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Earth Team Volunteers | 2009 Awards

2009 Kansas Earth Team Volunteer Awards

National Award Winner

Chief’s Cup
Kansas

State Conservationist, Eric Banks, accepting the Chief's Cup award for Kansas.In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, Kansas had three area, one state office (SO), and a state volunteer coordinator. These five coordinators managed the Earth Team (ET) Volunteer Program (Program) for 109 offices in Kansas. FY 2009 Accomplishments:

  • 100 percent of 109 offices reported the use of volunteers
  • Kansas was first to achieve 100 percent field office (FO) participation in the new tracking system.
  • A total of 62,723 hours of volunteer time was captured in FY 2009, increasing 21,775 hours from FY 2008.
  • A total of 4,566 volunteers donated their time, which increased by 976 volunteers over FY 2008.
  • Kansas developed and submitted the slogan “Earth Team Volunteers Answer the Call to Serve,” which was used as the FY 2009 National Volunteer Week theme.
  • The state coordinator was instrumental in the development and implementation of the new tracking system, working with the National ET Office and the developer. Kansas was a test site and was one of the first states to have implementation abilities in the new tracking system. This allowed direct communication with the developer for recommendation of enhancements to the system.
  • The state and area coordinators provided early training in the implementation of the new tracking system (by May 1, 2009). By July 30, 2009, all hours to date had been entered in the tracking system for FY 2009.
  • All coordinators trained the field staff in their area on the importance and benefits of utilizing volunteers in their offices by speaking at area meetings and making personal visits to FOs. The state and area coordinators each conducted a minimum of five FO reviews to ensure the Program is managed properly within each office, accounting for all forms and documentation of hours that have been recorded in the tracking system.
  • The Kansas Apprentice Program (KAP) was used to recruit six apprentices for the state.
  • Each coordinator was responsible for writing or collecting success stories from their area to publish in the “Volunteer Voice,” district newsletter, and the Kansas Web site. Kansas had a total of four success stories published this FY in the national “Volunteer Voice.”
  • Area coordinators collected nominations for state and national awards for all award categories. All nominations will be recognized by the State Conservationist with a letter and keepsake.
  • The state volunteer coordinator was a presenter during the breakout session and spoke on the success of the KAP at the National ET Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • The state coordinator and an area coordinator served as committee members of the State Recruitment Team to recruit volunteers utilizing a Kansas-developed ET display.

Central Region Award Winner

Individual Award
Larry Fieser, El Dorado Field Office, posthumously

Larry FieserLarry was always one who was available to help out around the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office and around Butler County. When the Earth Team (ET) Volunteer Program was mentioned to him, he was excited to participate. Larry raised his two sons to be conservation-minded. When his granddaughter started to show some interest in the farm, he took her under his wing and helped her see why conservation is so important. His granddaughter is now an active ET volunteer thanks to Larry’s enthusiasm for the program.

Larry served as a volunteer in many capacities:

  • assisted on watershed dam inspections and coordinated maintenance contractors for the watershed districts.
  • called on to help producers with cost-shared grass seedings by meeting them and answering questions about the seed rates and getting the grass drill set correctly. Butler County is one of the largest counties by area in Kansas so Larry’s assistance in coordinating the watershed district (WD) activities and the seeding activities was a huge help to the NRCS staff.

Little Walnut Hickory WD’s budget had shrunk due to replacement costs of rusted out principal spillways pipes in several of its dams and the constant battle of invasive species. Larry provided his services to them because he knew they needed someone to handle the day-to-day activities required to keep 40 dams in compliance and that the WD needed to use its money to cover the expenses required for compliance. Larry developed an excellent relationship with the landowners who had watershed dams on their property. He was able to keep the landowners informed of the maintenance activities that were going to occur and worked with them if the dams needed to be flash grazed or if the cattle needed to be excluded from the dams. Larry would handle all of these activities and provide a report to NRCS. This saved NRCS staff hundreds of miles and numerous hours driving to each site multiple times a year to inspect the work that was done. Larry also accompanied NRCS staff on required tri-annual inspections.

