Monday, November 3, 2008

The Creative Kids Make a Difference and Earn Presidential Service Awards

Nine child leaders from Plymouth, MA, who named themselves “The Creative Kids” received Presidential Service Awards for their community service this summer. The children were empowered to bring families together for a day of fun at an event they created and led called “Into Our World Day” on August 23, 2008, at JunglePlex. Lynne Richardson, proud mother of Shane & Ainsley Richardson, had the idea to coach a group of children in creating such an event when she realized that the most important gift she could give to her children was herself. “With the many demands on parents today,” Lynne said, “our time can seem like the hardest gift to give, yet when we choose to play, we connect and communicate with our children in a way that greatly impacts their self-esteem and confidence.” Liz Parsons, a teacher in Duxbury and supporter of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning (where children are honored and respected for their potential, capabilities and humanity) was also a coach on the project. Parents Erin Murphy and Sue Breault contributed in extraordinary ways with their dedicated support.

Into Our World Day was a huge success with over 200 people in attendance. The day cost only $5 per family thanks to the support of JunglePlex ( and included sports, games, arts & crafts, face painting, a moonwalk, raffle prizes donated by 23 local sponsors, and entertainment showcasing Brett Outchcunis (a.k.a. “Ooch”) of Ninepoints Entertainment (, a captivating Yo-Yo professional and life skills coach for children. Parents reconnected with their inner child, left their to-do lists behind and focused on truly “being” with their children. The kids had a blast playing and competing with their parents, and many families expressed interest in future events!

The Creative Kids were proud of the difference they made for families and are considering other ways to give back to the community. They donated proceeds to Autism Speaks which funds autism research & awareness. If you are interested in unlocking the self-expression and leadership skills of children, or if you’d like to find out how your child can get involved, please contact Lynne Richardson at If you are interested in learning how “Ooch” can make a difference in your child’s school, he can be reached directly at

The Creative Kids (except for little Ainsley Richardson in the front row) were or are students of Indian Brook Elementary School - the first (and so far only) Take Pride School in Massachusetts.

Hyattsville Elementary School Students Attend Signing Ceremony in Washington, DC

On October 28, 2008, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne signed an order extending the authorization of Take Pride in America® within the Department of the Interior through the year 2010. The program, designed to encourage volunteerism on public lands, had been set to expire on November 1, 2008. As part of the ceremony we invited students from Hyattsville Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland, one of our Take Pride Schools, to attend the ceremony. Mrs. Amelia Davis, the TAG (Talented and Gifted) Coordinator/Library Media Specialist, and 2 of her 6th grade TAG students, Jose Mendoza Duarte and Billy Kennedy III, were able to accept our invitation to attend. We asked them to tell us in their own words about their experience. This is what they had to say (actual submissions).

Jose Mendoza Duarte

In the beginning we left Hyattsville Elementary School to go to Washington, DC. I was site seeing, like I saw the monument and some other stuff. When we entered the parking lot and got out the car it was pretty windy, then we crossed the street entered the building but before we got on the elevator we had to go through security to see if we had anything illegal. I got checked and I was OK (of course). We went up the elevator to the 6th floor. We put our coats in an office and used the restroom. We walked to the Secretary of Interior’s office and it was big!!! It had the first president’s (George Washington’s) desk!!! He showed Billy and me the papers he was going to sign and he asked for 2 pens; I wondered why. When he signed the papers, he used one pen with his first name and with the other pen he signed his last name. I got one of the pens and Billy got the other. Later on we sat down on these comfy sofas and he asked us what we were going to be when we were older. Then other people talked about what they did, what happened when they were volunteering, were they scared, etc. We took some pictures and some people got rewards. We didn’t (sadly). After we left the office we got a bag filled with goodies like a cap, bumper sticker, Frisbee, pencil bag filled with some school supplies, candle, etc. I had a lot of fun and hope to go again.

