Thursday, August 6, 2009

Take Pride in America Highlights United We Serve Energy & Environment Focus Week

This week, President Obama's United We Serve initiative will spotlight volunteer initiatives that promote energy efficiency, address climate change, and preserve our natural environment as part of Energy and Environment Week. In June, President Obama announced “United We Serve,” a nationwide summer volunteer service initiative to help meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar followed the President’s announcement with a call to action for every adult to mentor a child outdoors this summer.

In support of Energy and Environment Week and Secretary Salazar’s call to action, the National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with Take Pride in America® and the Department of the Interior participated in three volunteer service events throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Wednesday, August 5, 2009.

The National Park Service hosted an invasive plant species removal event at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service planed an invasive plant species removal project at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. The third service site is in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management at Virginia’s Meadowood Special Recreation Area where volunteers repaired a walking trail.

Other Take Pride in America United We Serve partners are also holding events this week around the country. For example, Sierra Club will be hosting a Fishing Day for Kids in Shady Valley, Tennessee, and a Reynolds Creek Trail Maintenance event in Arizona.

In addition to these events, individuals and organizations are encouraged to host their own energy and environmental service events and highlight them online and in the media. Examples of activities for Energy and Environment week include: Trail maintenance and invasive species removal, weatherizing homes or cleaning a stream or river.

Service projects can be promoted online or in the media and volunteers are encouraged to recruit volunteers and share their stories of service on United We Serve will spotlight some of these stories throughout the week.

Upcoming United We Serve issue weeks are Health (August 10-17) and Safety and Security (August 24-30). The final week (August 31-September 6) will focus on service by people of faith and faith-based organizations. The first issue week, Community Renewal, was July 20-26, followed by Education Week (July 27-August 2).

United We Serve is President Obama's call to service challenging all Americans to engage in sustained, meaningful community service. United We Serve initially runs from June 22 through a new National Day of Service on September 11, but will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans. United We Serve is led by the Corporation for National and Community Service. For more information, visit

To read the Department of Interior's press release, click HERE.

To read the National Wildlife Federation’s press release, click HERE.

For the Corporation for National & Community Service’s press release about Energy and Environment Focus week, click HERE.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Student Conservation Association Interns Maintain Parks, Essex County, New Jersey

Newark students maintain parks, learn about environment

Thirty high school students, most of them from Newark, New Jersey, maintain parks throughout Essex County as part of a summer internship program run by the Student Conservation Association. Among their many goals, the interns are working to re-route hiking trails, fix erosion and drainage problems, perform tree maintenance, and remove invasive species.

Friday, July 10, 2009

San Diego River Clean-Up, Mission Valley, California

The San Diego River Park Foundation's Clean & Green Team saw 216 volunteers turnout for their June 27th cleanup at the California Fish & Game's Preserve in Mission Valley. The volunteers collected 5,000lbs of trash and an assortment of recyclables materials that included 13 tires and 4 cubic yards of mixed recyclables like: aluminum cans, bottles, and cardboard; and several bags containers with oil products and aerosol cans. Unique items found at this cleanup were: a large blow-up swimming pool, a mattress and box spring set, empty propane tank and barbeque grill. This area of the river is in a dense urban setting. This event was co-sponsored by Pepsi, I Love A Clean San Diego, the Union Bank of California, California Fish & Game, and REI.

Also, at their June 13th Cleanup at the Mission Valley Preserve’s Cottonwood Grove site they had 83 volunteers turnout, and they helped remove 4,700 pounds of trash.

To date, 41,300 pounds (or 20.65 Tons) of trash have been removed from this watershed since October 2008. Wow!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Catch a Special Thrill (CAST) Fishing/ Take Pride in America Event at Sarge Hubbard Pond, Yakima, Washington

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation hosted a CAST /Take Pride in America Event on June 20, 2009 at Sarge Hubbard Pond in Yakima, Washington. The purpose of CAST events is to provide disabled and disadvantaged children to enjoy a quality outdoor recreational experience fishing on the water. The day of fishing went very well. There were 21 children who participated and quite a few fish were caught. In addition, everyone enjoyed the BBQ lunch that was prepared by Reclamation’s Yakima Area Office employees.

To top it all off, an exciting awards ceremony was held at the end with all of the participants receiving a plaque, certificate and fun pack filled with educational and fun items.

There were 35 volunteers which included three individuals from a local agency of adults with disabilities. These individuals were very excited and thrilled to be useful at such an important event. They contributed to the food preparation, security and safety, and as a fishing buddy.

10th Annual CAST For Kids Event Splashes Down at Shasta Lake, Shasta Lake City, California

On Saturday, June 13th, 2009, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation/Northern California Area Office in partnership with the C.A.S.T. For Kids Foundation and Take pride in America, held its 10th annual CAST for Kids event on Shasta Lake, in beautiful Northern California. Thirty-nine happy, special kids headed out on the water on what ended up being a picture perfect day. While sunny blue skies and spring-like temperatures ended up greeting the excited anglers, the night before was a much different story. One of the regions summer storms, bringing wind, rain, and lightning, blew through as event organizers were setting up, giving some concern about how the weather would affect the turnout. By the time the storm came through, a third of an inch of rain fell, and wind blew over some of the shade tents. But that was no match for the excitement of the day, as the eager group of boaters, kids and volunteers showed up bright and early, ready to take on the task at hand: fishing beautiful Shasta Lake!