Larry’s services helped to boost public interest and participation in conservation partnerships and service. The services he provided aided the customers in having positive experiences installing conservation practices. This went a long way to improving participation in NRCS programs.

Larry suffered several heart attacks over the years and had a pacemaker installed. Larry had to switch from the guy who did the work to the guy who coordinated the work. This special volunteer worked right up to the week before he passed away. He leaves a legacy of conservation and community service.

State Award Winners

NRCS Employee Earth Team Award
Delores Eberle, Soil Conservation Technician, Cimarron Field Office

Delores Eberle at Farm Safety DayDelores Eberle is a Soil Conservation Technician (SCT) duty-stationed in the Cimarron Field Office (FO) located in Gray County, Kansas. She recruits, trains, and supervises volunteers at her FO. The Cimarron FO has a total of 24 individual volunteers who have contributed over 430 hours, along with four groups contributing approximately 114 hours.

Delores works directly with the CD manager to ensure understanding of the volunteer concept and what can be recorded as volunteer hours. She finds volunteers to assist with the CD newsletter and recruits capable volunteers who assist by keeping the office open when staff is called away for training or field work. Delores works with volunteers during the annual Ark River Water Festival (Festival) which is a two-day event which helps educate over 1,200 students from the fifth and sixth grades from Kearny, Finney, and Gray counties. It is no small task to keep track of all the volunteers and record their hours.

Delores also works with the Cimarron High School FFA to have them serve as volunteers for the Conservation District (CD) annual meeting, as well as the children’s program, “Day at the Farm.” She is not afraid to ask the students to assist when help is needed. Delores is well known and respected in Gray County, and the kids are eager to pitch in and help.

Through this interaction with the public, the Earth Team (ET) Volunteer Program has gained awareness and acceptance. Sister agencies and conservation partners also gained an understanding of the ET concept. These agencies witnessed the value these programs provide through educational experiences for the volunteers, as well as the valuable assistance that volunteers can provide.

Delores shows appreciation to volunteers by recognizing their contributions. Keepsake awards and certificates of appreciation are presented to volunteers during the CD annual meeting with an attendance of 250 to 300 people. She wants to ensure volunteers are recognized in front of their fellow citizens and also to encourage others to join the program. To Delores, no volunteer’s contribution is considered too small: all volunteers are valued equally for their assistance to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in meeting conservation goals and getting the job done.

NACD/Conservation District Award
Kingman County Conservation District, Kingman, Kansas

Earth Team (ET) volunteers assist the Kingman County Conservation District (KCCD) in carrying out existing activities that KCCD conduct each year as well as new ones.

Activities include:

  • At the KCCD Annual meeting every January, volunteers assist with the preparation for the meeting, serve the meals, and clean up afterwards.
  • “Walk in the Woods” annual event is held at the Riggs Arboretum in Waterloo, Kansas. “Walk in the Woods” is an outdoor classroom for area fifth-graders. Volunteers serve by doing pre-event preparation. Two clean-up sessions are scheduled for each year: one in the spring and one in the fall. The fall clean-up session had a total of 29 volunteers participating over a two-day period. These volunteers cleared the trail of debris, removed damaged trees, and mulched the walking trails through the Arboretum. Volunteers also assist with the outdoor classroom activities such as being group leaders, directing groups to stations, and various other activities.
Kingman County Conservation District Board

 