Billy Kennedy III

On Tuesday October 28, 2008, I went with Jose Mendoza, Ms. Davis & my mom to watch the Secretary of the Interior extend Take Pride in America through November 2010. The day was very windy, and in the office, we could hear the wind whistling. The office was very fancy and huge. George Washington, the first president of the United States, had a desk that was in the secretary’s office. After he signed the bill, we were presented with the pens he used to sign the form. Afterwards, we were given a gift bag filled with a tote bag, a candle, a cup, a bumper sticker, a Frisbee, a pencil bag, etc. I had a lot of fun and I hope I can enjoy similar experiences in the future.

Mrs. Amelia Davis

A visit to the Department of the Interior to meet with Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was a highlight for two TAG students at Hyattsville Elementary along with their teacher. The students were fascinated with Washington’s landmarks as well as participating in the signing ceremony in which Secretary Kempthorne extended the Take Pride in America authorization. The students listened intently to the stories of other volunteers who were at the signing and enjoyed chatting with the Secretary about their volunteer efforts.

This is the second year in which Hyattsville Elementary School has participated in the Take Pride in America Schools Program by volunteering during Gorgeous Prince George’s Day. Parents, teachers, and students planted trees, shrubs and bulbs in an effort to beautify the school grounds. In addition, the TAG students at Hyattsville participated in weeding and planting native Maryland plants to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The students took a trip on board a skipjack to learn more about Bay conservation, pollution, and the animals and plants that inhabit the Chesapeake Bay. They also displayed a “museum” research project in the school’s media center to increase student awareness of the beauty, problems and environmental importance of the Chesapeake Bay.

The staff at Take Pride in America wants to thank Mrs. Davis, Jose, and Billy, for attending the signing ceremony. These 2 boys were perfect gentleman and everyone commented on how great it was they were here. We would also like to thank Mrs. Washburn, the principal at Hyattsville Elementary School, for allowing the students and Mrs. Davis to be with us. I know that she had to pull some strings to get permission from those above her and we are grateful for her efforts.

On a personal note, I want to say how proud I am of Billy (he’s my son) and Jose. They represented Hyattsville Elementary well and they should be very proud of themselves.

If you would like information on how to become a Take Pride School, visit our website at or contact us at 202-208-5848.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take Pride School In Action

This past Spring Jericho Middle School students (pictured above) of the eight grade community service classes and the Gardening Club recently planted over 150 tree seedlings on the school grounds as part of the Take Pride in America Schools program. Take Pride volunteer Jan Porinchak, a teacher at Jericho schools, coordinated the effort with teachers Spiridoula Nikolopoulos, Danielle Dunbar, and gardening club advisor Cheryl Viviano. A 40 foot by 8 foot planting bed was first constructed under the supervision of Tim Almeida and the staff of the Jericho Buildings and Grounds department. The seedlings were ordered through the New York State D.E.C, which offers nursery grown seedlings of trees native to New York. The D.E.C. offers some seedlings for free to schools. The remainder of the over 150 trees were paid for through fund raising efforts of the community service class.

The students researched which trees would grow best on Long Island. They also studied the benefits of the various trees to wildlife, landscape, and the community. Over two days the Take Pride volunteers planted white pines, red oaks, sycamores, crab apple trees, and highbush cranberry shrubs. Thanks to the hard work, careful planning, and enthusiasm, the seedlings are growing well. Over the next several school years the seedlings will be relocated to various parts of the school grounds to create wildlife habitat and enhance the beauty of the school grounds.

The students learned how gratifying working together to accomplish a goal can be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buddy Lawrence, Presidential Volunteer Service Awardee

(L-R: Bonnie Wright, President FOHI; Buddy Lawrence and Vivian Wayne FOHI Turtle Director.)

Friends of Hunting Island volunteer Buddy Lawrence is known for his "Midas Touch" when it comes to finding, identifying and confirming new sea turtle nests on the beaches of Hunting Island in South Carolina. So it is only appropriate that he found the first nest of the 2008 turtle season.

