2015 Friends & Volunteers Appreciation Pot Luck

by Stacy Iwanicki


Volunteers Honored from Volo Bog State Natural Area, Moraine Hills State Park & McHenry Dam


On Thursday, December 10, Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff honored 118 volunteers who donated their services to Volo Bog State Natural Area, Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam in 2015. Together they contributed 6654 hours to these Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites! 


Special Recognition was given to three individuals as Volunteer of the Year – two at Volo Bog State Natural Area and one at Moraine Hills State Park/McHenry Dam.


Judi Downey of Round Lake Beach was one of two volunteers named Volunteer of the Year for Volo Bog State Natural Area. Judi began volunteering in 2013 as a youth program naturalist leading tours of Volo Bog for visiting students on field trips. She created a middle school version of the activity guide that introduces students to Volo Bog before they visit, and developed an expansion of a bird migration activity from the Flying WILD curriculum for use at the site’s International Migratory Bird Days celebration. She also helps with special events at Volo Bog SNA. Judi retired from teaching middle school but isn’t ready to completely sever her ties to the profession she loves. She contributed 136 volunteer hours in 2015.


Robin Pollack of McHenry was also awarded Volunteer of the Year for Volo Bog State Natural Area. Robin began volunteering in 2013 as the new leader of the site’s Youth Art Guild (YAG). YAG is run by a team of volunteers and supported by volunteer artists from the community. Robin is the group’s artist recruiter and coordinator, and a huge inspiration to the group overall. With a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, Robin steps up to lead the students on days when other artists are unavailable, or when they have to cancel last minute. Robin began volunteering with YAG two years before her oldest daughter was old enough to join the guild! She contributed 135 hours in 2015.


Neil Whitman of McHenry was awarded Volunteer of the Year for Moraine Hills State Park & McHenry Dam. Neil is a regular docent at the site’s nature center, a gardener for one of the native gardens, and Keeper of the Kiosks. Neil also is a bluebird monitor spring through fall, and in winter he tends the park’s multiple bird feeding stations. The stations are funded by Friends of Moraine Hills State Park of which, in 2007, Neil was a founding member. He has recently returned to serve on the FOMHSP board of directors. Neil is a regular at special events such as International Migratory Bird Days and Run for the Hills, the latter being FOMHSP’s major fundraiser to help support projects and programs at the state park. If that’s not enough, Neil also contributed 55 hours to habitat restoration and butterfly monitoring at Volo Bog State Natural Area, racking up a total of 180 volunteer hours between all these IDNR sites!


Volunteer-of-the-Year plaques were presented to Downey, Pollack & Whitman by Site Superintendent Greg Kelly, Natural Resources Coordinator Stacy Iwanicki and Site Assistant Superintendent John Laskowski. 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.

Also receiving Centurian Award Plaques for contributing over 100 hours each in 2015:

Dave Albright of Crystal Lake
Nancy Bodinet of Lake Zurich
Kevin Click of Wonder Lake
Marie Corns of McHenry
Julia & Nina Denne of Arlington 
Steve Domski of McHenry
Jerry Donahue of Fox Lake
Nancy Doughty of Barrington
Bill Ewert of Ingleside
John Fairgrieve of Hawthorn Woods
Crissy Geary of Ingleside
C.C. Geist of Island Lake
Barb Gosh of Ingleside
Marilyn Huster of Libertyville
John Holmes of Lake Villa
Tom Kearns of McHenry
Caryn McAndrews of Woodstock
Myrna Nelson of McHenry
Michelle “Micki” Noble of McHenry
Joan Proell of Wauconda
Bonnie Sheehan of Berthoud, Colorado!
Bob Vetter of Grayslake

The following received Certificates of Appreciation for contributing 50 - 99 hours each to Volo Bog and/or Moraine Hills/McHenry Dam in 2015:

Claudia Chrusciel of Island Lake
Brian Gilbert of Lake Zurich
Mark Ginger of Des Plaines
John Katzenmayer of Johnsburg
Kathy Kozacky of Roselle
Esther Larson of McHenry
Yvette Liautaud of Streamwood
Tom McAndrews of Woodstock
Scott McMillion of Gurnee
Chris Oszak of Villa Park
Nancy & Randy Schietzelt of Crystal Lake
Ann Shanks of Grayslake
Karen Sherman of Elgin
Jan Wemple of Ingleside
Judy Wooderson of Crystal Lake 
Barbara Zander of Mundelein


Thirty additional volunteers received certificates for contributing between 25 - 49 hours each, with another 45 people offering their help on smaller (often one-time) projects.


Volunteers contribute in numerous 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. About 4,000 school and youth group children are introduced to Volo Bog each year. 


Special events such as WinterFest, International Migratory Bird Days, Family Fishing Day, International Bog Day, Run for the Hills and Ghost Stories rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteer Docents greet visitors in both sites’ Visitor Centers. Members of McHenry County Audubon “wear two hats” while they lead Bird Walks at both Volo Bog & McHenry Dam. Volunteers monitor bluebird trails and tend to demonstration Prairie & Woodland Gardens at each site. The Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps took shape at Volo Bog State Natural Area and has branched out into Moraine Hills State Park. The VVCC is a group of veterans from different generations and conflicts who come together around a common cause - protection and enhancement of the natural environment in Illinois. 


Many volunteers from the sites are also members of Friends of Volo Bog and/or Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, but membership is not required in order to volunteer for state Department of Natural Resources sites. The Friends groups are each 501(c)(3) organizations that offer financial and volunteer support to their respective sites.  
Visit them at www.FriendsofVoloBog.org and www.FriendsofMoraineHillsStatePark.org.


Volo Bog State Natural Area is an Illinois Department of Natural Resources site located at 28478 W. Brandenburg Road in Ingleside, Illinois. Visit http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/VoloBog.aspx. For information on volunteering, contact Natural Resources Coordinator Stacy Iwanicki at 815 344 1294 or dnr.volobog@illinois.gov. 


Moraine Hills State Park and McHenry Dam are Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites located south of McHenry on River Road between State Highways 120 and 176. For information on volunteering at Moraine Hills and McHenry Dam, please use Volo Bog contact above. For general information please phone Moraine Hills’ park offices at 815 385 1624 or visit https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/MoraineHills.aspx.


Photos by Bob Vetter