  Pam Stasa, Gene Albers, Eric Banks, John Meng, Dick Neville. Not pictured: Clint Foley, Tom Kostner.
  • The KCCD held its first recycling collection in March 2008 after the need for a recycling initiative was identified for Kingman County in October 2007. The program received 56 recycle drop-offs with 11 volunteers working that day. The recycling effort has continued to grow since it was initiated. Since then, the KCCD has set up a designated monthly drop-off day and added the collection of cardboard from local businesses.
  • Several local groups that assist with the recycling collection are the Boy Scout troop, 4-H clubs, the Catholic Youth Organization, high school volunteer groups, and the local Ducks Unlimited chapter. Pam Stasa, KCCD Manager, has provided educational programs to the Kingman Middle School to educate the students on the importance of recycling and the benefits that it has to our environment. This year alone the KCCD has utilized 86 volunteers and accrued 593 hours of time to assist with the recycling program.
  • The KCCD collected e-waste in April 2009 and collected two to three semi-trailer loads of material during the six-hour collection period with 10 volunteers helping.
  • KCCD is developing a partnership with local entities to provide recycling to outlying communities and rural individuals.
  • The largest collection turn-out to date has been 150 recycle drop-offs with 13 volunteers working the collection.

The program has continued to grow even through the tough economic times of the past year. As the interest in the program has grown so has the number of volunteers willing to help.

People in the community have wondered how much money the recycling program has generated. The KCCD maintains that this project is only, in part, a money-making effort and is fueled by the belief that it is the “right thing to do.” It is this kind of attitude that has helped keep the recycling program moving forward.

Group Award
Grouse-Silver Creek Watershed District Board, Winfield, Kansas

Throughout each year, the Grouse-Silver Creek Watershed District Board (Board) assists the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Butler County Conservation District (CD) with events promoting water quality and other conservation practices, either by hosting an event in the watershed district (WD) counties or by presenting information. The nine-member Board works with partners such as the officials from the State Conservation Commission, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Kansas State Research and Extension, and the Kansas Water Office for informational and educational events and a tour of the watershed area covering Cowley, Butler, and Elk Counties. This tour showcased completed projects that Board members had encouraged participants to complete, some with cost-share assistance from the WD. That same day the Board included the stakeholders in the WD in a meeting with these officials for a question and answer session regarding water quality concerns and activities in the watershed. According to Scott Satterthwaite, KDHE representative, the Board “demonstrates the initiative that we are hoping to see from this kind of organization. We see good things in the future from this leadership group. They appear to be a diverse group that represents the interest of the watershed.”

Grouse-Silver Creek Watershed District Board

 

  Roland Willard, Kent Radcliff, Roger Black, Jerry Ashenfelter, Mark Bogner. Not pictured: Jim Hardy, Ronnie Whiteman, David Miller.

The WD is proud of the fact that it has a stream in its care that is considered pristine and has been listed as a reference stream in the Nationwide Rivers Index.

Board members visit with landowners and operators in the WD to inform them of the opportunity for cost-share and encourage participation. Sometimes landowners can be hesitant of unfamiliar individuals visiting with them regarding options for assistance, whether it is technical or cost-share; but when their neighbors (members of the Board) provide accurate information to them regarding the assistance they can receive, they are more receptive.

The Board is a vital link between residents of their watershed and NRCS, as well as a promoter of conservation with anyone they meet in their daily activities.

This past year, the Board assisted with the publishing of the Cowley County CD newsletter, partially funded the purchase of a multi-media projector that NRCS, the CD, or the WD can use for educational events, and assisted CD with the Wildflower Tour.

