Alabama’s 2013 Earth Team Volunteer (ETV) winners for the Individual, Group, Chief’s Field, and NACD Partnership Awards were announced at the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting in Orange Beach, Alabama, on November 17, 2013. Each of the winners will compete in their category in the National awards program. The Alabama award winners are:
Individual – Rena Smith, Russellville Field Office
Group – Lee County Water Festival
Chief’s Field – Bay Minette Field Office
NACD Partnership – Madison County SWCD
In Alabama, 3,038 volunteers provided 18,543 hours of volunteer service ranking us number one in the Southeast and in the Nation in total number of volunteers. In number of reported volunteer hours, Alabama was again first in the Southeast and ranked fifth in the nation. Dr. William Puckett, State Conservationist for the Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) said, “I am proud of our Earth Team Volunteers. They are an integral part of the Alabama conservation partnership. Each member takes pride in the fact that they maintain and improve our natural resources and environment on private lands and help educate our youth.”
Individual Award –Beth Rhea accepts award for Rena Smith (l-r) Dr. William Puckett and Rodney Goode
Rena Smith of Russellville received Alabama’s Individual Earth Team Award. Since she started in 2011, the field office staff says that she will do whatever is needed to help out. She files, answers the phone, assists with construction checks, and with educational programs such as the Envirothon and FAWN.
Renea said, “I knew I would like volunteering, but I didn’t know I would love it.” The staff said that her eagerness to learn and her love for the outdoors shines in all she does personally and professionally.
Group Award – Lee County Water Festival: (l-r) Frank Cochran, Sue Gaines, Juanita Gardinski, Robert and Shell Gaines, Dr. William Puckett, and Rodney Goode.
The Lee County Water Festival Group gleaned the Group Award because of their efforts to educate local children about water problems as well as solutions. The Lee County Water Festival has been held for 11 years to educate 4th graders and their families about surface and ground water and other related natural resources such as wetlands, forestry and wildlife. The purpose is to instill in them a general environmental awareness and stewardship ethic.
Over 1,700, 4th grade students and their teachers participated in this year’s festival on the Auburn University Campus, March 14-15, 2013. More than 84 volunteers from 21 agencies and organizations helped organize, seek funding, and preformed the many background tasks that are needed to carry out the large scale event.
Chief’s Field Award – Bay Minette Field Office: (l-r) Ronnie Northcutt, Sue Gaines, Frank Trione, Rhonda Bryars, Dr. William Puckett, and Rodney Goode.
The Bay Minette Field Office won the Alabama Chief’s Field Award for building a strong team of ETVs from local technical centers, high schools, and organizations to enhance the conservation activities of the local NRCS/SWCD office.
One highlighted project was a sand dune restoration project in Gulf Shores. ETVs worked closely with other agency personnel, local vocational Ag students, and a Boy Scout troop from Kentucky to help plant sea oats on the dunes. The older students did most of the physical labor on the project, while the younger scout troop volunteers participated on a scale they could handle. An experienced leader guided the groups and kept them on track. The staff said that these projects would not be possible without the support of ETVs.
The plants established during the project help the sand dunes resist wind erosion and helps protect the shoreline, homes, and the unique wildlife habitat.
NACD Partnership Award – Madison County SWCD: (l-r) Greg Dansby,
Charles Butler, Sue Gaines, Kathy Walker, Dr. William Puckett, and Rodney Goode.
The Madison County NRCS/SWCD was presented the NACD Partnership Award because they excel in promoting conservation with educational programs through local schools and organizations. The staff intentionally works to develop new partnerships and recruit ETVs to assist in area projects to help educate the county population about natural resource conservation.
The Madison County NRCS/SWCD sponsors many projects. They say that ETVs are vital to supporting their mission. A few of these include programs for high school and elementary students informing them about sources of pollution, “Read across America” celebrating reading with Dr. Seuss, River Works Discovery Program, Outdoor Classrooms, the Envirothon, and Poster and Essay Contests. The public and ETVs participate in projects such as the Rain Barrel Workshop, Flint River Clean Ups, Soil Baby Contests, and an annual Teacher Workshop completing its 11th year. This year they hosted 28 teachers from K-12 with the free 40 hour workshop that includes CEU credits.