Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Windy Day at Pea Island

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Stop 8 of the VolunTOUR

Our visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina allowed us to get a glimpse into the world of the winged and those that care for them. Large Ospreys and their young greeted us at Pea Island from high atop their perches constructed through the helping hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their tremendous volunteers. Ospreys were not the only creature that calls Pea Island home though, dozens of birds, fish and animals make this Outer Banks treasure a special place. We had the honor of presenting a large group of volunteers with Take Pride in America®, Secretarial, and Presidential Volunteer Service Awards. We met a lot of passionate folks that volunteer their time for this island, and though we give them awards based on recorded volunteer hours, the impact of their service is immeasurable.

This group of dedicated volunteers represents over 30,000 volunteer hours! Their excitement and devotion to helping improve our public lands is admirable. A special thanks goes out to volunteer coordinator, Abbey Reibel (who is a volunteer herself!) and Bonnie Strawser.

The volunteers honored with Take Pride in America Hours of Service Awards are listed below. Click here for more information on our awards program.

Presidential Bronze Award
Peggy Eubank, James Fauth, Tommy Fulcher, Georgia Griffiths, Rich Griffiths, Win Jacques, Lehanne Kidd, Waverly Reibel, Marlene Schumm, Bill Slayton, Laura Wolke, Carol Thompson, Russell Thompson, Ann Bishop, and Glenn Moore

Presidential Silver Award
Sue Carroll, Angie Brady-Daniels, Chuck Jochen, David Kuyper, Patty Kuyper, Jay Ross, Ron Scovell, Sandy Semans, and Julie Truhlar

Presidential Gold Award
John Gilson, Laura Gilson, Dee Hardham, Debbie Mauney, Ryan Nordsven, Bob Teagarden, Bill Voegtli, and Ken Wynne

The Take Pride Bronze Award
Bill Ackiss, Larry Hardham, Ron Marchand, Neal Moore, and Lee Yoder

The Take Pride Gold Award
Pat Moore, and Stew Whittle

The Secretarial Volunteer Service Award
Bob Glennon

The Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award
Warren Davis

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Turtle Time!

South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, SC
Stop 7 of the VolunTOUR

On Tuesday morning, we were lucky enough to get to tour the South Carolina Aquarium and its Sea Turtle Hospital thanks to the Friends of Hunting Island and the Hospital's own Sea Turtle Rescue Program Coordinator, Kelly Thorvalson. Kelly showed us the inner workings of the aquarium, from saltwater refining processes to the proper care for river otters. She also introduced us to the fascinating procedures of sea turtle recovery and care. We were able to meet a few of the patients, learn their stories and we were happy to see several of them thriving and on the road to recovery!

We timed our visit right, because as Kelly was showing us the turtle hospital, a sick turtle was rushed in from a beach along the coast. To watch the turtle team spring into action was exciting and interesting to see. The hopes for this particular turtle were high, and we are interested to receive an update to see if her health conditions have improved since our visit. We owe a special thank you to the South Carolina Aquarium and Sea Turtle Hospital, as well as to their staff and Kelly Thorvalson in particular. It was an unforgettable experience and one that made us appreciate the nationwide effort of volunteers to locate and transport these turtles to hospitals where they may receive care. For all you boaters out there: take caution and maintain vigilance when going at high speeds both off and in-shore. Try to designate a passenger as the spotter to keep an eye for surfacing turtles. Too many of these ancient creatures are being struck by boats and a little vigilance can help reduce occurances!

Check out the status of "North Litchfield" here.

Moving North Litchfield from the truck into the hospital.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Slice of Lowcountry Heaven

Hunting Island State Park, Beaufort, South Carolina

Stop 6 of the VolunTOUR

Hunting Island's Friends group and staff are no strangers to Take Pride in America. The Friends of Hunting Island Inc. were 2007 Take Pride National Award Winners for their Loggerhead Sea Turtle program. Thus, it was our honor and pleasure to reunite with these tremendous volunteers and get a first hand glimpse at the amazing work they do for Hunting Island State Park. We arrived and were happy to once again see Bonnie Wright, Vivian Wayne and the rest of the Friends, (and to meet a few new faces). It was also great to see Jeff Atkins, Park Manager again and to meet his staff. They took us on a fascinating tour of the island and highlighted the new conservation techniques and facility upgrades that have made Hunting Island a can't-miss destination for travelers to the South Carolina lowcountry. Trails, kayaking, beach combing and wildlife-viewing are but a few of the features that the island offers.

