Indianapolis, February 1, 2019 – Some people dream of traveling around the world, trying exotic cuisine or starting a new hobby when they retire. And while this may be on JoEllen Witt’s retirement agenda, she is still finding time to help Indiana USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Witt, a retired NRCS employee, was recently honored with the 2018 Indiana NRCS Earth Team Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2019 Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation District’s Annual Conference.
The Earth Team Volunteer of the Year Award is presented by Indiana NRCS to a volunteer at the local level for his or her work in advancing NRCS’ conservation and natural resource objectives and who has gone above and beyond in helping NRCS reach their goal of “helping people help the land.”
JoEllen Witt retired from Indiana NRCS as the southwest area field office assistant in February 2016, but she hasn’t stopped helping make the southwest area the finest in the state. She took a short time off after retirement and then was right back in the office serving as an Earth Team Volunteer.
Hiring a new employee can take time. During the six months the field office assistant position was vacant, JoEllen helped keep things going as efficiently as possible for the area office. When the position was filled, she played an integral part in training the new field office assistant by providing hands-on training and organizing binders with important information, making the transition to a new field office assistant seamless. Jo Ellen continues to volunteer weekly, supporting the staff in critical day-to-day tasks. She is an excellent sounding board for ideas and always quick to help out with any task.
According to Area Conservationist Dan Hovland, Jo Ellen has a passion for making sure a job is well done. “While no longer a federal employee, Jo Ellen is still a terrific asset to the agency,” he said. “She is professional in all she does and strives to use her volunteer time to ease the burden on the staff.”
In 2018, Jo Ellen volunteered 223 hours, saving NRCS over $5,500. In total, she has volunteered more than 700 hours – making her one of Indiana’s leading Earth Team Volunteers.
The Earth Team Volunteer Program was established in 1981 when Congress passed legislation allowing NRCS to use volunteers in all of its programs. During Fiscal Year 2018, more than 1,700 Indiana Earth Team volunteers donated 10,171 hours of their time. This work equates to approximately $251,122 which supported conservation in every single field office in the state.