The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has bestowed 2018 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year awards, recognizing 11 individuals and members of four groups for their volunteer service.
“Throughout the state, our Illinois DNR sites and programs benefit each year from the dedication and commitment of thousands of hours of volunteer service from hundreds of individuals with a passion for public and community service,” said IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal. “We are grateful for their service and pleased to recognize this year’s award winners for promoting outdoor recreation opportunities, and protecting our natural and cultural resources.”
The IDNR Outstanding Volunteers of the Year awards ceremony was held in August at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
The 2018 IDNR Outstanding Volunteers of the Year are:
Bill Bridges, Tamms
Bill Bridges is being honored for his volunteer service as the campground host at Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Alexander Co. Bill is well known among campers for his work ensuring that facilities in the Horseshoe Lake campground are well supplied, and for traveling through the campground and the entire park picking up trash. After storms, Bill is diligent in picking up downed tree branches and limbs, cutting them for firewood for use in the campground. Bill also delivers firewood to those campers who have no means to transport it, and is ready to loan out extension cords, hoses, and jumper cables to campers in need. He has also worked to keep Horseshoe Lake’s westside boat access area clear of debris. Bill Bridges has gone above and beyond the role of campground host at Horseshoe Lake, all while battling pancreatic cancer. IDNR site staff salutes Bill Bridges as Horseshoe Lake SFWA’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year.
Joann and Mike Fricke, Waterloo
Joann and Mike Fricke have been volunteering with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and IDNR for 10 years, contributing more than 3,000 hours on natural resources stewardship, monitoring, and protection efforts at Illinois Nature Preserves, Land and Water Reserves, and Natural Heritage Landmarks. Joann is also a board member with CLIFFTOP, an important IDNR/INPC partner in southwest Illinois, and serves on the Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve Committee. The Frickes have also put thousands of hours of effort into stewardship on their own natural areas – the Illinois Ozarks Nature Preserve and the Luella Schaefer Memorial Hill Prairie Land and Water Reserve. Joann and Mike Fricke are tireless volunteer ambassadors for natural areas preservation and conservation in southwest Illinois.
Kevin Gooden, Loda
Kevin Gooden’s volunteer service at Kickapoo State Recreation Area and Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area in Vermilion Co. has totaled more than 700 hours during the last two years. Kevin secured a planter and donations of corn and soybean seed for planting approximately 20 acres of food plots at the sites. He has also assisted site staff with tractor and equipment maintenance and repairs, and by utilizing his welding skills for a variety of tasks around the park. Kevin Gooden also took the lead in a project revamping the site’s campground amphitheater, which now hosts full-house crowds for movie nights. Kevin also assists with trail maintenance, brush removal, tree trimming and other tasks much appreciated by visitors to the sites.
Neil Graves, East Peoria
Neal Graves is being honored as an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for his work with the IDNR Safety Education Program, and his commitment to furthering hands-on training of those interested in trapping in Illinois. Neal, who serves as president of the Illinois Trappers Association, is a new volunteer instructor for the IDNR Trapper Education Program. He assisted in revising the IDNR Trapper Education student manual. Neal Graves also provided a training course for Illinois Conservation Police officers, helping them better understand trappers and trapping methods to assist them in enforcing regulations. He has also assisted other safety education instructor teams and organized and taught classes outside his core area to help meet the demand for classes. He has also purchased equipment and used his personal gear for training classes.
Doug Heusner, Clinton
Doug Heusner, a retired Illinois Conservation Police Officer, has been a volunteer for the last three years for the Clinton Lake Shotgun Deer Hunt for persons with disabilities. Doug spends many hours scouting hunting blind locations. He conducts a safety meeting on the first day of the hunt, and coordinates the hunt from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the entire three-day event. Most importantly, Doug serves as “The Board Master” for the hunt – tailoring special provisions for each hunter based on their abilities. Doug also coordinates drop-off and pick up of hunters. His attention to detail helps make the hunt a success every year.
Melody and Russ Howard, Ramsey
Melody and Russ Howard have been outstanding volunteer campground hosts at Ramsey Lake State Park for the past 14 years. From early April through mid-October each year, the Howards greet park visitors, provide park information, and provide a warm and joyful welcome for campground visitors. Campers have come to rely on the Howards over the years, as they are always ready to help with a spare extension cord, can opener, or cup of sugar. Melody and Russ go the extra mile to make sure Ramsey Lake campground visitors enjoy their stay. Campground hosts are vital to the success of the visitors’ campground experience, and Melody and Russ Howard are an all-star team at Ramsey Lake State Park.
