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News Release

Honoring Virginia NRCS Earth Team During National Volunteer Week

Contact:
Barbara Bowen
(804) 287-1679


  National Volunteer Week 2021

Richmond, Va., April 15, 2021 -- While the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) traditionally recognizes its Earth Team volunteers during National Volunteer Week, the program and the celebration look a lot different this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing since early in 2020, created some significant challenges for staff seeking to sustain the program in offices that were closed to the public. This year’s theme, “Volunteer Virtually,” is especially appropriate as we used the Earth Team for ongoing field work and explored creative approaches to retain and sustain this vital work force.

Virginia's Earth Team was a compact but potent force in 2020, with 654 individuals contributing 5,608 volunteer work hours in the state’s 41 field offices and the State Office. While those numbers are significantly lower than the 2019 totals of 1,800 volunteers donating 16,000 hours, the value of time volunteered in 2020 nevertheless tallied up to more than $159,000.

"Virginia is a strong supporter of the Earth Team with a robust and very active program that regularly ranked in the top 10 states for hours donated over the past five years," said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, state conservationist. "Our numbers may have dropped in 2020, but our commitment has not waivered and we continue to explore unique ways to engage virtual and in-person volunteers in 2021."

Created in 1985, the Earth Team offers opportunities to volunteers aged 14 and over to work alongside NRCS staff to provide conservation services to private landowners and the public. These services can include technical assistance, office support and generating awareness about the rewards of conservation through community projects.

During National Volunteer Week, we’ll spotlight the following outstanding Virginia volunteers and their contributions to their communities and natural resource conservation:

  • David Pace, a 50-year-old National Guard master sergeant who’s approaching retirement from the military. He signed on with the NRCS’ Warrenton field office to get a closer look at our agency and its work and made a tremendous impact in a short time.

  • Kathy Holm, Alexandra Schmidt and Liz Ortiz NRCS employees who gave of their time to work multiple volunteer shifts at a busy COVID vaccination clinic in nearby Augusta County.

  • Keith Thomas, a 28-year-old with a talent for computer science who took on the challenge of replacing a troublesome application that modeled the efficiency of various grazing systems. His VA Graz tool is now in use throughout the state by NRCS and other allied agencies and earned him Virginia’s Outstanding Individual Volunteer Award for 2020.

Visit our website to learn more about the Virginia Earth Team Program. Contact NRCS State Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Bowen or reach out to your local NRCS service center to get more information on local service opportunities.

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*Note: The Value of Volunteer Time to the Agency in Virginia is $28.46/hour as established by the Independent Sector and utilized by the Federal Interagency Team for Volunteerism.