2022 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service

National Park Service is pleased to congratulate the national and regional recipients of the 2022 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service. The contributions of these award recipients embody the spirit of service, engagement, and stewardship present throughout our national parks.

The George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service are given annually to recognize the exemplary contributions National Park Service volunteers make to their park and to their community. George B. Hartzog, Jr. served as the Director of the National Park Service and created the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program in 1970. In retirement, he and his wife, Helen, established a fund to support the program and honor the efforts of volunteers.

Innovation Award

This award recognizes a volunteer initiative within a park or program that has demonstrated significant innovation or creativity in meeting a park/program goal or need through volunteerism.

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1 minute, 37 seconds

Members of the Biscayne Beach Cleanup program accept the 2022 National George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Award for innovation at Biscayne National Park.

A group of volunteers poses behind a pile of collected debris and trash bags on the beach, the ocean stretches behind them, two boats sit on the water.
A group of young volunteers proudly show the debris they collected and removed from a beach cleanup.

National Recipient: Biscayne Beach Cleanup

Region 1, 2, 4 (Southeast) | Biscayne National Park

Though begun in 2004, Biscayne Beach Cleanup began data collection in 2014. The goal of Biscayne Beach Cleanup is to rid turtle nesting beaches of marine debris during winter months in preparation for the summer nesting season. The quantity of trash that washes in and the distance of shorelines means that there is not enough staff to accomplish this, so the debris removal workforce is entirely comprised of daily volunteers. The early years of the program focused on recruiting volunteers from the Alternative Break program, giving university-aged students from all around the country the opportunity to serve during school breaks.

With the pandemic shutting down travel, to include Alternative Break programs, Biscayne Beach Cleanup was left without a go-to source for volunteer recruitment. Yet debris continued to pile up. And sea turtles continued to need clear beaches to lay eggs.

For FY2022, program managers knew they needed adapt recruitment methods. Innovative thinking led to a win/win pivot: instead of recruiting from the Alternative Break program, Biscayne Beach Cleanup now turned to the local community. Recruitment was altered to target South Florida groups such as community businesses, organizations, and local universities and colleges and other individuals who wanted to remain close to home.

The response was monumental. In FY2022, Biscayne Beach Cleanup had a record-breaking season. 275 Volunteers-In-Parks removed 31,400 lbs. of debris by donating 1,887 hours of volunteer time. This weight was the most debris ever removed from Biscayne beaches in a single cleanup season. (In comparison, there were only 21,790lbs of debris collected in FY2021!)

Regional Recipients

A group of volunteers pose for a photo in the woods, they stand behind a pile of trash bags filled with debris, fallen leave cover the ground.
A group of volunteers smile with the debris they collected during a volunteer clean-up at Rock Creek Park.

Rock Creek Conservancy

Region 1 (National Capital Area) | Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Conservancy is one of our park partners that assists our park with volunteer programming, and by far one of our most involved partners. Rock Creek Conservancy runs two extremely successful volunteer programs in conjunction with the park.

These programs include the Stream Team Leaders and Weed Warrior program. Separately these programs have contributed to strengthening community engagement by increasing the capacity of volunteer opportunities in the park, training community members in stewardship practices, and tackling major on-going issues.

Both volunteer programs consist heavily of hosting volunteer events that the public can attend with minimal prior training or experience. Many of these events are hosted by volunteers that were trained in part or wholly by the Conservancy.

During the onset of Covid-19 Rock Creek Conservancy adjusted their volunteer practices to accommodate the challenges of the pandemic while still serving the community by providing numerous opportunities but taking protective measures like reducing the group size of volunteer events.

While the park has been actively rebuilding from the most severe impacts of the pandemic Rock Creek Conservancy has continued to maintain their COVID-conscious practices and gradually scaled up their programming as community activity has increased in relation to the pandemic. In 2022 Rock Creek Conservancy was directly responsible for contributing almost 6,000 volunteer hours to the park, through various volunteer events and community engagement initiatives.

Partners: Rock Creek Conservancy

A volunteer holds a red bucket tipped over a young plant; water is pouring out. Several volunteers are in the background tending to plants.
Volunteers work to water young plants in a native plant restoration area in Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Song Dog Native Plant Nursery Volunteer Program

Region 8, 9, 10, 12 (Pacific West) | Lake Mead National Recreation Area

The Lake Mead Song Dog Native Plant Nursery was established in 1993. Thirty years later, the nursery has expanded to not only supports all restoration and vegetation efforts at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, but it also supports projects throughout the Mojave Desert for several different agencies. With one career seasonal NPS staff member who works two days a week at the nursery, this work wouldn’t be accomplished without both year-round operational volunteers and consistent engagement with event volunteers.