Buddy has been a volunteer with the FOHI for over 8 years and has contributed over 4,500 hours doing morning turtle patrols, nighttime turtle hatching monitoring, hatching inventories, maintaining a certified National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat at the Nature Center and helping out with other FOHI projects at Hunting Island.

This past spring Buddy was recognized for his outstanding service and was presented with the President's Lifetime Volunteer Service Award.

Congratulations Buddy! And a special thanks to our friends at Hunting Island State Park and to the amazing volunteers who make up the Friends of Hunting Island.

(L-R: Vivian Wayne, FOHI Turtle Director; Bonnie Wright, President FOHI; Buddy Lawrence and Jeff Atkins, Park Manager.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NPLD: Toyota Employees at the Salato Wildlife Education Center

The Take Pride in America® Voluntour Across America, Heartland Voluntour arrived at the Salato Wildlife Education Center Saturday, Sept. 27 to join employees from Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Georgetown, Ky. for their National Public Lands Day event.

More than 200 employees, many arriving after their overnight shifts, were joined by volunteers from Franklin County High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC and football team, as well as 17 international students from Kentucky State University, to pick up litter, build trails, and pull invasive weeds.

The efforts added to the education center’s Toyota sponsored “Habitrek” trail and a lot of sweat went into clearing invasive honeysuckle, winter creeper vine and privet bushes that were taking over the area behind the black bear exhibit. That required muscle and something called a weed wrench to remove the thick roots. On the hill in front of the exhibit, another team was digging deep holes for rain ponds and building a berm to keep rains from flooding the bear exhibit.

Toyota, sponsor of Voluntour Across America, has a corporate philosophy of giving back to the community, according to one of the plants vice presidents, Takao Gonno. “The concept is called Shakai Koken which translates meaning social contribution,” Gonno said.

The big event in Kentucky marked the end of the 2008 Voluntour Across America and the “Heartland Voluntour” which covered more than 2,900 miles and six states recognizing and participating in volunteer events on public lands.

Students from Kentucky University's CASS program.

Franklin County High School Football Team.

Toyota employees and family take part in a variety of activities.

Working on the Habitrek trail.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ohio State University & Keep Columbus Beautiful

Columbus, Ohio was recently named one of the cleanest cities in America...that can be attributed in part to the efforts of Keep Columbus Beautiful. Today KCB partnered with the Ohio State University Students Engaged in Responsible Volunteering for their annual Community Commitment day of service. Over 1,500 OSU freshman participate in this event aimed at getting college students involved in the local community, and it is one of the largest service events held on a college campus.

Buckeyes gathered early to receive assignments that ranged from helping local youth, serving meals and outdoor clean up. KCB organized the outdoor clean up portion of the event, and nearly 600 students participated in litter removal and beautification projects in neighborhoods surrounding the OSU campus.

Event organizers, Jack Bruce, Mike Eizyk and Cristen Porter (pictured below) did an amazing job coordinating this effort.

Sherri Palmer, along with the KCB staff also did an excellent job organizing the students into groups and getting them sent out into neighborhoods armed with litter picker-uppers, trash bags, gloves and other helpful tools.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ice Age Trail: Lapham Peak

Getting families to get outside and enjoy nature together was the goal of the event hosted by REI and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation. And with 30 parents and children joining volunteer organizers, Frank and Russ for a 1.5 mile hike at Lapham Peak near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that goal was met.

Lapham Peak is the highest in the county and is a favorite recreation spot for many locals. Visitors hike, backpack, snowshoe, cross country ski and camp at this 1,000 acre state park.

Volunteer naturalist Mike Fort lead the hike and explained the prairie restoration project that volunteers from the Foundation, along with the Friends of Lapham Peak have been working on for many years. Participants had an opportunity to collect seeds that will be planted along the trail as a part of the restoration efforts. Kids experience nature first hand walking along the well groomed trail, looking to the sky as a flock of geese flew by and chasing a little frog in the grass.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cochran-Fountain City FFA & the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

The morning started early, but the students of Cochran-Fountain City and the staff from the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge were enthusiastic and cheerful. We met at the Lower Spring Lake Landing, just outside of Buffalo City, Wisconsin to take boats to one of the islands that students from the school's Future Farmers of America chapter spent time volunteering on.

