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Outstanding Volunteers Honored at National Park Service Ceremony

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation honored the recipients of the 2009 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service
at a ceremony that took place on May 13, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The
George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service were
started eight years ago to recognize the time, talent, innovation, and
hard work contributed to national parks through the Volunteers-In-Parks
(VIP) Program.

National Park Service Deputy Director Mickey Fearn congratulated
the recipients and recognized the contributions made by all park
volunteers. “Volunteers increase the energy of the National Park Service
and allow us to continue to do what needs to be done, including all
things that could not be done without them.”

Last year, 196,000 volunteers spent 5.9 million hours assisting
the National Park Service. George B. Hartzog, Jr., served as the
director of the National Park Service from 1964 to 1972 and created the
VIP Program in 1970. In retirement, he and his wife established a fund
to support the program and honor the efforts of volunteers. His widow,
Helen, and children attended the awards ceremony and congratulated each
recipient. Richard Meissner, one of the volunteers honored, summed up
the spirit of the event. “I, and most volunteers, consider volunteering
in a national park a privilege, a unique opportunity … Where else can
one work at a lighthouse, in a desert, at the home of an important
American? We VIPs feel truly blessed, and appreciated.”

The Hartzog Individual Volunteer Award was
presented to Tony Valois from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation
Area in California. Valois’ expertise in computer programming,
photography, and botany has been a tremendous asset to the park. Valois
combined his talents to create a web-based photographic guide to the
park’s wildflowers. The guide contains 4,000 photographers he took of
more than 700 species. The website provides a “flower-finder” tool for
identifying flowers based on simple characteristics. Valois has devoted
more than 5,000 hours to building and improving the guide and recently
transferred the entire database to a new system with a simple search key
and mobile phone applications. Valois created the guide while serving
in his primary volunteer role as a campground host.

The Hartzog Youth Volunteer Award was given to
16-year-old Holly Marsh from Mississippi National River and Recreation
Area in Minnesota. Marsh worked 270 hours as a volunteer last year. Her
knowledge, enthusiasm, and interpersonal skills contributed greatly to
numerous park programs. She co-led Junior Ranger Programs and helped
2,100 children receive their badges, interacted with countless visitors
at the Mississippi River Visitor Center, served as the parks mascot,
Freddy the Flathead Catfish, at special events, assisted with the Bike
with a Ranger Program, photographed events for the park’s website and
brochures, and became certified in CPR and First Aid.

The Hartzog Enduring Service Award was presented
to Richard Meissner from Cape Lookout National Seashore in North
Carolina. Meissner has served as the park’s full time volunteer
coordinator for ten years. His volunteers provide the park with the
equivalent of 12 additional staff members. Meissner recruits, selects,
trains, and supervisors volunteers for the Harkers Island Visitor
Center, two satellite visitor centers, the Portsmouth Village Historic
District, the Cape Lookout Historic District, cabin lodges, and to
assist staff with visitor services and resource management duties.
Meissner personally assists with maintenance, exhibit design, special
events, and living history programs.

The Hartzog Volunteer Group Award was given to
the Glacier Centennial Program from Glacier National Park in Montana. To
celebrate the park’s 100th anniversary, a group of more than 75
volunteers from 43 different organizations planned and implemented a
community-driven Centennial Program. The volunteers invested more than
1,000 hours of service and embraced the mission of celebrating the
park’s rich history and inspiring personal connections. The group
coordinated 108 centennial activities with 58 various organizations.
They also helped 61 local businesses reduce their carbon footprint,
developed 184 centennial products with 47 vendors, sponsored an art
contest with 113 artists, and produced a book of selected stories with
contributions from 240 authors.

The Hartzog Park Volunteer Program Award went to
the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Volunteers-In-Parks Program. Last
year, the park’s 4,050 volunteers donated 122,200 hours to meaningful
projects in maintenance, visitor services, education, resource
protection, law enforcement, and administration. The VIPs monitored
invasive mussels, inventoried abandoned mines, and rid the park of over
33 tons of garbage. In addition to maintaining existing volunteer
activities, the park created, marketed, recruited, and implemented two
new programs. Operation Zero (OZ): Citizens Removing & Eliminating
Waste (CREW) engaged community groups and families in cleaning coves
around the lake by boat. The Resource Steward Program used volunteers to
collect data about the park’s cultural and natural resources.

Story from the National Park Service.

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