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Earth Team Volunteers | 2010 Awards

2010 Kansas Earth Team Volunteer Awards

Conservation District Manager Award
Diana Solko, Oberlin, Kansas

Diana Solko has been the district manager for the Decatur County Conservation District in Oberlin, Kansas, since November 9, 1981. She has been an active member of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) Employees Organization, the Northwest Kansas Conservation and Environmental Alliance (Alliance), the Western Prairie Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, and the Decatur County Advisory Board.

Diana is very informed about volunteers and the Earth Team (ET) Volunteer Program. She has been supportive of the new area volunteer coordinators and is always the first to reply to requested action items. Besides her willingness to assist Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, she has amassed over 2,334 volunteer hours contributing to the success of various councils, agencies, organizations, and projects such as:

Diana Solko


  District Manager, Diana Solko (left) assists with registration at the Western Prairie RC&D Annual Meeting
  • The Western Prairie RC&D Council, where she donated over 150 volunteer hours in 2010 and serves as secretary/treasurer to the Council.
  • The Alliance, where she assisted with projects such as the Conservation Kids Roundup (conservation day for approximately 300 fourth grade students from eight surrounding counties) and Women in Denim (educational day with various speakers who address issues faced by rural women).
  • The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) Bird Habitat Project, serving in a financial capacity.
  • A watershed planning project called the Republican River Restoration Partnership. This partnership includes Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado.

Diana exhibits exemplary leadership skills and team spirit. She uses both to foster a good working relationship with NRCS and the many other relationships she has formed through volunteerism.

Group Award
State Soils Contest Crew, Manhattan, Kansas

The Riley State Soils Contest Crew organized and hosted the northeast Kansas Regional High School Soil Judging Contest. It takes a lot of people and hours to facilitate a high-quality contest. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Manhattan Field Office (FO) was asked by local Future Farmers of America (FFA) teacher, Bob Whearty, to help host the event. Hosting included hours spent locating a suitable site; obtaining landowner permissions; finding a contractor to dig the soil pits; creating a scoring/tabulation location and staffing it; and finding other volunteers for timers, scorecard runners, and judges. Roy Taylor graciously volunteered his property, met with organizers, and mowed paths to the six soil pits to ensure student safety. Three Kansas State University (KSU) cooperative extension agents volunteered to set up the tabulation center. Fifteen other volunteers served in a variety of capacities. An estimated 100 hours of volunteer time was accrued.

This contest was one of four contests held across the state and winners were eligible to attend the national contest in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thirteen schools and 26 teams were part of this elite group of participants who numbered 88 students.

Challenges included the logistics of hosting the event including weather concerns, first aid, scoring, safety at the contest site, and work assignments. Volunteers worked together to ensure safety of participants.

Through this event, partnerships between NRCS, KSU Extension, and Riley County High School FFA were strengthened. Relationships were built with the landowner, NRCS, contractors, KSU student volunteers, and others. With NRCS being a prominent partner in hosting the contest, this type of exposure will help with recruitment and the furthering of the NRCS mission of helping people help the land.

Riley State Soils Contest Crew



Riley County High School Future Farmers of America instructor, Robert Whearty (back row left) and his soils judging contest volunteer crew "jump" at the chance to volunteer.

State Soils Contest

High school students from across Kansas participate in the State Soils Contest in Riley County on October 1, 2009

Individual Award (State and National Award Recipient)
Robert Mosier

Robert (Bob) Mosier is a retired educator, having served the educational needs of children for over 37 years following the completion of his own education at Pittsburg State University, where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. During the many years he has resided in Kiowa County, Bob has been a leader in many areas. During Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, Bob contributed 315 volunteer hours to various charges.

The majority of Bob’s volunteering emphasis and activity has been outreach and education. Having served as a board member of Greensburg Green Town, he has promoted and educated people on “going green,” “green building,” and “green living.” He travels all over the United States giving presentations on the “going green” movement and the success of that initiative in Greensburg, Kansas, since the 2007 Greensburg tornado.

Robert Mosier and Eric Banks


Robert Mosier (left) receives his Earth Team Volunteer Award plaque from Eric Banks.

