The A Team – Kathleen Brady, Steve Kapple, Eldon Launer, and Don McWilliams – have worked together for a year and a half. They sort, inventory, and catalog archaeological collections, primarily from the State of Illinois, that are delivered to the ISM for permanent curation and storage. Since they began working together as a team in January 2006, The A Team has volunteered well over 1,500 hours of work.
These volunteers are critical to the ISM Anthropology section’s ability to process collections for curation and storage, which are used by scholars throughout the Midwest and elsewhere in the United States and Canada. The Illinois State Museum is grateful for the outstanding service of The A Team.