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Contact: Denese Canedo, 305-242-7714
HOMESTEAD, FL – It’s easy to spot a VIP in a national park. In 2016, there were 339,662 VIPs, or Volunteers-In-Parks, across the nation greeting visitors, building trails, leading programs, performing research, or doing just about any task imaginable. Last month, during National Volunteer Week, the National Park Service recognized the important contributions of all of its volunteers by announcing the recipients of the annual George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
Everglades National Park’s “Every Kid in a Park Volunteer Corps” was one of six national recipients of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Park Volunteer Program. In 2016, thanks to the vision of the park’s Director of Education, Allyson Gantt, and dedicated stewardship of VIP Ellen Siegel, Everglades National Park doubled the number of fourth-grade students visiting the park for educational programs by developing a new 25-member volunteer corp. The volunteers worked with the park’s education team to engage students at interactive stations focusing on key Everglades topics and outdoor exploration. In prior years, the park could accommodate 150 classes for education programs with another 150 on a waiting list. In 2016, with the addition of this team of volunteers, the park offered programs to 325 classes, reaching 6,807 students and 802 teachers and chaperones, a 110% increase over the previous year’s total of 3,241 students! The group of volunteers itself has also impressively doubled in strength, now comprising over 50 members!
“We are extremely grateful for the dedication and impact of every volunteer,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “Each volunteer performs different tasks but shares the same goal – to make a difference every day. Whether a volunteer builds a bridge on a trail or a bridge to the future during a children’s program, each selflessly gives of his or her time and talent to enrich the national park experience for others.”
An individual Everglades National Park volunteer, John “Jeep” Jeffries, was also honored with a regional winner of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Individual Volunteer Service. Jeffries, who volunteers in both the park’s Resource Education and Interpretation Division, and Visitor and Resource Protection Division, is the driving force for a new program called the Mobile Volunteer Patrol (MVP). As MVP coordinator, Jeffries has served more than 700 hours training and recruiting other volunteers, orchestrating volunteer schedules, and riding bike patrols. “Since September of last year, MVP volunteers have conducted over 100 bicycle patrols of the Shark Valley area,” said Shawn Bawden, the park’s VIP Program Manager. “They’ve logged nearly 4,200 miles and been a resource to over 7,100 visitors. None of this would have been possible without Jeep Jeffries’ dedication and hard work.”
Superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Pedro Ramos, also thanked and congratulated the winners from Everglades National Park. “Through their extraordinary work, these volunteers have greatly expanded the park’s reach through these creative and truly sustainable volunteer programs.” He added, “We couldn’t be prouder, and are thrilled our volunteers’ innovation and hard-work has been deservedly recognized.”
The recipients of the national award will be recognized during a joint National Park Service/National Park Foundation ceremony in Washington, DC, on August 1. The Hartzog Awards are named for former National Park Service Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen. Hartzog served as the head of the National Park Service from 1964 to 1972. In 1970, he established the Volunteers-In-Parks Program with 300 volunteers. Since then, more than four and a half million people have donated more than one and a half billion hours of service in national parks.
Interested in becoming a National Park Service volunteer?! Visit volunteer.gov regularly, as opportunities are frequently updated, or contact any park directly for more information. To learn more specifically about volunteering with the nationally recognized Every Kid in a Park Volunteer Corps at Everglades National Park, or the MVP or other programs in this park, visit https://www.nps.gov/ever/getin
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The National Park Service has more than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 National Parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.