This past year, he assisted with the planning of the e-waste collection in Kiowa County that was held in June 2010, through assistance with the Rice County Recycling and E-Waste Program and the Sunflower Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area, as well as the Kiowa County Conservation District.

Bob is also actively involved in the following projects and/or initiatives:

  • Bikes for Youth, lead by the Sunflower RC&D.
  • Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, which involves local hunters who donate venison that is given to local food banks for distribution to families in need.
  • The Greensburg High School Green Club, which he began to get students to look into and implement ways of living “green.” Activities have included recycling Christmas trees and collecting and recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
  • Serving as a member of the Public Square Steering Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee for Greensburg tornado recovery.
  • Serving as a member of the Kiowa County United, a not-for-profit corporation formed to develop a business complex to attract numerous businesses to Greensburg.
  • The Fuels for Schools Project, in association with the Kansas Forest Service, which is a study of the utilization of woody biomass as an alternative energy source for fuel.

Bob has shown great innovation, reliability, and adaptability as a leader in the community and across the state. His passion for education drives him to continue finding ways to get people involved through communication and volunteering efforts.

Resource Conservation and Development/Natural Resources Conservation Service Award
Western Prairie Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc.
Colby, Kansas

The Western Prairie Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area has completed its 16th year in northwest Kansas. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the Western Prairie RC&D had a total of 33 volunteers who contributed a total of 2,236 hours. Each volunteer showed enthusiasm for the Western Prairie RC&D’s many projects and met the challenge of seeing them all completed. Following are just a few of the projects completed during FY 2010:

The Western Prairie RC&D Web site was updated with a totally new look. Council members encouraged additional counties to join the Northwest Kansas Regional Recycling Project in Thomas County. The Northwest Kansas Animal Shelter project at Goodland, Kansas, was expanded to include the dog obedience training program at a Colorado prison facility.

RC&D Council working


Western Prairie RC&D Council at work

The Republican River Restoration Partnership became a high priority for Council members with several meetings and planning sessions which were held in northwest Kansas, as well as in southwest Nebraska. Northwest Kansas Conservation and Environmental Alliance successfully completed their fourth year of educating fourth graders with the Conservation Round-Up. Over 290 students/teachers attended the Conservation Round-Up during April of 2010. They also sponsored a “Women in Denim” event for the wives of their landowners. The “Women in Denim” program was a great success with over 65 participants.

Council members revised and adopted a new loan program. This resulted in an additional loan being funded by the Western Prairie RC&D. Planning and grant writing assistance was provided for a new complex, which now houses a new senior center, theater, bowling alley, and youth recreation center. This new complex was built at Oberlin, Kansas. Western Prairie RC&D provided planning assistance and actual labor for a green home project in Goodland, Kansas. The project involved college-aged students who completely remodeled a donated house as part of their school class curriculum. The house will later be sold to support future class projects.

It is clear that with the assistance of the Western Prairie RC&D, its council members, and other related groups, many worthwhile projects were accomplished throughout FY 2010.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Employee Award
Greg Henderson, Kinsley, Kansas

Edwards County has worked very hard in the last seven years to build a successful recycling program. Greg Henderson could be counted on for assistance and project ideas.

One of those projects was “Bikes for Kids.” The county’s recycling center was used as a drop off for all unwanted bikes. For the past five years, Greg has brought his farm trailer to Kinsley to assist with bike collection and transports bikes to the Ellsworth Correctional Facility where they are repaired and ultimately, reused. He retrieves the refurbished bicycles and brings them back to Kinsley to be distributed to the children in Edwards County.

Greg enjoys being on-site when bikes are distributed. The joy that is generated from receiving a bike is a wonderful reward for the volunteer hours Greg donates to this project.