In FY2022, 17 year-round volunteers gave 3,433 hours of their time to assist with growing new plants to restore precious habitats for our native ecosystem. In total, they helped water, fertilize, transplant, and maintain over 25,600 plants for 19 restoration projects throughout the Mojave Desert. While year-round volunteers assist with the long-term goals and more ongoing tasks, event volunteers assist with “quicker” projects such as collecting 212.9 g of seed, cleaning 5,813 g (12.8 lbs) of seeds, planting 506 plants at restoration sites, making and dispersing over 4,000 seed balls, and so much more. In total, the nursery engaged with 254 event volunteers who gave 693 hours of their time.

The Song Dog Nursery wouldn’t be able to sustain the number of partnerships and restoration projects without its dedicated volunteers. To keep the integrity of the native plant population, the nursery volunteers maintain a seed bank containing a multitude of native seeds so that when crisis strikes, they can respond quickly. Having an abundance of native plants helps support healthy soil, biodiversity, and local wildlife.

A member of the Zion Condor Team speaks to visitors at the park.
A member of the Zion Condor Team speaks to visitors at the park.

Zion Volunteer Condor Team, "The Condorators"

Region 6,7,8 (Intermountain) | Zion National Park

The Zion Condor Volunteers (affectionately known as the Condorators) provide crucial support to the understaffed wildlife program in Zion National Park. With only 2 permanent and 4 seasonal staff, Zion wildlife staff monitors federally threatened breeding populations of Mexican Spotted Owl, monitors peregrine falcons to mitigate impacts of recreational climbing, conducts mist-netting of spring emergent bat populations to monitor for the presence of white-nose syndrome in Zion, Pipe Springs National Monument, and Cedar Breaks National Monument, collects data for a mule deer research study responds to Integrated Pest Management issues and wildlife callouts, and provides support for NEPA compliance on multiple large infrastructure projects.

Adequate monitoring for California Condors is well beyond the capacity of current staff levels. The Condorators work together to provide daily visual and telemetry tracking of endangered California Condors in Zion. Through their efforts, we are provided with detailed daily reports of what condors were sighted and signaled, as well as updates on peregrine falcon and other wildlife sightings.

The Condorators quickly adapted to emerging technologies in the condor tracking space, including the introduction of a novel data collection app and upgraded telemetry receivers. In a matter of weeks, condor volunteers migrated from paper datasheets to digital data entry formats and learned to navigate our new telemetry receivers. To date, they have all been diligently and proficiently collecting data that can be accessed by all partners in the California Condor recovery effort.

In March of 2023, the Utah/Arizona population of California Condors was faced with the added threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the population. The Condorators went into overdrive, modifying their usual schedules to provide additional support and coverage to monitor the condors in the park for mortality signals. This adaptation was pivotal as there is a very narrow window of time to locate and retrieve any sick or dead condors for pathological testing.

The physical demands of their work should not be overlooked. Our Condorators regularly make the four-mile round-trip hike with over 1000 feet of elevation gain to Scouts Lookout (a popular hangout for the California Condors) to conduct their monitoring efforts. Weather in the monitoring area can reach highs around 100 degrees, below freezing temperatures, high gusty winds, and other inclement conditions. The core group of 6 volunteers, all in their 60’s and 70’s, dedicated over 2600 collective hours from October 2021 to December 2022 and show no sign of slowing down.

Impact Award: Youth and Young Adult Category 

This award recognizes a single individual age 30 or under (non-Veteran), 35 or under (for Veterans), who has made a meaningful impact for their park or program.

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Josefina Pohlhammer Aliaga accepts the 2022 National Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service for a Youth/Young Adult.

A young woman in a volunteer uniform stands next to a mule, holding a rope with one hand and petting the mule with the other. They stand in a dirt pasture and trees are in the background behind them.
Josefina Pohlhammer Aliaga guides a mule in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. 

National Recipient: Josefina Pohlhammer Aliaga

Region 1 (National Capital Area) | Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

From May 1 through September 9, 2022, Josefina Pohlhammer Aliaga volunteered 740 hours at C&O Canal National Historical Park during the hottest and busiest part of the year. She arrived from Chile just as the chaotic summer season was beginning and was all too happy to jump in and learn on the job.

In four short months, Josefina integrated herself into the interpretive and volunteer operations at Great Falls. It was not any one accomplishment that stood out to her colleagues. Instead, it was Josefina’s attitude towards the job and towards everyone she worked with. She came to work every morning excited about what the day would bring. She learned quickly and was ready to offer coaching or counseling if others struggled. She was welcoming of new staff and took initiative to make them feel like part of the team. She was positive, professional, and engaging with all visitors she interacted with and always took a personal interest in supporting visitors who preferred communication in Spanish over English.

