The Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff recently honored 124 volunteers who donated their services to Volo Bog State Natural Area, Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam in 2012. Together they contributed 6,589 hours -- another record number -- to these sites.
Three individuals received special recognition as Volunteer of the Year at their respective sites.
Julia and Nina Denne, a mother-daughter team from Arlington Heights, put in a combined 290 hours at Volo Bog State Natural Area. Julia and Nina co-lead guided tours of Volo Bog one weekend day per month. While Nina is only 13 years old, she is often seen as the "brains" of the duo as her passion for plants and learning have converged to make her a unique asset to Volo Bog's weekend tours.
In 2011, Julia worked with a handful of other parents and volunteers to create Volo Bog SNA's Youth Art Guild. Nina is a participant in the guild which hosts up to 17 artistic students as they explore nature. The two are also Prairie Gardeners, tending "Center Island" where native species grace the parking lot and demonstrate the beauty natives can bring to structured landscapes.
Nina's love of plants overflows as can be measured by her commitment to the site's herbarium, or collection of plants, that is housed in a locked metal cabinet in the site's classroom. The herbarium has a demonstration component -- a unit with 20 glass-covered drawers that displays Volo Bog's wetland species throughout the changing seasons. Nina rotates new species to the display cabinet as the seasons change. In 2013, Nina and her mom will be part of a team that will expand Volo Bog State Natural Area's herbarium collection to represent the prairie gardens. The Dennes began volunteering at Volo Bog SNA in the fall of 2009.
Judy Wooderson of Crystal Lake was named 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.
Volunteer-of-the-Year plaques were presented to the Dennes and Wooderson by Site Superintendent Greg Kelly and Natural Resources Coordinator Stacy Iwanicki. 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.
Volunteers contribute in many 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. Nearly 5,000 school and youth group children are introduced to Volo Bog each year. Roving Naturalists reach out to park visitors at Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam.
Special events such as International Migratory Bird Days, International Bog Day, Ghost Stories, Run for the Hills and WinterFest rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteer docents greet visitors in both sites' visitor centers, while others lead bird walks at both Volo Bog and McHenry Dam. Volunteers monitor bird nesting trails and tend to demonstration prairie and woodland gardens at each site. The Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps took shape at Volo Bog State Natural Area where veterans from different generations and conflicts come together around a common cause -- protection and enhancement of the natural environment in Illinois.
Volo Bog State Natural Area is on Brandenburg Road west off U.S. Highway 12 between Routes 120 and 134. Visit dnr.state.il.us/Lands/landmgt/parks/R2/VOLOBOG.HTM or to volunteer contact Iwanicki at (815) 3441294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam are south of McHenry on River Road between Routes 120 and 176. For information on volunteering contact Iwanicki at (815) 3441294 or email@example.com.
Also receiving Centurian Award Plaques for contributing over 100 hours each in 2012:
Dave Albright of Crystal Lake; Joyce Angarola of Antioch; Nancy Bodinet of Lake Zurich; Cleve Caviness of Round Lake; Marie Caviness of Round Lake; Steve Domski of McHenry; Jerry Donahue of Mundelein; Savannah Eisenmann of Cary; Bill Ewert of Ingleside; John Fairgrieve of Hawthorn Woods; John Holmes of Lake Villa; Marilyn Huster of Libertyville; Merry Miller of Lake Villa; Larissa Root of McHenry served as Environmental Education Intern; Steve Savocchi of Lake Zurich; Barb Schneider of Grayslake; Bonnie Sheehan of McHenry; Bob Vetter of Grayslake; Jenny Vogt of Streamwood; and Neil Whitman of McHenry.
The following received Certificates of Appreciation for contributing 50-99 hours each to Volo Bog and/or Moraine Hills/McHenry Dam in 2012:
Mary Colwell of Libertyville; Marie Corns of McHenry; Nancy Doughty of Barrington; Anima Dubey of Grayslake; Brian Gilbert of Lake Zurich; Mark Ginger of Des Plaines; Gail Goeke of McHenry; John Hall of Island Lake; Melonnie Hartl of Antioch; Carol Howard of Cary; Mike Iwanicki of Wonder Lake; Jackie Jahnke of Fox Lake; Linda Kantor of Palatine; Billie Kocal of Antioch; Kathy Kozacky of Roselle; Yvette Liautaud of Streamwood; Esther Larson of McHenry; Karen Lund of Genoa; Meg Macdonald of Lake Bluff; Myrna Nelson of McHenry; Joan Proell of Wauconda; Michael Rotman of Ingleside; Nancy Schietzelt of Crystal Lake; Randy Schietzelt of Crystal Lake; Carol Shaffer of Grayslake; Ann Shanks of Grayslake; Randy Soderman of Lake Barrington; Trisha Steele of Highland Lake; Karen Vetter of Grayslake; Jan Wemple of Ingleside; and Barbara Zander of Mundelein.
Twenty-nine additional volunteers received certificates for contributing between 25-49 hours each, with another 46 people offering their help on smaller (often one-time) projects.