The most popular volunteer program that the island offers is their Sea Turtle Recovery Program. Through the hard work and diligence of staff and volunteers, countless numbers of sea turtles are protected and saved from danger during each hatch. We had the absolute honor of recognizing one of the group's most impressive volunteers: Buddy Lawrence. Buddy has achieved nearly 4600 hours of lifetime service to turtle recovery and protection - sometimes even carrying them himself into open ocean! Buddy was a delight to talk to, and certainly an inspiration; we were thrilled to present him with the President's Call to Service Award.

It was difficult, (as always,) to say goodbye to our friends at Hunting Island. They personify Southern Hospitality, and they take great care of their island and its inhabitants that call Hunting Island home. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse of one of the most successful volunteer programs in the Southeast.

A Beautiful Day in Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach Elementary School, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Stop 4 of the VolunTOUR

The Sunshine State certainly lived up to its nickname during our stop in Jacksonville Beach. We arrived at Jacksonville Beach Elementary to find dozens of students, teachers, administrators and volunteers ready and waiting to beautify their school. Citi Bank of Jacksonville even let us borrow a dozen of their employees to help with the volunteer effort. Keep Jacksonville Beautiful was a terrific partner and they truly made the event special. Many thanks to Vivian, Jetta, and the many other partners that made the day so successful.

The students of Jax Beach proved to be not only well mannered and charming, but also very hard workers! We dug in with them and helped transplant a number of existing bushes and plants, removed invasive species, improved the butterfly garden and planted a number of new palm trees and bushes. By the end of the project, Jacksonville Beach Elementary was looking great, and its students were very proud of their work and their school.

We were very sad to leave such a beautiful place and caring, hospitable people, but at least we know the public lands of Jacksonville Beach are in good hands!

National Volunteer Week: Local Tennesseans Receive National Volunteer Service Awards

Yesterday, in commemoration of National Volunteer Week, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recognized three outstanding park volunteers with Take Pride in America’s “Secretarial Volunteer Service Award.” Each award winner gave more than 3,000 hours of service. National Volunteer Week is held from April 27 to May 3, and is designed to both thank volunteers for their service, and to highlight the ways they improve their communities.

Sid Davis, Claudia Konker, and Dan Lawson are all volunteers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and came to the Secretary’s attention through Take Pride in America®, a national Department of the Interior program that promotes volunteer service on America’s public lands.

“In celebration of National Volunteer Week, it is an honor to present these three remarkable volunteers with our Secretarial Volunteer Service Award,” Secretary Kempthorne said. “These volunteers have all given greatly of themselves to our national parks, and I thank them for their service.”

“Sid, Claudia, and Dan have each made a lasting impression on Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Katie Loovis, Executive Director, Take Pride in America. “Their years of service are an inspiration to us all, and show the difference that we can each make in our parks and public lands.”




Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cumberland Island: Wild and Untamed

Cumberland Island, St. Mary's, Georgia

Stop 5 of the VolunTOUR

We were transported to a long ago time and a different era once we set foot upon the shore of Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cumberland is an island that is larger than Manhattan island and features an ecosystem as diverse as the island's history. Settled as a cotton growing area in the 1800's, Cumberland housed a number of large plantations. These eventually gave way to purchase of most of the island by the Carnegie family. The Carnegies controlled Cumberland for many years, and their control eventually led to an amalgamation of private and federal ownership. Today, the National Park Service controls and manages most of the island. They were kind enough to welcome us to Cumberland and show us around.