As one staff member put it in an unsolicited letter of appreciation:

“Josefina and I were the only staff members on site on Sunday and she carried equal responsibility for visitor center and mule care operations. I greatly appreciated her efforts and flexibility throughout the entire weekend. Last weekend aside, I am so impressed with the level of commitment and collaboration that Josefina has brought to our team, and I enjoy working with her.”

Regional Recipients

A young girl poses for a picture in her Cub scout uniform, she wears gloves as she holds out a trash bag.
Hannah Murray in her Cub Scout uniform ready to volunteer on her 6th birthday at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.

Hannah Murray

Region 1, 2, 4 (Southeast) | Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park

Hannah Murray (age 6) is a reoccurring youth Volunteer-In-Parks who works at Fort Moultrie doing physical/ landscaping projects. The site needs consistent maintenance and upkeep due to weeds and invasive species in the historic fort. This is a difficult task as it must be done by hand and can be compounded when experiencing the summer heat. Hannah continually visits the Fort to help staff complete this necessary work. This is a never-ending battle that she looks forward to tackling and she often looks to recruit other children to help her.

Hannah is a Cub Scout who not only loves working to improve the Fort but, serves as an ambassador to the park as well, talking with others her age to come experience the park. She comes to the park often to participate in events like National Public Lands Day and Park Day to volunteer and give back, improving the historic landscape at the Fort’s grounds. For her birthday, Hannah elected to come to Fort Moultrie to weed the parade ground with staff. The Cub Scouts organization recognized Hannah as Cub Scout of the Year in 2022 because of her efforts in recruiting new youth volunteers to the park and encouraging others to learn about their local history.

Partners: Boy Scouts of America

Impact Award: Adult Category

This award recognizes a single individual over age 30 (non-Veterans) or over age 35 (for Veterans) who has made a meaningful impact for their park or program.

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Dr. Bill Sayer accepts the 2022 National George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Award for individual impact at Valles Caldera National Preserve.

A portrait of a smiling man wearing a brown ballcap and a black fleece jacket standing outdoors.
Volunteer Dr. Bill Sayre at Valles Caldera National Preserve.

National Recipient: Dr. Bill Sayre

Region 6, 7, 8 (Intermountain) | Valles Caldera National Preserve

Dr. Bill Sayre is a superstar volunteer at Valles Caldera National Preserve whose efforts and expertise have benefited multiple program areas. It is not one specific contribution, but the variety of contributions that Bill has made to our park that makes him an exceptional candidate for a Hartzog award.

As a retired educator and geologist, Bill has a profound gift for inspiring the hearts and minds of park visitors at Valles Caldera. He routinely volunteers ~20 hours per week with our interpretation team to greet and orient visitors, develop programs, and assist with community outreach. During a particularly challenging period of staff turnover this winter and spring, Bill voluntarily changed his schedule to come in on weekends to ensure that visitors would receive the customer service that they expect when visiting an NPS site.

Bill is also a key member of our Interpretation, Education & Volunteers program’s Strategic Planning Team, and his contributions will help us chart the course for the next 3 to 5 years in our program. He is an analytical thinker, and he represents a variety of park stakeholders. He is also an advocate for indigenous communities, offering thought-provoking questions and feedback about how we may better incorporate tribal and pueblo communities and traditional knowledge/management in our programmatic decisions. His contributions to the strategic planning process are an investment in the future of this park and its advancement of equity, inclusion, and access.

Regional Recipients

A photo of a women in a volunteer uniform with a man and another woman in a park ranger uniform.
Ann Houghton at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Ann Houghton

Region 1, 2, 4 (Southeast) | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is proud to nominate outstanding 20- Year Volunteer-In-Park, Ann Houghton for the Adult Category: Impact Award. Having shared her time with few if any breaks in service since 2004, Ann has dedicated well over 4000 hours as a generous, skilled and stalwart front-line representative of the National Park Service.

During 20 years of stewardship at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ann’s commitment has not wavered. Through FY22, she continued to improve the experience of park visitors and colleagues by sharing her signature enthusiasm, good-nature, and steadying, insightful knowledge. Having served in many different volunteer capacities over the years, Ann quietly draws from first-hand, boots-on-ground experience in interaction with curious visitors and new members of staff. She has a gift for sharing vital information with children and adults, while giving them space to consider concepts and continue self-guided exploration, but often through a more wide-view, responsible lens.

Ann’s VIP career includes time served as Trail Maintainer, Cemetery Assistant, Native Plants Gardener, Demonstrator for Special Events, Parkwide Litter Patrol Volunteer, and Leave No Trace Ambassador. The bulk of her hours are dedicated to visitor services and resource stewardship at North Carolina’s Oconaluftee Visitor Center and surrounding Mountain Farm. Thanks to her affinity for people, enduring commitment to gold-star visitor services, adaptability (through staffing changes, the pandemic, and other challenges) and support for all park colleagues, Ann plays an integral role in training new members of the workforce (volunteers, interns, rangers seasonal and permanent). Ann is a much respected, trusted and appreciated contributor to the Volunteers-In-Parks Program!