Dick McLane, Springfield
Dick McLane has been an active volunteer in the Illinois State Museum since 2001, assisting with programs in the Museum’s children’s exhibits, including the Play Museum, and providing additional assistance at special events at the ISM. Dick is always welcoming and engaging with the public, and visitors tell Museum staff how much they enjoy talking with Dick on Sunday afternoons at the Play Museum. Dick is always willing to serve with new volunteers at the Museum, and serves as an ambassador for the Illinois State Museum and its volunteer programs in the community…understanding that word of mouth from current volunteers is a great recruiting tool. Nominators on the Museum staff report that “Dick McLane is a gem, and we cannot express how glad we are to have him as a member of our team.”
John Muir, Oglesby
John Muir has been a volunteer and board member for the Starved Rock Foundation for the past 14 years, providing volunteer service at Starved Rock State Park. The Foundation is a not-for-profit group of friends of the park who provide time and volunteers in support of the park’s education programs, provide guided hikes, and assist at the customer service desk in the park’s Visitor Center. John Muir is the current treasurer for the Starved Rock Foundation, and co-manager of the Le Rocher Gift Shop in the Visitor Center. He has donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time staffing the gift shop, helping at the front desk, leading hikes, and providing valuable information to visitors at Illinois’ busiest state park.
Bob Schanzle, Chatham
Bob Schanzle brings more than 40 years of experience as a diver and expert on freshwater mussels to his volunteer efforts for important IDNR mussel surveys and mussel relocation projects. For the past eight years, Bob has participated as a volunteer in numerous mussel projects in all parts of the state. A past president of the Illinois Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Bob also assists the IDNR Division of Fisheries with fish surveys. Bob Schanzle recently donated a mussel collection to the IDNR for use in education programs. He also volunteers with the IDNR Division of Natural Heritage and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission on prescribed burn projects. Following a 37-year career with the IDNR, Bob Schanzle continues to serve the people of the State of Illinois as a retiree, and an outstanding volunteer.
Illinois River Hunting and Retriever Club
The Illinois River Hunting and Retriever Club’s volunteer members built and maintain three dog training and test areas at Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area in central Illinois. Group members have also improved site roadways, mowed and cleared debris from the training areas, and have provided countless volunteer service hours and individual and group monetary donations to projects at Banner Marsh.
Mississippi Valley Duck Hunters of Illinois
Volunteer members of the Mississippi Valley Duck Hunters of Illinois during the past year provided 15 new wood duck structures to the IDNR, and provided two work days on which volunteers placed the duck boxes at Wagon Lake Land and Water Reserve in St. Clair Co. Group members also maintain goose nesting structures at Pyramid State Recreation Area in Perry Co., and provided seed for wildlife plantings at Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area in southwest Illinois. The group has also provided duck hunting blinds at Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area and Doza Creek Waterfowl Management Area at Baldwin Lake in southwest Illinois. Group members host youth wingshooting clinics, and sponsor competitive youth shooting sports teams.
Southern Illinois Master Naturalists/Kids in the Woods Program
Since the fall of 2015, Master Naturalist volunteers – led by coordinator Lorie Allen – have hosted 10 to 15 families a month for education programs at Giant City State Park in Makanda as part of the group’s “Kids in the Woods” initiative. Master Naturalist volunteers dedicate several hours a month for each program, which brings families to the park for outdoor-themed, hands-on activities – many bringing equipment and resources from their homes for the programs at the park. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Lorie Allen and other volunteers, many families who have never been to Giant City State Park get an up-close experience with nature-based activities.
Starved Rock Cleanup Crew
The Starved Rock Cleanup Crew consists of individual volunteers from many walks of life who care deeply about the care and maintenance of the natural beauty of Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks in the Illinois River valley in La Salle Co. Cleanup Crew members volunteer weekly, and in some cases daily, picking up litter and restoring the beauty of the parks’ canyons and woodland areas. Group leaders salute Starved Rock Cleanup Crew members Ollie Miller, Kelly Lavoie, Kelly Cox and family, Layla and Liam Cox, John Small II, Ana Sprague, Sharon Shieh, Joe Jakupcak, Diane Sims, Jake Donka, June Donka, Kay Carter, Makala Heibel, Brent Bader, Becky Mancuso, Wanda Conness, Melissa Ann and family, Terry Warren, Desiderata Ratajczak, Nolan Hallock, Nick Holas, and Nicholas Donka