We traveled around the island and saw the landscape change from sandy seashore to maritime forest; massive dunes to subtropical brush. We were met by the native inhabitants: armadillos, alligators, and wild horses call Cumberland home. We even briefly spotted a bobcat in the Wilderness area. As much as the day was about recognizing the magnificance of the island, it was even more impressive to learn of the exploits and positive impact that Cumberland volunteers bring to work every day. Because the island is such a massive and dynamic area, the Park Service staff relies upon the crucial support of their volunteers to keep the island in shape and its visitors well cared-for. We distributed some Take Pride awards to recognize some outstanding volunteers. Their efforts were obvious, and their passion for Cumberland was unmatched. Many thanks to the volunteers, and a special thanks to the National Park Staff that made our visit so memorable. Special thanks to Debbie and Ginger!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Earth Day 2008: Take Pride in America® joins Keep America Beautiful for Times Square Kickoff of Great American Cleanup

(Photo by Keep America Beautiful)

Recently, in celebration of Earth Day, Take Pride in America® joined with Keep America Beautiful for the official kickoff of New York City’s Great American Cleanup. Take Pride in America was there to support its partnership with Keep America Beautiful, and to present a Presidential Volunteer Service Award to a local volunteer, Malinda Futrell, for her more than 25 years of service.

For over 25 years, Futrell has worked as a community garden volunteer, for a total of over 50,000 hours of service. Currently, Futrell works with Martha Stewart’s “Garden for Living,” and she is also the founder of the 6th Street and Avenue B Garden Association.

“Take Pride in America is proud to stand hand in hand with its strong partner Keep America Beautiful,” said Katie Loovis, Executive Director, Take Pride in America. “Being able to present Malinda Futrell with this Presidential Volunteer Service Award, is a true honor and a pleasure. Twenty-five years and 50,000 hours of service should serve as an inspiration to us all. It shows us the difference that just one person can make in the community and in our public lands.”

Running from March 1 through May 31, the Great American Cleanup is a program to promote cleaner, greener communities across America. More than 30,0o0 events in 17,000 communities will remove litter and debris from public lands and waterways, promote recycling, and beautify public spaces with trees, plants and flowers.

You can find more info from the day HERE, on the Keep America Beautiful website.

(Photo by Keep America Beautiful)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scott is Hot!

Scott Middle School, Scott, Louisiana

Stop 3 of the VolunTOUR

Happy Earth Day! There wasn't a better place to spend Earth Day than at Scott Middle School. These students were pumped up for a school grounds clean up. Initially 100 students signed up, but to our surprise when we showed up there were nearly 200 students ready and waiting to get to work! Projects included trash removal, leaf raking, lawn edging, trimming bushes, planting flowers and trees. It was a big job, but with so many eager students the work went fast. Tools and supplies were donated to the school by the local Home Depot and a big thank you goes out to them for their support.

The students had a good time working together in beautifying their school grounds. Teacher, Ryan Martin, organized the days event and is working hard to instill the message of citizen stewardship in the students of Scott Middle School.

Thank you to the students and teachers of Scott Middle School for driving home the importance of caring for our public lands...especially on a day like today!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great morning in Grapevine, Texas


Lake Grapevine, Grapevine, Texas

Stop 2 of the VolunTOUR

Saturday morning we met up with the good people of Grapevine, Texas and employees of Travelocity for a morning clean up at Meadowmere Park. Grapevine Lake is beautiful, and we wondered if there was any work that needed to be done! But, we quickly learned that part of the lake shore had been untouched for years and it was the task of the day to clear brush, remove debris and make the site usable again. We have yet to encounter a more enthusiastic group of volunteers...these people were ready to get to work! And it was wonderful to see parents with their children, working side by side. And if one day wasn't enough, they are coming back for more on Tuesday!

The employees of the City of Grapevine were amazing as well, and a special thanks goes out to Joe, Tim and Mary Jo. Our visit couldn't have been any better. Also, thank you to Central Market for providing water and snacks. And of course, a big thank you to Travelocity! You guys are awesome!


The day wasn't without a few surprises...these two girls found a snake hiding in the grass! YIKES!