A portrait of a smiling woman with curly hair in a black turtleneck with white pearls.
A portrait of volunteer Bernice Bennett.

Bernice Bennett

Region 3, 4, 5 (Midwest) | Homestead National Historical Park

Bernice Bennett’s passion to connect people to their black homesteading past stems from her own discovery of a black homesteading ancestor in Louisiana. Bennett has helped to generate a grassroots movement of genealogical discovery and has contributed to scores of homestead stories being submitted to the National Park Service’s website and repository along with their primary source documentation, historic land entry case files.

Bennett personally contributed 350 hours which included acquiring and scanning historic records from the National Archives and Records Administration to share with descendants. She additionally provided mentoring to homesteader descendants so they could write and share their stories to grow Homestead’s repository and to be shared online. Bennett's contributions were amplified significantly by the fact that she mentored 29 contributors who wrote 91 stories which were submitted to the NPS with over 1000 pages of primary source documentation.
This effort spurred the need for more digital volunteers to help transcribe land entry case files to be placed online. Her impact led to Homestead National Historical Park's growth to over 200 digital volunteers from all over the country and 3 foreign countries. 57 stories were verified and placed online which generated 5,375 users and 7,449 page views.

Bennett has streamlined the process of working with descendants by creating a template to write homestead stories based on primary source documents acquired from the National Archives and Records Administration, the Homestead Land Entry Case Files. This is critical to park efficiency and the verification of information within the documents and story, and better enabling the park to accept future stories from all homestead descendants.

A photograph of a man in a polo shirt and a ball cap under a canopy outdoors.
Chris Vincent at Antietam National Battlefield.

Chris Vincent

Region 1 (National Capital Area) | Antietam National Battlefield

In his ten years of volunteering at Antietam National Battlefield at the Visitor Center front desk and with the Battlefield Ambassador program (which was the regional Hartzog Award winner for volunteer program for 2020), Chris Vincent has helped to build Ambassador program into a program that could serve as a model for the whole National Park Service system.

Through this process, he has encouraged a spirit of collegiality and mentorship among the volunteers. He has been instrumental in forging and maintaining the relationship between the volunteer program and the Battlefield Guides, who are employed through Eastern National, which has been crucial to the success of the volunteer program. He has organically grown into leadership of the Ambassador program providing administrative and scheduling support, collaboratively organizing trainings, delivering training, and mentoring other volunteers.

His work directly and indirectly impacts visitors to the park, who are more likely to have access to quality informal interpretation as they explore the battlefield. His training sessions have also helped to enrich the volunteers’ knowledge in subjects that would help them connect with historically excluded audiences; for example, he has done extensive research on the farmsteads of Antietam and provided training to the volunteers on the civilian experience of the battle, including how enslaved people were impacted.

Partners: Eastern National

Ken Greenspan wears the Volunteer-In-Parks uniform in front of a river.
Ken Greenspan in the park.

Ken Greenspan

Region 8, 9, 10, 12 (Pacific West) | Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Parks

Ken Greenspan has volunteered in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks since the early 1990s and has creatively blended his knowledge and volunteer experiences into meaningful action. In 2022, Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Parks began a new Site Stewardship Program to help protect and preserve Native American cultural sites.

Ken trained with the California Archeological Site Stewardship Program, and in conjunction with the parks’ Tribal Liaison and archeologist to assist with site evaluations. After his training, Ken found that he has a good eye for identifying cultural sites and was able to identify and document several Native American sites of which the park archeologist was not aware of.

Ken provided excellent documentation, photos, and accurate locations of the sites which have contributed to the park’s awareness of the extent of Native American activity in those areas of the park. The medley of knowledges Ken holds comes together through his dedication to volunteering and stewardship within the parks that he also enjoys sharing and inspiring those around him. 

Ken Weber
Ken Weber in the park.

Ken Weber

Region 1 (Northeast) | Lowell National Historical Park

Ken Weber volunteers with Lowell National Historical Park’s Cultural Resources Division, digitizing historic documents from its collection of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals. This would be considered a tedious task to most, but Ken was so excited to see the many notebooks that were saved through the years.

The Proprietors of Locks and Canal documents go as far back as early 1792. The notebooks are filled with incredible notes, some were completed and others just a theory to how to solve issues that occurred. The pages talked about water flow, canal building, disasters that occurred, and much more. While doing this project Ken uncovered photos that bring you back in time.

As he unearthed the historic photos, he saw forgotten stories of Lowell’s rich history. He created a photo gallery, separating the photos by themes and uploaded to the park’s website to not only provide researchers with easier access but to share these incredible photos with the public, providing insight to some of Lowell’s rich history.