RC&D/NRCS Earth Team Award
Central Prairie RC&D Area, Great Bend, Kansas

The Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area, in its eighth year of existence, had 816 volunteers contribute 23,041 hours. Central Prairie RC&D council members and volunteers are visible in traditional programs that enhance the quality of life while realizing economic growth in harmony with natural resources. Local projects initiated that integrate RC&D goals with new national goals include: Upland Game Bird Habitat Improvement Program; Kansas Wildlife Feeding the Hungry (9740 pounds of venison from 119 donated deer); Economic Development Loan Programs; Kansas Carbon Sequestration Program; Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy; Kansas Small Towns Environmental Program (KAN STEP) grant to St. Jo Fire House; Master Fire Plans in McPherson, Rice, Reno, and Ellsworth Counties; public, district, and commissioner meetings in eight counties; 1,930 bikes and 200 wheelchairs restored in programs in partnership with landfills and Ellsworth Correctional Facility; Barton County lake cleanup; Safety Days; exclusive Midwest grant allocated for Brownfield site identifications, assessment, and recovery of buried tanks; recycling; Bike Rodeo; Honor Flights for World War II (WWII) Veterans--to date, 404 World War II veterans and 469 guardians (for a total of 873 Kansans) have taken an Honor Flight (current applications for Honor Flights on file from various counties are: Barton - 182; Edwards - 25; Ellsworth - 21; McPherson - 65; Pawnee - 24; Reno - 40; Rice - 23; and Stafford – 30); Memorial Book Tabloid of Honor Flight attendees, printed by Hutchinson Correctional Facility; estate planning workshops; Stafford “PRIDE” grant oversight; wind energy, ethanol, and bio-diesel workshops; and working with counties to establish haul-water permits.

Central Prairie RC&D Council

 

  Back row (left to right): Ken Cheney, Barton County; Mike Tripp, Ellsworth County. Richard Foster, Stafford County; Stacy Neilson, Edwards County; Dan Curtis, Central Prairie RC&D Coordinator;
Seated (left to right): Council President Linda Hoddy, Ellsworth County; and La Veta Miller, Pawnee County

Chief’s Field Award
Ashland Field Office, Ashland, Kansas

The Ashland Field Office (FO), located in Clark County, is always reliable in supporting all education projects for their citizens. The Clark County Conservation District (CD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) join forces to provide conservation information and education. With the leadership provided by the CD manager and support of the NRCS Staff, many volunteer hours were compiled. The FO organized the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, the Clark County Carbon Credit Meeting, a poster contest, Women in Ag Meeting, and the CD Annual Meeting. Outreach and education are important and actively supported in Clark County. Ashland is a small rural community with a population mainly supported by agriculture.

Clark County Conservation District Board

 

  Back row: Kelly Hazen, Galen Rankin, Mike McCarty. Front row: Helen Arnold, Heather Grigsby

Education is a priority in Clark County as is evident by the following events:

  • The Women in Ag Meeting with a luncheon was a huge hit this year and is aimed directly at educating local women about topics they are interested in. It helps build a feeling of community and mentoring among the participants.
  • The Ashland FO has had several different district conservationists (DCs) representing NRCS in recent years. The leadership has been good but is a factor in the “business as usual” thinking. The CD and NRCS have worked to build a united front to support the needs of producers and educate the public.
  • The Ashland FO has a goal to educate the public about any new conservation practices and programs as they become available.
  • The Clark County Carbon Credit Meeting provided the latest facts and figures to producers about a typically confusing topic.
  • The Progressive Agriculture Safety Day meeting was organized in 2004 and has had growing support. This year’s event totaled 142 volunteer hours. The CD manager provides outreach to multiple schools for this single event. Local groups and businesses are contacted to provide donated items for “goody bags.” The event achieves the very important goal of providing numerous classes to children highlighting safety objectives. Volunteers are trained by staff as needed. Many volunteers require little or no training because they come from a farming background or are presenters talking about their own businesses.

Volunteer Coordinator
Jamie Johnson

Jamie JohnsonFor two years Jamie has served as the Earth Team (ET) Volunteer Coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Area 2. She is responsible for the guidance and management of the ET Volunteer Program for 29 field offices (FOs), one area office (AO), and two established Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) areas.

Jamie’s area accumulated 33,461.50 hours utilizing 1633 volunteers with 100 percent office participation. The number of hours in her area doubled from the previous year. Her area also recruited and trained four out of the six apprentices in the state. The Kansas Apprentice Program (KAP) provides an opportunity for students to work with the agency to become familiar with the mission of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It also gives the agency an opportunity to look at the volunteer as a potential employee.

Jamie keeps herself readily available to provide assistance and guidance on the ET Volunteer Program (Program). She has traveled to various offices to provide training to new supervisors of volunteers on the use of volunteers, creating file folders, and the new tracking system. She also attends quarterly meetings with the state and national teleconference or meetings.