The islands were constructed through the Environmental Management Program to restore habitat and diversity to the 500 acre backwater lake that is located on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. Restoration of these islands is crucial to the natural habitat and migrating birds.

Students from the FFA chapter participated in a variety of activities through out the refuge. They worked with Refuge staff to remove two full pick-up trucks full of young purple loosestrife (an invasive species), documenting plant species during the growth season and loosestrife beetle propagation. Our visit to Water Snake Island showcased one of the biggest projects taken on by the students...the planting, tubing and matting nearly 1,000 native floodplain forest trees!

It was the first time students had returned to the island since planting the young trees, so to see their progress was exciting.

Thanks to the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge for their help and amazing boat driving skills! And thank you to Chris Jumbeck, the FFA advisor and teacher at Cochran-Fountain City.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

The Voluntour made its way to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, IA, today. Once we turned on to the road that entered the Refuge, I felt like I had been sent back in time. The prairie grass was tall and waving in the wind. The view was stupendous - a real view of nature without a building to block it. We followed the road to the Learning Center and even this was developed to fit into the natural habitat. The building is built into the hill and ground to keep the aesthetic feel of the surrounding landscape.

Al Murray, volunteer coordinator at the Refuge, met us and showed us the video that all students involved in their Environmental Education program see before they do anything else at the Refuge. The video gave the history of how the prairie has come full circle – at least on the 5500 acres that make up the Refuge. The Refuge prides itself on bringing back the prairie, from the prairie grass and native species of plants to the wildlife, as it was over a hundred years ago.

The students from Emerson Middle School were helping to tag Monarch butterflies. We got a chance to see how this works. Each student is given a butterfly net and taken into the butterfly garden. They wait patiently and watch until a butterfly lands on one of the many plants. Once they catch the butterfly in their net, Refuge staff note its sex, the person who caught it, places a tag on it, and sets it free. The tagging is done because the Refuge is the mid-point of the Monarchs migration route to Mexico. When they make it to Mexico and are caught, the tag is checked and the Refuge is notified if one of their tags is found. The Refuge will then send a certificate to the school of the child who tagged that butterfly.

The Refuge has approximately 60 volunteers. These volunteers help to maintain the Monarch butterfly garden, take care of greeting visitors, managing the bookstore, and leading some of the Environmental Education programs. Below, volunteers Arleen Vander Ploeg and David Wharff are joined with Refuge Manager, Nancy Gilbertson and Volunteer Coordinator, Al Murray.

Al took us around the Refuge to show us some bison. Unfortunately for us, they were not to be seen. The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is an awesome place to visit. The volunteers and staff are all welcoming and helpful. The views from the many areas of the Refuge are something to behold. The photos are good, but they don’t do justice to the real thing.

Dowling Catholic High School

This morning we had the pleasure of meeting a handful of outstanding students and faculty at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. Dowling signed on as a Take Pride in America School in 2007.

We met with teacher Karen Soliday and Assistant Principal, Dave Marcouiller, and students, Scott Fitzpatrick, Josh Holtkamp, Robyn Tong, Noel Kutz, Alivia Tison, Jill Bialzak and Hayle Streff.

Robyn, Noel, Alivia, Jill and Hayle are student VIP leaders. VIP, or Volunteer Initiative Program, works to get students involved in volunteer activities in their local community. The program has about 75 core students, but most volunteer opportunities are open to the entire student body. On September 27th, nearly 100 students and faculty from Dowling will venture up to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to participate in flood recovery efforts.

Josh and Scott help operate the Home Recycling Exchange, a place for members of the community to bring large, unwanted home items to be recycled or re-used. So far over 1500 tons of material have been recycled. Because of these student's efforts, these items are taken care of responsibly, instead of being illegally dumped on our public lands.