This project provides visitors with access to documents in real time and uncovers stories that have yet to be told. As a former Seasonal Park Ranger, Ken uses his interpretive training to contextualize these photos and provide the context and connections the past with our current city. Sharing stories of Lowell’s past and present is what the park is here to do. Ken is also addressing the accessibility of the galleries by ensuring compliance and writing alternative text.

A man in a yellow-green jacket stands on a mountain summit above the clouds.
Volunteer Steve Mock at Denali National Park.

Robert Stephen “Steve” Mock

Region 11 (Alaska) | Denali National Park

Denali National Park mountaineering rangers recruit world class volunteers with technical rescue, emergency medical, and mountaineering skills to staff patrols on North America’s highest peak. In a ratio of 1 ranger to 4 Volunteers-In-Parks, these safe, skilled, and cost-effective rescue teams respond to 20+ search and rescues annually on Denali.

Steve Mock is one such volunteer, with an impressive skillset that has made him a standout on six patrols since 2014 (3 at 14,200 feet, 3 at 7,200 feet). In 2022 he stepped in to help a short-staffed ranger crew by leading climbing briefings at the ranger station for several key weeks in May, orienting incoming climbers to the mountain and its primary dangers, and conveying NPS expectations. With high confidence in his professionalism and policy knowledge, Steve enabled rangers to focus on an exceptionally busy few weeks of rescue response.

In late May, Steve again helped bridge the gap created by several ranger vacancies by leading a Basecamp patrol during the busiest week of the season. With two fellow volunteers, Steve’s patrol provided emergency medical care; maintained radio communication; coordinated rescue flights from the glacier landing strip; and helped educate inbound and outbound climbers on mountain protocols.

Mock also devoted extraordinary administrative energy to take the Park’s mountaineering program to the next level. As board president of Denali Rescue Volunteers, a non-profit Friends Organization that supports the mountaineering volunteers, Mock dramatically expanded outreach and fundraising.

Partners: Denali Rescue Volunteers

Impact Award: Team Category

This award recognizes multiple Volunteers-In-Parks (a group, couple, family, or collective of any age range) who have consistently volunteered and collaborated together, who may have worked on a variety of projects or may have had a more singular focus.

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Staff from the Archbishop Hoban High School Center for Sustainability accept the 2022 National George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Award for team impact.

A park ranger speaks to the Archbishop Hoban High School Center for Sustainability members, who are holding clip boards.
The Archbishop Hoban High School Center for Sustainability speaking with a ranger.

National Recipient: Archbishop Hoban High School Center for Sustainability

Region 3, 4, 5 (Midwest) | Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Center for Sustainability combines a rigorous academic program with field experience, service learning, and student interests to allow high school students the opportunity to develop and test programs in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that address issues related to Environmental Science, Bioethics and/or Public Health. During its inaugural year, four high school seniors visited the park once a month to volunteer in service and carry out work related to their research project proposals.

Service-learning included native tree planting, native tree mortality data collection for an Environmental Protection Agency study, logistics and equipment inventory for recreational programming, prep of native grasses and flowers for future park planting, social trail mapping and monitoring through Resource Management, and creek bed stabilization with live willow stakes in a tributary of the Cuyahoga River. Each experience also included recreation and immersion in the park tied to goals in social and emotional learning.

The student projects were a wonderful reflection of the diversity of ways that parks matter to our community. The first involved a signage and mapping plan that went beyond Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility to provide elevation and difficulty information beyond current park maps. The second project explored the new kayaking and water safety focus of Cuyahoga Valley National Park as the water quality has improved. The third piloted programming on the links between mental health and nature in high school students. For the final project, a student researched native wildlife to write and illustrate a children’s book in both Spanish and English to increase resources available to non-native speakers.

Regional Recipients

Two members of Canaveral National Seashore Rocket Team riding in an ATV.
Two members of Canaveral National Seashore Rocket Team riding in an ATV.

Canaveral National Seashore’s Rocket Team

Region 1, 2, 4 (Southeast) | Canaveral National Seashore

While Canaveral National Seashore is place of pristine Atlantic shoreline, abundant native flora and fauna, and Native American cultural significance, it is also a place where visitors come to experience the roar of rocket engines and trembling earth! Sharing a park boundary with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral NS gives thousands of space enthusiasts from around the globe the opportunity to view rocket launch pads from a mere 2.5 miles away.

Last year, Canaveral witnessed 57 launches (averaging more than 1/week). Considering launch days that were scrubbed for bad weather or technical difficulties, rescheduled, or canceled, that number easily doubles. Managing the safety of these large, frequent crowds on launch days is paramount to Canaveral. With limited NPS staff available, ten ATV-qualified volunteers (aka-the Rocket Team) stepped up to assist Law Enforcement, Interpretation, and Visitor Services divisions to aid in crowd control, education, interpretation, and visitor safety.

