2019 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Volunteer-in-Parks 50 Years logo with an NPS arrowhead inside a green and blue circle with a yellow banner

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service Volunteers-in-Parks program

The VIP program was established under Director George Hartzog 50 years ago, long after the first volunteers began service, as a formal opportunity for the public to share their talents, and precious time with the agency in support of our mission. 50 years later, the program is stronger than ever! This year we celebrate the outstanding contributions of volunteers in fiscal year 2019 through our annual George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, an annual recognition of volunteer excellence in NPS, and look forward to the opportunities the next 50 years will bring.

Check out a video celebration of this year’s recipients via our partners at the National Park Foundation.

A man wearing a life jacket walks along a dock carrying canoe paddles
Mike preparing to volunteer with the Cuyahoga Valley Volunteer River Patrol

NPS Photo

Individual Award

This award celebrates outstanding volunteer service performed by an individual in fiscal year 2019.

Mike Schnellinger, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

In three years, Mike Schnellinger has contributed over 700 hours of volunteer service to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. What cannot be measured is the wealth of knowledge and abundance of passion he has brought with him to the park through this service. Since 2017, after retiring from the education and information sector, Mike has been committed to serving the park. Mike started volunteering with the Trailblazers, a volunteer group that engages with visitors on the trails to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable visit. Now, Mike serves as a lead volunteer for that program. In 2018, Mike was influential in providing guidance and expertise to park staff in launching the first-ever Cuyahoga Valley Volunteer River Patrol, a program aimed at supporting visitors using the river. Mike's work improved the preventative search and rescue efforts in the park, increased the park's ability to meet the needs of water trail partners, and was key to achieving the designation of the water trail. Since then, Mike's paddling knowledge and skill, as well as his organization and willingness to take on a leadership role, have helped to expand the River Patrol program. Mike's dedication and enthusiasm have left indelible marks on the volunteer program in Cuyahoga Valley and surely will continue to inspire others to do the same.
A woman in a green jacket sits on a rocky cliff while writing notes in her workbook
Virginia takes field notes while perched alongside a cliff in the Blue Ridge Parkway

NPS Photo

Youth Award

This award celebrates outstanding service performed by a volunteer under 18 years of age, in fiscal year 2019.

Virginia Ward, Blue Ridge Parkway

Virginia Ward is a 15-year-old young woman from Fairview, North Carolina, who has a deep love and respect for the wild places tucked amongst the craggy rock outcroppings of America's Favorite Drive. Ward has been volunteering at Blue Ridge Parkway for 3 years where she assists the park's botanist, Chris Ulrey, monitor critically imperiled plant communities that are relics of the last ice age. Braving the elements, carrying heavy equipment over rough terrain, and taking copious notes while perching on exposed cliffs, are just a walk in the park for Ward, who hopes to one day become a botanist with the National Park Service. Ward's assistance has been a welcome gift to the rare plant program at the Parkway, making it possible for the Parkway's one botanist to complete monitoring work more safely and efficiently.

A group of volunteers sit on steps and pose for a picture
Channel Islands Native Plant Garden Volunteers after a day of volunteering in the plant nursery

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Group Award

This award celebrates the fiscal year 2019 accomplishments of an outstanding organized group of volunteers.

Channel Islands Native Plant Garden Volunteers, Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands Native Plant Garden Volunteers are an exceptional group of volunteers. These dedicated VIPs maintain the native plant and demonstration gardens in the park, as well as the mainland native plant nursery. Some of these volunteers also work on the islands maintaining nurseries for native plant propagation. In fiscal year 19 a total of 15 volunteers in this group contributed over 1380 hours working in the garden and the mainland nursery. Combined, these volunteers have over 73 years of volunteer service in the garden. These volunteers manage the native plant garden on their own and have made it truly a destination spot for gardeners in Southern California. Their work allows visitors to feel like they are getting an island experience without stepping foot on one of the five remote islands.
A group of teenagers and adults stand along a rocky beach holding bags of the littler they collected
Volunteers-In-Parks from Mount Tahoma High School Deaf T-Birds Club and staff from Seattle Area National Park Sites help cleanup beach litter at Olympic National Park

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Youth Group Award

This award celebrates the outstanding 2019 contributions of an organized group of volunteers under 18 years of age.

City to Summit, Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park-Seattle

The City to Summit Program (C2S), works with Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park-Seattle to create personalized volunteer experiences for youth of color, youth with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth, and youth that may be experiencing systemic oppressive forces. Exceptional accomplishments in 2019 include the creation of a volunteer program serving underrepresented youth and their families, increased volunteer engagement at local national parks aligning with youth’s interests, and developing meaningful connections through creating welcoming and inclusive National Park experiences. C2S collaborates with youth and their families along with community partners, including the Washington Trails Association and YMCA Bold & Gold, to design inclusive opportunities that build volunteer capacity and develop a sense of belonging in National Parks. A major accomplishment of these efforts is the Program’s development of six personalized volunteer trips to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park for the youth program participants.
A group of volunteers dressed in Civil War clothing stand near a cannon that has been fired
The Living History Team at Vicksburg NMP illustrate artillery firings to assist in their education programming

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Program Award

This award celebrates an outstanding 2019 volunteer program.

Vicksburg National Military Park VIP Program

During Fiscal Year 2019, volunteers assisted the park team with major activities including two nationwide work days (Park Day and National Public Lands Day), a 5K race and bike race, a Junior Ranger Camp for young visitors, and numerous cleanups of the Vicksburg National Cemetery – a site which preserves and honors the memory of 17,000 Union Civil War veterans. Throughout summer 2019, the Living History team illustrated artillery firings, musket firings, and civilian encampments to give our visitors a better understanding of soldiers’ and civilians’ experiences. Additionally, our Park WATCH and Interpretation volunteers work routinely to help visitors explore the park safely. The efforts of the park’s treasured volunteers help the Vicksburg National Military Park preserve and interpret the important resources and stories the park preserves, associated with the Civil War siege and defense of Vicksburg, and the history of Vicksburg from Reconstruction through the present.
Two people stand in front of a memorial wall and read names
Donald connects with a visitor to explain the importance and meaning of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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Enduring Service Award

This "lifetime achievement" volunteer award celebrates the contributions of an individual volunteer over many years of service.

Donald Adam, National Mall and Memorial Parks

Donald Adam’s fierce dedication and loyalty to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial led him to become one of the most consistent and earliest arriving of National Mall and Memorial Parks volunteers; coming in early on weekend mornings before the rush of visitors to make sure that someone is there to greet them. Over the years he has expanded his volunteer sites to include the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and anywhere else he is needed. He is an NPS-trained bike tour guide--giving bike tours from time to time, has served in almost every capacity during Cherry Blossom festivities, and even helped the Ken Burns film documentary team at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Through his service, Donald shares stories related to the servicemembers on the Wall as well as his own stories of service both in Vietnam during the war and at the Wall as a volunteer. It doesn’t matter what the weather is – as long as he can physically get there, Don will be at the apex of the Wall helping visitors connect to the importance and meaning behind the memorial, and the people it honors.

Last updated: August 24, 2020