Thank you Ms. Soliday for making our visit possible!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Saylorville Lake

Greetings from the road! After a rainy start in Missouri, it was great to see the sun and Saylorville Lake. Saylorville Lake is a man-made lake operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that is just 11 miles north of Des Moines, Iowa. We were greeted by two of Saylorville Lake's outstanding volunteers...John and Betty Turner. The Turner's have been volunteering at Saylorville Lake for 8 years and have accumulated over 2800 hours of volunteer service!We quickly found out that the Turner's are just one example of outstanding volunteer service at the lake. All of the volunteers at Saylorville Lake pitch in and help out where needed, and don't let anything stop them from serving. One volunteer, Mark McGrew is currently recovering from a heart transplant, and can't wait to return to the lake to volunteer. Prior to his surgery, he could be found doing a variety of things...from driving a tractor to putting up bulletin boards. It's because of these dedicated volunteers that every visitor's experience to Saylorville lake is enjoyable.

Natural Resource Volunteers, Will and Judy Carter, spend most of their time pruning, mulching, raking and clearing trails, but today they helped out by picking up new maintenance trucks for the lake. For the volunteers at Saylorville, every job is in their job description.A special thanks to Emily Coffin and the staff of Saylorville Lake for making our visit possible. It was great to see the "old school" Take Pride in America logo at the visitors center.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Face of America: Hawai'i Revisited

Take Pride in America Executive Director Katie Loovis joins Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts staff and supporters for an evening commemorating Face of America: Hawai`i Revisited (a live performance as part of an original series featuring music and dance to inspire deeper appreciation of our nation's natural and cultural resources). The young gentleman in the picture, Mitchell Pan, son of Gary Pan, selected Wolf Trap Foundation as a grant recipient from his family's foundation - clearly we have a wise philanthropist and budding Take Pride in America leader in our midst!

For more information on the evening performance - Hawai`i Revisited - at Wolf Trap, visit:

For more information about Wolf Trap's Face of America series, visit:

For more information about the PBS broadcast of Great Performances - Dance in America: Wolf Trap's Face of America, visit:

For more information about the Wolf Trap Foundation, visit:

Monday, July 14, 2008

LA Conservation Corps

Take Pride ED Katie Loovis with LA Conservation Corps volunteers and US Forrest Service Leadership
LA Conservation Corps leadership Bruce Saito and Dan Knapp graciously hosted Take Pride in America Executive Director Katie Loovis on several site visits in July throughout the Los Angeles area.

One stop was at a national forest where a U.S. Forrest Service leader Fabian Garcia introduced Katie to a group of conservation corps student volunteers that are a part of the Southern California Consortium - an environmental education program engaging disadvantaged youth in the outdoors.

During the visit, Katie observed the students volunteering in a compelling tree planting project. The students formed a human chain to transport the planted seedlings into the truck to ship to northern california to plant post-wildfires - a meaningful outdoor project in nature for the students that also yielded tangible results helping in the long-term recovery in northern California.

LA Conservation Corps Student Volunteers in Action2

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yuma group has outstanding cleanup year!

Last year, the Yuma (AZ) Bureau of Reclamation office had a banner year in their cleanup efforts of the Colorado River and nearby canals.

Consider this, below is an email from Jack Simes, detailing all of the work they accomplished.

With the help of 30 other agencies we had 809 volunteers show up at our six events
and with support from Take Pride in America we collected: 526 tons of
trash and deposited that in to a proper landfill; recycled 2,253 tires;
recycled 46 abandoned automobiles; recycled 7 abandoned recreation
trailers and 1 RV; recycled 6 tons of scrap metal; and recycled 30
gallons of used motor oil.

These pictures are evidence of what a man-made disaster in the desert looks like -
a real mess.

These pictures and statistics show the real need for volunteers to help take care of our land. Jack, as always, your group never ceases to amaze us!
County 19th looking west
County 19th looking Southeast