On launch days, Canaveral’s Rocket Team pairs up in “mini teams” of two and ventures out on the beach riding ATVs to establish a safety perimeter of one additional mile inside our normal park boundary to make sure the public stays a safe distance from unauthorized, dangerous areas. They also assist with managing parking lot capacities, communicating by radio with other divisions and with NASA/Kennedy Space Center, and provide a vital role for public enjoyment by offering information about the park’s natural and cultural resources. This outstanding team of VIPs innovate continually to cover the ever-changing launch schedules, share limited availability of ATVs, and overcome difficult beach/weather/tide conditions to keep the public safe and well-informed. As a result, ZERO serious injuries, ZERO accidents, and ZERO perimeter breaches occurred on these launch days.

Partners: NASA

Heidi and Ron Jaramillo stand in front of boulders.
Heidi and Ron Jaramillo pose together in the park.

Ron Jaramillo and Heidi Jaramillo

Region 8, 9, 10, 12 (Pacific West) | Joshua Tree National Park

Ron and Heidi's service description identifies them as Campground Hosts, but that title is an understatement at best.

Jumbo Rocks Campground is one of Joshua Tree National Park’s largest campgrounds at the eighth most visited park in the United States, third in camping. Since 2018, Ron and Heidi have managed this campground for 5 seasons. They care for occupants associated with over a quarter-million reservations in 124 sites. Campground fees collected during these seasons generated over 2.2 million dollars of funding that were reinvested back into the visitor experience.

Officially Ron and Heidi log about 1,000 volunteer hours annually. However, they reside in the campground they serve. They never turn away a neighboring camper in need of some information or hospitality, no matter if they are in or out of service, day or night. Early in their tenure, reserved campsites were often left unoccupied due to no-shows. They helped develop and implement innovative systems that have reduced the number of campsites that are paid for but unoccupied, especially in 2022. This creates a better experience for the visitor by allowing more visitors to camp.

The park benefits from Ron’s comprehensive rock-climbing skills and Heidi’s stellar organizational skills. They often respond to emergency situations and employ their expertise to help park visitors. Ron is usually on the rocks figuring out how to safely rescue a visitor and Heidi is often managing vehicles at the Incident Command Post. They prioritize the safety and enjoyment of visitors inside and outside the campground.

Four members of the Sticker Club sit around a table in an office with stickers.
The Sticker Club preps materials together.

Sticker Club

Region 6, 7, 8 (Intermountain) | Arches National Park

In 2022, Arches implemented a pilot timed entry system to help manage increased visitation. Park planners decided to use colored stickers applied to park maps to show who did/didn’t have a validated entry ticket. While applying a sticker sounds like a quick task, any seconds it added to each visitor’s arrival transaction would worsen an already-daunting 30- to 60-minute entrance line. Park staff did not have time to stockpile a supply of pre-stickered maps, either. So, Sticker Club came to the rescue.

Sticker Club (and its previous incarnation, Staple Club) volunteers have tackled similar easy projects over the years. In 2017, they stapled tens of thousands of updates onto park newspapers. Since, they’ve prepared thousands of permits with stapled regulations and written codes. The through-line of all this work is that they are “mindless” yet essential behind-the scenes tasks that, when outsourced to volunteers, allows staff to serve visitors more quickly and efficiently, resulting in higher visitor and employee satisfaction.

In 2022, Sticker Club met for a few hours approximately weekly from mid-March through mid-September. They applied stickers to around 275,000 maps (around 375 boxes). The four core members (plus occasional friends or family they recruited) took pride that their efforts enabled the park to positively address its crowding problem. Without their tireless efforts, the park could not have relied on this innovative sticker solution, and the first year of timed-entry may not have been deemed such a resounding success that we are able to do it again this year.

Members of Troop 55 stand behind a table with a Leave No Trace Tablecloth. They are all in their Boy Scouts of America uniforms.
Members of Troop 55 at their Leave No Trace information table.

Troop 55

Region 1 (National Capital Area) | George Washington Memorial Parkway

Troop 55 has dedicated 1,170 hours to Great Falls Park over the past three years. Their impact on the park and engagement with the community and visitors of all ages has left a lasting mark. The Troop has taken ownership and pride over the success of their work. Volunteering has provided troop members with an opportunity to connect with the park and to develop an understanding for its needs, including adapting their schedule to collect trash on Sunday evenings when it is most impactful.

The troop is also passionate about getting young people involved in stewardship. Troop members had an idea and worked with park staff to develop an educational program focused on teaching visitors about the impacts of trash on the environment and the life cycle of trash commonly found in the park. Troop members developed educational exhibits, and interactive display items to reach the diverse population of Great Falls Park visitors.

