2017 Recipients: George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Each year, several volunteers and programs are honored nationally for their hard work, skills, and contributions that lead to development of innovative projects and volunteer involvement.

Congratulations to the 2017 recipients of the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service!

Boy outside holding a tool onto a wooden post.
Nick Gilson, Hartzog Award recipient working on a volunteer project.

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Outstanding Volunteer Service, Youth Award: Nicholas Gilson

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Wisconsin

Nicholas Gilson enthusiastically took on an Eagle Scout project to rebuild a fence 120 feet long near the top of Bald Bluff, an overlook that sits 1,050 feet high in Kettle Moraine State Forest, on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The need was great – a portion of fencing had fallen into disrepair resulting in a social trail to the overlook that was impacting rare plants along the way.

Nick creatively met every challenge. He raised $1,200 in donations from local businesses, clubs, friends, and family to purchase materials; enlisted 49 volunteers to hand-carry (no easy task given the distance up the trail!) and install the fencing, two benches, six interpretive and two directional sign posts; and employed cost saving measures by hand-crafting the mortise and tenon joints on each log. Nick not only excelled in how he met project goals, but he used the opportunity to raise awareness of the trail within the community and enhanced visitor experience, enjoyment, and understanding of park resources.

Man standing in front of a white truck that says "fire" and next to a all terrain vehicle.
Hartzog Award winner, Doug Riddle stands with Hatteras Island district fire cache equipment.

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Outstanding Volunteer Service, Individual Award: Doug Riddle

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

Doug Riddle has used his invaluable knowledge of engineering, mechanics, and fire management to transform the Cape Hatteras National Seashore fire cache into a highly organized and functional work space, breathing new life into the fire management program.

Since 2016, Doug has completely overhauled the park's fire cache, repairing equipment, tools, and vehicles, including returning the fire engine to operational standards, rehabbing portable fire pumps and repairing tools, brush cutters and pole saws. Doug also repurposed wood to build shelving and a work bench and created an itemized inventory of all equipment. Doug’s involvement in the park’s fire program has rejuvenated interest among multiple park employees, who renewed their wildland firefighting certifications. Additionally, Doug assisted in the rehabilitation of the Bodie Island Firearms range, a large scale project which brought law enforcement rangers from five national parks to the newly remodeled facility for their annual training.

Francisco Middle School Students, Aquatic Park Shark Stewards, group photograph.
Francisco Middle School Students, Aquatic Park Shark Stewards, take a break from a shoreline clean-up.

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Outstanding Volunteer Service, Youth Group Award: David McGuire and the Aquatic Park Shark Stewards

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California

“Recycle, reduce, and reuse every day so the ocean water and sea life can thrive and survive far into the future, swimming free from toxic contamination”. This is the message Francisco Middle School students and Aquatic Park Shark Steward members deliver in their nationally acclaimed, award winning film, “Hang Onto Your Butts“. Through outreach, partnerships, peer-to-peer learning, and film production, the Shark Stewards Aquatic Park, Bay Ecosystem, and Marine Debris Program has increased local awareness of the impact that marine debris has on the San Francisco Bay and oceans worldwide. This program has dedicated hundreds of hours to shoreline cleanups, including within San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Over time, they have engaged 650 local youth in clean-up efforts, initiated a monthly beach cleanup, and attended community events to reach thousands of people.

Group of people standing outside wearing volunteer uniforms and smiling.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Education Team has come together to meet growing needs for environmental education in the greater Los Angeles area.

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Outstanding Volunteer Service, Group Award: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Education Team

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California

In 2017, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area's education team brought 14,000 students from the greater Los Angeles area into a national park for the first time. When the park and education team realized there was a substantial demand for programming, but not enough leaders to meet the need, they came together to make it happen. The education team worked on increasing the size and scope of the program by recruiting new members.

Within three years, the team grew from 6 to 25 members. As new volunteers progressed through the on-boarding process, experienced team members provided them with the leadership, training, and mentoring needed to work with students. Once the new volunteers were trained, they began delivering programs; providing students with engaging learning experiences in the park. The work the education team did to create opportunities for young adults in parks doesn’t stop there. The education team also helps to train, inspire, and mentor college interns working in the park, creating future park stewards, employees, and leaders.

People standing together and smiling to pose for a photo inside a building.
Park volunteers celebrate their accomplishments with volunteer program manager, Jeff Wolin at Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument.

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Outstanding Park Volunteer Program: Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Volunteers-In-Parks Program

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado

In 2017, the innovative volunteer program at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument found new ways to reach a growing number of park visitors and respond to park needs. With support from the volunteer program, this small park staff personally oriented 70,000 visitors, organized a monthly Night Sky Program that regularly reaches 70-100 night sky enthusiasts, inducted 4,000 new Junior Rangers, surveyed 54 miles of boundary fencing, and improved 20% of the park’s total hiking trails.

All of this was made possible with the support of committed volunteers, partners, and employees from every division who have created a volunteer program which substantially contributes to every aspect of park operations. The program is resourceful and creative in teaming up with local partners like the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, which recruits, trains, and supervises large volunteer groups. Additionally, the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society shares their passion and knowledge of the night sky with visitors every month. Overall, this volunteer program demonstrates how volunteers can have an outsized, outstanding impact on a park and visitor experience.

Woman standing at a podium addressing a seated crowd.
Georgene Charles, recognized for her contributions to Antietam National Battlefield.

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Enduring Service Award: Georgene Charles

Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

Over 30 years ago, Georgene Charles shared her vision to honor each of the 23,100 soldiers who were killed, wounded, or missing during the Battle of Antietam. Every year since, Georgene has worked with approximately 1,500 volunteers to light a luminary for each soldier, during the annual Memorial Illumination event.

Preparing for an event of this magnitude takes careful planning and organizing. It involves recruiting and coordinating volunteer groups and partners, ensuring each memorial luminary is carefully placed in correct locations using transits, GPS instruments and ropes, assigning volunteer groups to work in specific fields, ordering materials, arranging speakers for the volunteer ceremony, and acting as mistress of ceremonies for the event. At twilight, each of the luminaries are lit. By evening, up to 10,000 people have traveled through the memorial, collectively witnessing this visually and emotionally poignant display of flickering candles, representing each soldier’s sacrifice.

Antietam National Battlefield, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area more »

Last updated: December 18, 2023