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Refuge awards volunteers for years, hours of service

By Staff | Mar 23, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Ranger Jeff Combs, the refuge's volunteer coordinator, presents Patty and Jack Wettstein with their 4,500 hours awards.

This year, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge personally awarded volunteers after staff announced the cancelation of the annual Volunteer Awards Luncheon because of COVID-19.

“While I’m disappointed that I will not be able to publicly recognize the extraordinary efforts of so many volunteers and their commitment to the refuge and our natural resources, I also want to be proactive and heed the advice of professional public health experts,” acting Refuge Manager Kevin Godsea wrote in a letter emailed to volunteers. “We will simply need to find other ways to honor our dedicated volunteers this year.”

Refuge staff reported that in fiscal year 2019, 311 volunteers worked 37,397 hours at the refuge, representing a labor and benefits savings of over $900,000 – equivalent to 18 full-time employees.

“I just find it amazing that when Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland started here about 15 years ago, there were about 600,000 visitors each year and less land to manage with 22 staff members,” Birgie Miller, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, said. “Today we have 11 staff members to handle a million visitors and more land.”

The DDWS formed in 1982 specifically to support a volunteer corps after the opening of the refuge’s first visitor center that year. More than 11,000 people visited in the first month after the center opened, overwhelming a staff unaccustomed to dealing with the inquisitive public.

“Volunteers stepped in then to fill in the gaps left by inadequate federal funding, and they continue to do so even more today as funding further declines,” Miller said.

The volunteers who won awards for reaching hour and year achievement levels include:


– 20 years: Tom Fleming, Joyce Jacobs, Peggy Hupfeldt and Marian Pool

– 10 years: Joyce Barney, Carolyn Bergen, Sue Danford, Tom Hoopes, John MacLennan, Alan Parker, Linda Parker, Greg Scherer, Garold Schudel, Ruth Schudel, Cindy Seaman and Roger Tosch


– 9,000 hours: Doris Hardy

– 8,500 hours: Marilyn Kloosterman

– 5,500 hours: Jack Wettstein and Patty Wettstein?

– 4,500 hours: Terry Baldwin and John McCabe

– 3,000 hours: Malcolm Harpham, Ben Klaus and Mary Klaus

– 2,500 hours: Mike Baldwin and Jeanne Tyrer

– 2,000 hours: Mike Baldwin, Charles Dunham and Arland Oleson

– 1,500 hours: Shirley Bohnert, Sue McIntyre, Jim Newes and Helen Taylor

– 1,000 hours: Stan Bunsick, Gary Dutton, Marion Evans, Michael Galloway, Barb Guidotti, John MacLennan, Ilona Menzel, Nancy Riley and Pam Windust

– 500 hours: Susan Beittel, Carolyn Bergen, Carl Greenbaum, Sandy Greenbaum, Christine Mackenzie, Paul McKenney, Peter Meekin, Sherri Newes, Francie Slane, Anne Suss, Tom Ware, Pam Weiner and Wanda Werner

– 250 hours: Genia Alperin, Paul Andrews, Sarah Ashton, Carole Ecker, Mike Ecker, Carl Greenbaum, Sandy Greenbaum, Sonya Keene, Wendy Kindig, Herb Lawrence, Janet McLaughlin, Kimberly Powers, Mary Rice, Robert Roth, Ross Spencer, Kathleen Wilson and Judy Wright

– 150 hour: Katie Baker, Bud Dansby, Brenda Epperson, Randy Epperson, Diane Esslinger, Rose Flaherty, Brett Gooch, Jane Gieryic, Carl Greenbaum, Sandy Greenbaum, Lisa Hutchins, Joanne Prestia, Vince Thomalla, Diana Wideman and Judy Wright