The program demonstrated innovation as older members of the troop mentor and train younger members of the troop to provide the public program. This way, as older members have grown up and out of the troop, younger members have grown up and into being the new program leaders. This brings consistency to the messages received by our park visitors about the importance of practicing "Leave No Trace" principles. Their passion and eagerness to connect with park visitors in an educational way has allowed them to engage with 850 visitors.

Partners: Boy Scouts of America

A photo collage of landscaping work done by the Visually Inspiring Outdoor Inspiring Landscape Assistant Volunteer Team.
Visually Inspiring Outdoor Inspiring Landscape Assistant (VOILA!) volunteer team tackles projects in the field.

Visually Outdoor Inspiring Landscape Assistant (VOILA!)

Region 1 (Northeast) | Valley Forge National Historical Park

Thanks to the stewardship of a small, committed group of people, Valley Forge became Pennsylvania’s first state park— and eventually a national park. Stewardship is at the heart of our founding story, and sprouting from that same ethic, the latest chapter is being written by the Visually Outdoor Inspiring Landscape Assistant (VOILA!) volunteer team.

VOILA’s! accomplishments from October 2021 – December 2022 are notable:
• 12 recurring VIPs were engaged in 400+ hours of service
• Three garden areas located at the park’s busiest and most important visitor contact stations (The Visitor Center and Washington’s Headquarters) were cleaned, weeded, planted, and beautified.
• Over 220,000 visitors in fiscal year 2022 saw and experienced these gardens!
• 15 different species of approximately 100 native plants sourced from three local nurseries were planted, four truckloads of weeds and other material remove, and two truck beds of mulch were applied.
• 407 young commemorative native trees throughout the park were inspected and protected.
• 3 VIP Crew Captains were identified, cultivated, and supported to fulfill their expanded leadership responsibilities—which included planning and coordination with National Park Service staff, supervising other Volunteers-In-Parks, communicating between VOILA! “Crew Members” and the park staff, recommending ways to work more safely and efficiently.

Excellence in Volunteer Management Staff Award

This award recognizes a National Park Service (NPS) staff leader who has been strategic and/or innovative in managing an NPS volunteer program.

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1 minute, 37 seconds

Emily Hewitt accepts the 2022 National George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Award for volunteer management at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

A group more than a dozen women smiling for a photo in front of a sign that reads "We Can Do It!"
Emily Hewitt (front row, in bottom right) poses with a group of volunteers.

National Recipient: Emily Hewitt

Region 1 (National Capital Area) | Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Emily Hewitt consistently demonstrates her commitment to elevating best practices within the volunteer management community, reaching new audiences through creative programming, and promoting the National Park Service and its partners. Serving as the National Capitol Regions’ representative on the new VIP Community of Practice planning and coordination team, Ms. Hewitt takes an active role in both growing the community and developing and delivering professional enrichment for NPS staff nationwide.

Within the C&O Canal NHP, she serves as Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workgroup where she has spearheaded monthly Lunch & Learn sessions, conducted community outreach, and developed the “Diversity Matters” film series which spotlights employee perspectives on the topic of what diversity means to them. As the park’s Volunteer Program Manager, Ms. Hewitt’s dedication to reaching new audiences through service-based programming shines.

In 2022, she created a new Volunteer Youth Intern program in partnership with the Holton-Arms School, worked with the NPS International Affairs Office to host an international volunteer for the 2022 summer season, and worked in partnership with the C&O Canal Trust and other park partners to provide opportunities for education, stewardship, and volunteerism that were safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all. Managing a volunteer team that stretches over 184.5 miles, Ms. Hewitt’s leadership enhances the visitor experience through wide-ranging volunteer programs that support park operations and fosters a thriving volunteer community with a focus on life-long learning and resource management.

Partners: Holton-Arms School, C&O Canal Trust, C&O Canal Association

Regional Recipients

Daniel Watson delivering a speech while standing behind a lectern.
Daniel Watson giving a speech.

Daniel Watson

Region 3, 4, 5 (Midwest) | Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Since 2008, Dan Watson has been Ice Age Trail's first, and only, Volunteer Manager, working tirelessly to build and nurture the partnerships and programs that have made the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Volunteer Program what it is today.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail Volunteer Program is a leader within the NPS, not only in size, but in diversity of what it accomplishes and audiences it reaches. In FY22, 1,839 Volunteers-In-Parks delivered 84,349 service hours in a program that ranges from quality National Scenic Trail construction and maintenance—to engaging youth and underserved audiences from urban and rural communities across Wisconsin—to incorporating volunteer safety into all activities.

