Volunteers Honored by Illinois DNR at Illinois State Fair Ceremony

Chris McCloud
Volunteers Honored by Illinois DNR at Illinois State Fair Ceremony
SPRINGFIELD, IL � The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will host the annual IDNR Outstanding Volunteers of the Year ceremony at Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield on Saturday, Aug. 17.

�Volunteers provide such valuable and important service to the people of Illinois through their work at our state parks, on conservation projects, and on special events, programs and projects at the Illinois State Museum,� said IDNR Director Marc Miller.  �The Volunteers of the Year ceremony provides us a chance to say �thank you� to a dedicated group of Illinoisans.�

The volunteer awards ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17 in Conservation World at the Illinois Green Industry Association Outdoor Amphitheater. 

This year�s Outstanding Volunteers of the Year are:

Illinois River Valley Conservation Group, Varna
Duane Atherton and Joe Anderson
The Illinois River Valley Conservation Group (IRVCG) was organized in 2012 to support programs and projects at Woodford State Fish and Wildlife Area and Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area.  During the last year, IRVCG volunteers have rebuilt a picnic shelter, constructed two fish cleaning stations, treated 600 feet of campground fence, maintained a navigable channel for boat access at both sites, donated 20 picnic tables, replaced the floor at a check station building, and assisted site staff in cleanup work at both sites following record flooding.  In addition to helping with site projects that could not be accomplished due to staffing and budget issues, the IRVCG is assisting Wildlife staff with dove, wood duck, and goose banding projects and bird surveys.
Friends of Stemler Cave Woods, Columbia 
Bob and Nancy Weck
The Friends of Stemler Cave Woods formed in 2005 to provide stewardship, protection, monitoring, and public education within the Stemler karst natural area in southwest Illinois.  The Friends group has worked tirelessly on behalf of the site, assisting the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission on site monitoring and protection, logging more than 2,000 hours in, as their motto describes, �A Network of Neighbors Working to Preserve a Diverse Ecosystem.�  In addition to their hands-on work, the Friends of Stemler Cave Woods has conducted extensive public programs and has worked on the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.

Alvin Forsyth, Mascoutah
Volunteer Master Instructor with IDNR Safety Education Program
Alvin Forsyth of Mascoutah has served as a volunteer instructor for the IDNR safety education program since May 1977, becoming a volunteer master instructor in February 1993.  Al Forsyth is one of the longest-serving volunteer safety instructors, serving with professionalism and pride. Forsyth has taught or conducted more than 114 classes with nearly 4,200 students of all ages.  He also recruits and trains other instructors, recently implementing an instructor candidate training course.

Christopher Herndon, Forest City
Christopher Herndon has assisted for many years with management of lakes and ponds in north central Illinois.  Herndon has assisted in wetland restoration, stocking and collection of brood fish, data input for fish surveys, and assisted Fisheries and Law Enforcement staff with flood assistance, including evacuations and sand bagging.  Herndon has accumulated more than 540 volunteer hours assisting IDNR personnel.

Mark Walczynski, Tonica
Mark Walczynski, a retired Illinois DNR employee, is an advisor to the Starved Rock Foundation and is park historian for Starved Rock State Park in La Salle Co.  Mark Walczynski teaches history, philosophy and criminal justice courses at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, and recently wrote the book Starved Rock State Park:  The First 100 Years.  The book looks behind the scenes at Starved Rock State Park through the eyes of visitors, state officials, park employees, and local residents.  Proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the Foundation�s book store.

Josh Hinkle, Hopewell
Josh Hinkle, while working at the Wal-Mart distribution center in Spring Valley, encouraged fellow employees to volunteer on trails cleanup projects at Starved Rock State Park.  Said Josh about the volunteer effort, �Starved Rock is a big attraction in the Illinois Valley area, and if the park looks good, we all look good.�  Thanks to the support of Wal-Mart volunteers, the park received a $5,000 grant, which is being used to improve the landscaping around the Starved Rock Visitor Center.
Jersey Community High School Agriculture Students, Jerseyville
Jersey Community High School Agriculture students, under the direction of teachers Jeff Goetten and Kami Kates, have contributed hundreds of hours of service volunteering at a number of programs and events at Pere Marquette State Park during the last five years.  In May 2013 on one of their last days of the school year, the students and teachers designed and installed new landscaping in front of the park�s Visitor Center.  The annual Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair was moved to the Jersey County fairgrounds due to flooding at Pere Marquette State Park, and the Jersey Ag students assisted in various activities at the fishing fair attended by thousands of area residents.

Thomas Anderson, Springfield
Tom Anderson, an accomplished woodworker and furniture craftsman, has for the past two years volunteered with the Illinois State Museum�s Feather Distribution Project.  Tom follows his mother Barbara Anderson in volunteering for the project in which thousands of feathers are sorted each week for distribution to the Pueblo Indians of the American southwest and other Native Americans. 

Annie Bileck, Springfield
Annie Bileck, as a high school student, has been volunteering at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield since 2011.  Annie Bileck has worked with programs for children at the Museum�s Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum.

Pam Conover, Springfield
Pam Conover has been volunteering in the Illinois State Museum�s Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum for more than three years.  She has assisted in visits by school groups and families, and last fall earned honors for more than 100 hours of volunteer service in the Play Museum.

Dannyl Dolder, Rochester
Dannyl Dolder serves as a volunteer photographer, demonstrating courage, creativity, and attention to detail.  Dannyl serves as an assistant to Museum photographer Doug Carr, who says of Dolder:  �She�s a gem.�

Mirl Whitaker, Springfield
Mirl Whitaker began work as a volunteer at the Illinois State Museum more than 10 years ago, assisting in the Place for Discovery with children�s programs.  Mirl has served as a docent and in other capacities, including helping inventory archaeological collections at the Museum�s Research and Collections Center.  Most recently, Mirl has sorted feathers for the Feather Distribution Project, providing macaw, parrot and wild turkey features to Native American groups for cultural practices.  Mirl Whitaker has been one of the Museum�s most versatile volunteers, and at age 91, Mirl is believed to be the oldest volunteer in the history of the Illinois State Museum.


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