Hartzog Awards

"When a VIP agrees to share his talents, skills and interests with the National Park Service, he is paying us one of the highest compliments possible by offering a most valued possession - his time."

George B. Hartzog, Jr.
Director, National Park Service,
1964-1972


In 1970, the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program started with a few hundred volunteers. Today, more than 246,000 VIPs donate their time, skills, and talents to the National Park Service every year. The George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service recognize the exemplary contributions of these very important people.

The National Park Service is honored to recognize the 2013 recipients:

Jim and Michael

Jim Robbins

Individual Volunteer Award
Jim Robbins
Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland

Robbins has been a driving force in reaching new audiences and forming partnerships that have expanded youth service and educational programs. Last year Jim personally contributed more than 500 volunteer hours to the park. He was also directly responsible for an additional 2,000 hours donated by church, school, and civic groups that he recruited to help in the park.

Robbins organized fun and innovative ways to get young people outdoors to enjoy nature, learn a little science, and give back. His tremendous outreach efforts last year included:

  • assisting with nine Eagle Scout projects;
  • creating a Seasons 101 program that brought youth groups to the park several times during the year to observe seasonal differences;
  • organizing park outings for veterans from a VA hospital;
  • working with a group of 120 kids to form a bucket brigade to move tons of dirt one-half mile to raise a trail;
  • motivating a group of 70 to hike trails one day and return the next day to perform trail work.
Ashley Burns

Ashley Burns

Youth Volunteer Award
Ashley Burns
George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri

Just 17 years old, Burns already has been volunteering for seven years. In addition to bringing her talent and energy to park operations throughout the year, Ashley has developed several engaging programs for special events:

  • On Prairie Day, Ashley staffed an extremely busy living history station;
  • On Carver Day, she taught visitors how to make peanut milk and conducted several presentations about Carver's 300 uses of the peanut plant;
  • For National Park Week, she introduced children to various art techniques at the park's Art in the Park event;
  • For Summer Junior Rangers, she assisted with a mock archeological dig and guided students through a series of science experiments. Participants made sweet potato starch and sweet potato flour using Carver's guidelines. They also made paper from peanut shells and made peanut milk.
Glen Brinkman with team

Glen Brinkman with team

Enduring Service Award
Glen Brinkman
Homestead National Monument of America, Nebraska

Glen was an active and dedicated volunteer for more than 15 years; he receives this award posthumously. Glen donated more than 13,000 hours to the park and its visitors. He will be especially remembered for his lasting contributions to Homestead's education programs and special events, including Pioneer Days and Homestead Days.

Brinkman and a park ranger created Pioneer Days to provide hands on, curriculum-based activities for fourth graders. In place-based activities, students get to measure land with a "walking A," use a husking peg to hand pick corn and throw it into a wagon pulled by draft horses, make sugar from sorghum, plow a field, learn how a steam engine and threshing machine work, visit a sod house, wash clothes with a wash board and stomper, dip candles, churn butter, quilt, spin wool, and experience other aspects of pioneer life.

During Homestead Days, Glen led a team that demonstrated antique farming equipment. They ran a threshing machine with a 1916 steam engine, used horses to power a well driller, mowed and raked hay using horse power, and displayed farm equipment. They even built a partial log cabin and a partial sod house using antique equipment. Glen's legacy at Homestead will live on through both his accomplishments and his family members who continue to his volunteer tradition.

the FRESH group

FRESH, the Flat Rock Exceptional Sandburg Helpers

Youth Volunteer Group Award
FRESH (Flat Rock Exceptional Sandburg Helpers)
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina

In 2013, 44 volunteers between the ages of 11 and 15 provided quality care for the descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's champion dairy goat herd that live in the park. These youth spent 1,560 hours working with the park's staff and other volunteers, including 4H mentors.

They learned about goats and the history of the dairy goat industry. They handled and groomed the goats, fed them, cleaned their stalls, and explained their history and role to site visitors. Their efforts provided 8,000 park visitors with insight into a unique aspect of the park. The group continues Mrs. Sandburg's tradition of showing the goats, earning two first place awards at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair.

Coastal Cleanup volunteers

Coastal Cleanup volunteers

Volunteer Group Award
Coastal Cleanup Corporation

Biscayne National Park, Florida

This nonprofit group founded by George and Suzy Pappas tackles the issue of marine debris and its effects on wildlife, particularly threatened and endangered sea turtles, in the park. George and Suzy have provided more than 800 volunteer hours themselves, in addition to leading and inspiring more than 400 alternative spring break volunteers who provided 2,500 hours toward shoreline cleanup.

Last year, the Coastal Cleanup Corporation removed more than 12,000 pounds of marine debris from sea turtle nesting beaches. If left on the beaches, the debris creates insurmountable obstacles for sea turtles coming ashore to nest on narrow strips of beach. Last year, the number of nests tripled, at least partially attributable to the group's cleanup efforts. Volunteers also monitored sea turtle nests, conducted invasive plant removal, and performed outreach efforts.

The Pappas' have found innovative ways to reuse some of the marine debris. George weaves indestructible doormats from the seemingly endless miles of fishing trap line that washes ashore and Suzy creates unique pieces of jewelry from items found on the shore.

volunteers at Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo volunteers

Park Volunteer Program Award
Cabrillo National Monument, California
Volunteer Coordinator: Tavio del Rio

Under ranger del Rio's leadership, this volunteer program has more than doubled in size since 2010. Last year, nearly 400 VIPs logged almost 12,000 hours. The influx of new volunteers has bolstered existing programs and allowed the park to provide new opportunities. Cabrillo volunteers are involved in almost every aspect of daily operations. Dynamic volunteer-based accomplishments include:

  • formation of the Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy–a nonprofit friends group that is adding new partnerships and raising funds to support the park;
  • the Tidepool Protection Education & Restoration program that monitors, protects, and interprets the park's unique tidepools to 250,000 annual visitors;
  • the Dusty Socks Club, which has partnered with 12 local organizations and agencies to promote healthy lifestyles through hikes for families and youth groups;
  • the Fort Rosencrans Goes to War program, which transformed a derelict bunker into a fully operating command post. Living history volunteers bring to life the story of the 19th Coast Artillery Regiment that served at this site during World Wars I & II;
  • the Artist-In-Residence program, showcasing works of local artists through lectures, exhibits, and demonstrations.

Previous awardees:
2012 Awards
2011 Awards
2010 Awards

After his retirement, George Hartzog and his wife Helen remembered the VIP program with a generous donation to the National Park Foundation. This fund has been used to support awards that honor the efforts of exceptional volunteers, groups, and park VIP programs.