Partnering with his co-workers, staff of the non-profit Ice Age Trail Alliance, and their devoted volunteers across the 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Dan leveraged his program’s volunteer budget to provide resources resulting in miles of new trail, rock walls and steps, and boardwalk construction; Volunteer Crew Leader training; and four volunteer chainsaw certification courses. Funding also assisted volunteers and partners to advance DEI initiatives in several program areas.

Dan is also the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Collateral Duty Safety Officer and is passionate about integrating safety into all aspects of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Volunteer Program. Dan makes critical safety learning accessible to all volunteers via the innovative Trail Safe! video series that he conceived, brought to fruition, and manages daily. Trail Safe! has brought the core learning objectives of NPS Operational Leadership to more than 13,000 unique viewers across the NPS.

Partners: Ice Age Trail Alliance

Liz drives a boat with a passenger sitting behind her. Both people are wearing life vests.
Liz Strom captains a boat with a colleague.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strom

Region 1, 2, 4 (Southeast) | Biscayne National Park
Liz Strom has been managing Biscayne National Park’s VIP program for 9 years and FY22 was another remarkable success. 426 volunteers donated 10,932 hours, equating to $327,143.85. The program owes much of its success to Liz’s management and dedication. She gives a lot of attention and consideration to managing the program and gets a lot of satisfaction from the program. Her active communication, attention to detail, collaboration with multiple park divisions and partners, and organization skills help assure volunteers get the most from their time, whether it’s for a one-day event or a lifetime relationship.

The Biscayne Beach Cleanup program had a stellar year of marine debris collection. This program required a massive adjustment due to the pandemic. The program began as an alternative spring break using college students to conduct the cleanups. Organized college group spring breaks were cancelled for 2020-2021. During this time this VIP program moved from relying on college students to recruiting volunteers from local businesses and corporations, schools, retirement communities, and religious centers. FY22 cleanup numbers were record breaking: 312 volunteers cleared over 30,00 pounds of marine debris from bay and ocean shorelines.

Innovation in volunteer management and hard work are also exemplified by the five Volunteers-In-Parks who are part of the National Dive Team. These seasoned divers helped with a wide variety of projects to include mooring buoy installation and maintenance, invasive species removal, fish counts, and underwater monitoring efforts.

Partners: Miami Dade Public Schools, YMCA, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Florida National Parks Association.

Katie poses for a picture wearing a national park service uniform, in the background mountains are in the distance.
Kathleen “Katie” Cullen with a park landscape behind her.

Kathleen “Katie” Cullen

Region 11 (Alaska) | Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Kathleen (Katie) Cullen volunteered her time and skill to serve on the small planning team that launched a national level community of practice–the Servicewide Volunteers-In-Parks Community of Practice Forum–from October 2021 through December 2022.

The Community of Practice Forum is a new field-driven initiative with support by the Washington Support Office that launched in FY22. The Community of Practice Forum has a small planning team comprised of representatives from each of the NPS regions, as well as a Washington Support Office liaison. Katie represented the Alaska region and served on the initial cohort of this planning team. Her early involvement contributed to its development and success.

Within the Hartzog award period, the Volunteers-In-Parks Community of Practice Forum Planning Team implemented 5 Servicewide web-based calls that were joined by 400+ participants.

Michael stands on a hill talking to a group of volunteers, rolling hills behind them.
Michael talking to a group of young volunteers.

Michael Chasse

Region 8, 9, 10, 12 (Pacific West) | Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Michael Chasse is an outstanding volunteer manager who has impacted countless of volunteers’ lives while transforming and restoring park habitats over his two-decade career with Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Michael is the lead Vegetation Ecologist in the Presidio in charge of stewarding and protecting over 12 sites in the Presidio. Michael does this as both a scientist and park ranger engaging the public in his work. Michael has hosted volunteers both young and old supporting habitat restoration and preservation. The work includes native plant seed collection, plant propagation, out planting, non-native plant removal and associated data collection and monitoring.

Michael’s outstanding volunteer leadership has inspired volunteers to return regularly to his weekly programs. San Francisco Habitat Stewards and thousands of additional volunteers have also come to a one-day events like Earth Day.

Michael is a gifted scientist and naturalist with a deep knowledge of the plants and ecological communities of the San Francisco Bay Area. During the pandemic he was creative in his approach to continuing to engage small groups while maintaining social distance. He is always creative in finding the best activity to engage each volunteer community with meaningful and inspirational service.

Over the course of his career, he has supported thousands of volunteers who have achieved tens of thousands of hours of habitat restoration while also building a close-knit volunteer community.

Partners: The Presidio Trust, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Antietam National Battlefield, Arches National Park, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Denali National Park & Preserve, Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Homestead National Historical Park, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Lowell National Historical Park, Rock Creek Park, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, Valles Caldera National Preserve, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Zion National Park more »

Last updated: December 18, 2023