IDNR Presents 2017 Volunteer of the Year Awards

Ed Cross
IDNR Presents 2017 Volunteer of the Year Awards
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today announced recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards, recognizing 10 individuals and two groups for their volunteer service to the IDNR.

“Volunteers provide outstanding service throughout the year to the people of Illinois and to visitors to our state at our state parks, state museums, state historic sites, programs and activities,” said IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal.  “The IDNR is fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers throughout the state who are interested in and dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation opportunities, and protecting our natural and cultural resources.”

The IDNR Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards ceremony, honoring this year’s award winners, is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sat., Aug. 19 in Conservation World at the Illinois Green Industry Association Outdoor Amphitheater on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. 

The 2017 IDNR Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award winners are:

Amber Hewette, Carbondale
Amber Hewette has been a dedicated volunteer at Giant City State Park in Jackson Co. for more than 13 years.  In 2006, she was instrumental in development of the Bluebird Trail program at Giant City, and for 11 years has managed the five trails and 60 bluebird boxes monitored and maintained by volunteers.  Thanks to the work of Amber Hewette and her bluebird volunteers, Giant City has fledged 2,718 bluebirds at the park since 2006.  Park visitors who enjoy seeing bluebirds can thank Amber and her volunteers.  Amber Hewette also serves on the board of the Friends of Giant City, volunteering during special events, park cleanup days, and other programs.

Beverly Mansfield, Lisbon
Beverly Mansfield has been a volunteer for the Goose Lake Prairie Partners at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area near Morris for 16 years, serving as the group’s vice president since 2006.  Mansfield has been active in the Earth Day in the Parks program at Goose Lake Prairie since 2008.  She also donates her time in the site’s Butterfly Barn and gardens, and has donated plants she has grown from seeds for use at other state park sites.  Beverly Mansfield has also helped coordinate the Goose Lake Prairie Partners’ Cabin Festival, Nature Photo Contest and Exhibit, Prairie Day, and Natural Resources Day tour.

Gloria and John Robinson, Marshall
Gloria and John Robinson provide a variety of services to visitors at Lincoln Trail State Park in Clark Co., serving as campground hosts at the park.  The Robinsons help manage campground reservations, and organize special events including movie nights, the annual Fourth of July celebration, the annual Halloween Frolic, and campground cookouts. The site office receives frequent comments from campers and other site visitors praising the efforts of Gloria and John Robinson.

David (Bruce) Smith, Broadwell
Bruce Smith is an avid hunter and longtime volunteer instructor for the IDNR Hunter Safety Education program.  Smith was certified as a Hunter Education Instructor in 1990, and in 2012 he became a Master Instructor for his instructor team. He has taught or participated in 41 classes, certifying 4,650 students in both the Traditional and Field Day hunter education courses. Smith is actively involved in recruiting and training qualified individuals as new instructors. He has assisted other instructor teams by organizing and instructing classes outside of his core area to help met the demand for hunter safety classes. Smith has also invested personal funds for equipment used in his classes. The IDNR relies heavily on dedicated volunteers like Bruce Smith, who carry the message of safety and ethics to the citizens of Illinois.

Marlene and Jim Street, Vandalia
Marlene and Jim Street are longtime volunteer campground hosts at Clinton Lake State Recreation Area in DeWitt Co.  Their knowledge of the campground operation, as well as that of Clinton Lake and the entire site’s operation, is helpful to site staff, campers and other visitors.  Marlene Street helped streamline the campground check-in process through the Reserve American campsite reservation system.  Jim Street assists with maintenance and facility improvement projects.  The Streets also volunteer during the Clinton Lake SRA’s firearm deer hunt for people with disabilities, cooking meals, assisting hunters in getting to and from their blinds, and retrieving harvested deer.

William L. (Bill) Weedman, Springfield
Bill Weedman has served as a volunteer in the Anthropology Section of the Illinois State Museum Research and Collections Center in Springfield since 2014.  His first experience with the Museum dates to the mid-1970s when he worked in the Archaeology Program, and he has been an active volunteer since his retirement.  Bill Weedman assists in improving anthropology collection inventories and rehabilitating archaeological collections.  He is also a specialist in analysis of historic metal objects, reviewing metal artifacts from numerous archaeological sites.

Wendy and Ken Wilbur, Normal
Wendy and Ken Wilbur are members of the new Friends of Moraine View State Recreation Area, a group founded during the spring of 2017 that is already providing valuable assistance at Moraine View SRA in McLean Co.  The Wilburs and other volunteers cut invasive autumn olive and honeysuckle, removed more than 100 old tires from the south side of the park, removed old barbed wire fencing, removed dead wood, and began prairie plantings to provide habitat for butterflies.

Izaak Walton League of Geneseo
Members of the Izaak Walton League provide outdoor recreation opportunities for youth and families through the group’s lodge property located on the Hennepin Canal in Henry Co.  The group’s most popular event is an annual Youth Fishing Tournament each spring in which each child takes home a prize.

Friends of Johnson-Sauk Trail, Kewanee
The Friends of Johnson-Sauk Trail is a group of volunteers established to help preserve and promote the historic Ryan’s Round Barn located at Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area in Henry Co.  The barn is one of the largest round barns in the country.  Friends of Johnson-Sauk Trail provide tours to hundreds of visitors each year on every other Saturday afternoon during the spring, summer and autumn months.  The Friends group has provided funding for repairs to the barn doors, and has pledged $15,000 for a barn painting project.
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