Greg Henderson


Greg Henderson

National Association of Conservation Districts/Natural Resources Conservation Service Award
Thomas County Conservation District/Colby Field Office, Colby, Kansas

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, members of the Thomas County Conservation District (CD) Board, Mr. Blake Potter, and various other volunteers have assisted the Thomas County CD and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Thomas County CD, together with NRCS employees and volunteers attended the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) Convention to become better informed about conservation issues in the nation and state; organized and helped with a local KACD workshop to train local CDs about changes in the national and state cost-share programs; judged conservation posters for the local annual meeting; organized and facilitated the Thomas County CDs Annual Meeting; organized and participated in a Kid’s Conservation Roundup; moved grass drills and provided maintenance to those drills to help in accommodating producers and providing for timely grass seeding; helped distribute trees ordered by customers of the CD; and participated in outreach activities, such as mailing newsletters and staffing a display at the local county fair.

Members of District board and Colby Field Office


  (Back row from left) Claude Herren, Ben Hoeting, Ed Geihsler, Jon Starns
(Front row from left) Debbie Potter, Melanie Voss

The Thomas County CD supports the NRCS field office in Colby, Kansas, and the population that makes up Thomas County. CD Earth Team volunteers provide great assistance to the CD and NRCS by reaching out to the public when time and people are limited during a normal workday. Volunteers have been instrumental in providing conservation education to county residents of all ages living in both urban and rural areas.

Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator Award (state and national recipient)
Tracey Martin, Office Automation Assistant, Salina State Office

As the Earth Team (ET) volunteer coordinator for the State Office (SO) and Plant Materials Center (PMC), Tracey Martin is responsible for the management of the ET Volunteer Program (Program) in these two offices. She became an ET volunteer coordinator in 2008, and since that time has increased the number of volunteers from 25 in 2008 to 89 in 2010, and volunteer hours from 261 in 2008 to 972 in 2010 in her area of responsibility.

Following are some of Tracey’s accomplishments during FY 2010:

  • Nearly doubled the number of hours in her area from the previous year from 501 to 972.
  • Assisted in the recruitment and training of a SO apprentice. The student became a summer employee and was later selected as a USDA/1890 National Scholar.
  • Wrote an article for submission to the ET national newsletter, Volunteer Voice, and submitted another from the PMC.
  • Contacted all local schools in an effort to encourage students to participate in the ET Kansas Apprentice Program (KAP).
Tracey Martin presenting award


Tracey Martin (right) presents an award to an Earth Team Volunteer
  • Facilitated all requests for volunteers for the SO and PMC by selecting and scheduling the volunteer. Completed the tracking of all volunteer hours for the SO and PMC.
  • Initiated ET Trivia to be shared with all Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees and partners in an effort to promote interest in the program.
  • Promoted the ET Volunteer Program to SO employees at staff meetings in an effort to encourage employees to utilize volunteers and provided ideas on ways to utilize volunteers.
  • Hosted an ET Volunteer Celebration during National Volunteer Week. Twenty-three volunteers and 20 employees attended. This was a special celebration marking the 25th Anniversary of the ET.

Tracey was also selected as the outstanding ET Volunteer Coordinator at the national level.

Chief's Field Award
Cimarron Field Office, Cimarron, Kansas

The Cimarron Field Office (FO) actively seeks and supports the use of Earth Team (ET) volunteers. The responsibilities involved in having a successful volunteer program are shared between the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff and the conservation district (CD) staff. All staff members make a conscious effort to look for creative ideas for volunteer projects that would support conservation educational goals. Volunteers are then recruited in various methods. Many of the volunteers are retired persons, students, family, and friends.

Volunteers are recognized during the CD’s annual meeting with a certificate and a keepsake award. The staff meets with and trains volunteers. All activities, whether assisting around the office or with educational programs, are supported by all of the FO staff.

Cimarron Field Office staff


Cimarron Field Office Staff (from left) - Jeff Ladner, District Conservationist; Barbara Good, Gray County District Manager; and Delores Eberle, Soil Conservation Technician

Several of the projects in Gray County that utilize volunteers are considered fairly routine activities; however, it should never be taken for granted the amount of time that is required to produce a fair booth, run a poster contest, or promote several aggressive educational programs. Gray County has a very successful “Day at the Farm” activity and many volunteers are repeat individuals who come back to assist every year. The CD also co-sponsors the Ark River Water Festival, which is supported by NRCS Staff, as well.

The Cimarron FO is a great example of how working together for a common goal can generate results through volunteerism.