Jamie assists with the implementation of the ET State Work Plan. This guidance allows the state and area coordinators to view and track the accomplishments the Program has made and what needs to be targeted.

Jamie provides quarterly reports to the assistant state conservationist for field operations (ASTC-FO) and all offices in her area of responsibility. This allows offices to see how many volunteers and number of hours they have captured in comparison to other offices within the area. This also sparks a healthy competition.

She presents some of the quarterly reports during the area meetings utilizing graphs for visual illustration. This time is also used to acknowledge offices and individuals who have had significant hours or activities. She feels it is important to recognize those participating individuals for their contributions and management of the Program.

As part of her duties, Jamie checks the new tracking system regularly to ensure hours are being reported accurately and no duplicate hours are being entered. This management of the tracking system allows her to see which offices are actively using the tracking system and which offices may need additional training.

Jamie not only encourages FOs to advertise the ET Program within the local conservation district (CD) newsletters, but she makes sure to place ads in her county newsletter.

Jamie’s area was very receptive to the new database and the supervisors of volunteers were eager for the training to take place so they could start tracking in the new system.

Educating others on why volunteers are important is the greatest challenge. Jamie takes the time to seek out non-believers in the Program and reaches out to them in a way that helps them understand the benefits and possibilities of the Program.

FOs are continually reminded and encouraged to recognize volunteers for their efforts. Kansas has a statewide recognition program. Each office is encouraged to submit one nomination for each award category.

Every year during volunteer week, Jamie sends out the national packet and gives offices ideas on how to recognize volunteers. This year she encouraged them to send the thank you card to each volunteer in the area with the National Volunteer Week pin.

District Manager Award
Julie Jones, Lakin, Kansas

Julie JonesJulie Jones has been the conservation district (CD) manager for the Lakin Service Center for eight years. She belongs to the local Chamber of Commerce and the Lakin Booster Club. She has been on the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams committee for five years. Over the last few years, the committee has been working on salt cedar and river restoration projects. Her volunteerism extends to her involvement with the local “PRIDE” committee and projects such as community parks, planting trees along the highway, development of a walking and biking trail, and the development of an information booth for the community.

As CD manager, Julie is involved in two major educational events every year: The Progressive Ag Safety Day and the Ark River Water Festival (Festival). These two events educate more than 1,600 children, with the added benefit of educating their siblings and parents. A large percentage of the attending students are Hispanic and from a bilingual background. Southwest Kansas is now listed as a majority-minority area. Conservation and safety education is new to many of the students. The Progressive Ag Safety Day is an event that was established four years ago. Julie and the CD manager from Hamilton County are the organizers.

The Progressive Ag Safety Day is for fourth-grade students from Deerfield, Lakin, and Syracuse. Approximately 109 kids attended in September 2009, and 50 volunteers were recruited for the event. The volunteers teach the kids farm and home safety. There were 12 safety classes taught this year on topics like farm equipment, lawn mowers, guns, fire, electrical and chemical hazards, grain bins, Dig Safe, emergency response, and hand washing. A class on hand washing seems like a simple idea, but has proven to be vital in light of the current flu epidemic.

The Festival is a two-day event held in Garden City and sponsored by the Finney, Kearny, and Gray County CDs. The Festival has been held for nine years and continues to grow every year. There are approximately 1,500 fifth and sixth-grade students in attendance. Approximately 75 volunteers work as class presenters. Julie and the Festival committee demonstrate their creativity by producing new handouts and T-shirts for the annual events. The handouts are provided to Festival participants. T-shirts are given to participants of Safety Days and group pictures are taken to commemorate the event.

Julie is also known as a mentor for new offices interested in having their own water festivals and safety days. Julie makes sure her volunteers receive a thank you note and are recognized in other ways too. Articles are written about the two events and published in the local newspaper and in the CD newsletter, which includes pictures taken at each event.