For more photos from this event visit HERE.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Taking Houston by storm

Toyota Highlander Hybrid in front of Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity Episcopal School, Houston, Texas

Stop 1 of the VolunTOUR

The morning got off to a rough start (thanks to a mishap with a ketchup packet), but things quickly turned for the better once we pulled into the parking lot of Holy Trinity Episcopal School. We were greeted by middle school students and our welcome couldn't have been warmer. Thank goodness for southern hospitality!

Members of the local Chamber of Commerce, along with school faculty and staff invited us inside for a warm reception, followed by a student lead tour of the campus and grounds.

Holy Trinity Episcopal School won a Take Pride in America National Award in 2006 for their outdoor classroom program. As much as we work with Take Pride Schools from across the country, it was a true pleasure today to see the dedication and commitment that these students (of all ages) put into the program at their school.

Seriously, these guys are Rock Stars!

Following the grounds tour we headed over to Jesse Jones State Park where we hiked down a trail that these students maintain and cultivate on a regular basis. Originally their work was limited to one trail, but now, being the rock stars that they are, they are working to adopt another trail in the park. Their excitement was contagious.

We saw snakes in the grass, ate wild dew berries, and learned the difference between native and non-native plants in the area.

See below for pictures and anecdotes from the day...


Out in front of the school


Learning about the school grounds, which are wetlands

Texas wildflower garden

The students in front of their trail

We would like to especially thank Marlece Davis for her making our day so enjoyable and for more kindness than we could have ever asked for. Thank you! You get an A+ in our book!

For more photos from our visit with Holy Trinity ZEpiscopal School, please see HERE...

A message from the Director

Dear Friends,

As enthusiasts for our shared lands, I’d like to make you aware of two wonderful opportunities.

Our friends at Wolf Trap have produced an exquisite television special that will reinvigorate your pride in America. “Dance in America: Wolf Trap’s Face of America” is a 90-minute, high definition, experience showcasing the grandeur of America’s national parks through innovative artist performances and the art of camera. The special features breathtaking aerial dancing off cliffs of Yosemite, rhythmic underwater dancing at the Coral Reef National Monument, and more. Tune in to PBS on Monday, April 21, 2008 at 10pm (ET). To learn more, visit HERE.

Take Pride in America® is kicking off the second leg of the “VolunTour Across America,” a Toyota-sponsored, nationwide tour promoting volunteerism on public lands. During the next three weeks, Take Pride staff will join with hundreds of Americans as we travel through ten states on this service/ media blitz! Consider joining us for a Take Pride in America service event in your community. To learn more about the VolunTour and other opportunities to volunteer, visit, and to learn more about Toyota’s sponsorship, visit HERE.

In pride to America,

Katie Loovis
Executive Director
Take Pride in America®
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, DC
(202) 208-5848

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Big Bend National Park Awards Presentation

On March 31, 2008, Big Bend National Park rolled out the red carpet for their forty-eight spring 2008 volunteers. Superintendent Bill Wellman presented the Presidential Take Pride in America Award to Sally Jones. Sally and her husband Bob have volunteered for six years at Big Bend National Park at the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center, as well as Guadeloupe National Park.

The evening's events culminated with the celebration of sixteen years of service by Barbara and Bill Baldwin. The Baldwins have held down the fort at Rio Grande Village Campground every year from October 1-April 30th since 1992 and this is going to be their last season at Big Bend as campground hosts. Many kind words were spoken about their willingness to assist with just about anything that has come up at Rio Grande Village and on the river over the years, and how much they will be missed.

A total of six Presidential Volunteer Service Silver Awards, twelve Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award, five Take Pride Bronze Awards, and one Presidential Volunteer Service Award were presented. Four of our Big Bend volunteers are previous recipients of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

This represents an impressive 90,576 cumulative hours for the volunteers at Big Bend this spring. What a group!


River Cleanup in Yuma, Arizona

Yuma AZ

Here is a great picture we received from a recent river cleanup in Yuma, Arizona. Over 63 volunteers turned out for this event, and over 4.1 tons of trash were rounded up...including 47 tires!

The Eagle Scout in the green shirt on the far right side of the picture, is David Loeffler. David organized the cleanup in this picture, and brought together several agencies to earn his Venture Scouting Ranger Award.