Boaters from local bass clubs, some as far away as Red Bluff, came to take special needs kids out to share their passion for the sport of fishing, and enjoying the outdoors. The day started with registration and a visit from the California Highway Patrol with their sidekick Chipper. A brief boating safety talk was given by Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies while the group ate a light breakfast, after which our group was eager to hit the lake and catch the big ones. Launching 32 boats was made smooth with the help of several Reclamation employees who pitched in to help make it all happen.

When the group returned from their morning of fishing, they were welcomed by Smokey Bear from the US Forest Service and a big BBQ lunch cooked up by the Redding Elks Lodge with food provided by many local businesses. As lunch was eaten, and fish stories shared, you could just see the fondness that had developed between these special kids and their fishing mentors. It’s hard to tell who had more fun- the kids or the volunteers who took them out!

As the day ended, each child was given a plaque to commemorate the day, along with a goody bag full of donated items from the local community. As the group started to leave, there were lots of hugs, smiles, and promises to “see ya’ next year!”

“I just wanted to say a big ‘Thank You’, remarked Sherrie Brooks, one of the parents. “This was the first year our eight-year-old son Brad participated in CAST For Kids. It was fantastic! My husband and son had a wonderful time on one of the pontoon boats; they learned more about fishing and enjoyed being in the great outdoors on Shasta Lake. I was very impressed with the organization of the event. It far exceeded our expectations. We look forward to next year. What a great program for kids with special needs. Thanks once again”.

When it comes down to it…that’s what it is all about!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 Cast for Kids Fishing Event, Lake Bastrop, Texas

The fifth annual Catch a Special Thrill (CAST) for Kids fishing event on April 25th, 2009 at Lake Bastrop in Bastrop, Texas was a great success. Once again, the Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado River Authority, and Blue Bonnet Electric Cooperative partnered to provide a fun-filled day of boating and fishing. The event was also billed as a “Take Pride in America” function.

A total of 33 children (age ranges 5 to 15 years old) attended the event, accompanied by dozens of family members and friends. Once again, we hosted those with a variety of disabilities including cerebral palsy, Hunter’s disease, autism, Down’s syndrome, and cancer to name a few. Overall, participants represented the Bastrop Independent School District (ISD), Del Valley ISD, Austin ISD, San Marcos ISD, and Austin’s Dell Children’s Hospital. Upon arrival, each child was provided with breakfast, a fishing pole, tackle box, shirt, cap, as well as a special prize lunch box that contained bottled water, sunscreen, disposable camera, and a special toy. During the award’s ceremony, Smoky the Bear made a special appearance to hand out plaques to each of the event’s participants.

A total of 28 captains donated their time and their boats to the special event. As always, we ended up with a perfect match of the number of boats and kids. Furthermore, almost 100 volunteers were on-hand to ensure a wonderful day of safe fishing. In all, about 190 people attended this year’s event.

Finally, the event could not be made possible without the generous support of our event sponsors. In all, this year’s event had almost 20 sponsors. Most notable sponsors include Wal-Mart, which provided cash and volunteers, and Chili’s, which provided lunch and cooked up fresh chicken and beef fajitas with all the trimmings.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Linendoll's - Outstanding Volunteers!

Since 2003, Zion National Park has had the honor of receiving volunteer services from Ken and Nancy Linendoll. They have been campground hosts at Watchman Campground each year, most recently departing Zion in October 2008 after another successful season. During their time here, Ken and Nancy have become trusted and loved members of the Zion family; everyone who has had the privilege of interacting with them has discovered that they are two of the friendliest, kindest, most genuine, caring people ever to have visited the park and our lives.

Ken and Nancy have always been willing to go the extra mile. In 2005, after completing the full length of their volunteer season, they stepped in and continued volunteering in the campground when the hosts who were set to follow them were unable to fulfill their commitment. The following season, their fellow campground host had some health issues that resulted in him requiring surgery and a lengthy recovery time. This kept him from being able to work as a campground host on Ken and Nancy’s days off. Not only did they work nearly every one of their days off to ensure the campground staff had the assistance they needed, Ken and Nancy also helped take care of and nurse their co-host back to health, driving him to the hospital and doctor appointments, caring for his dog, and cooking him meals. These are the kinds of things Ken and Nancy selflessly do on a regular basis to improve the lives of and help out the people around them.

Over the years, the love and pride Ken and Nancy feel for Zion National Park has been shown through their actions. They have represented the park in the local town’s parades; they have been great ambassadors for the park in their interactions with campers and other visitors, passionately educating them about all the great opportunities that abound here; they have shown amazing dedication to Watchman Campground and the NPS staff by giving serious thought about ways to improve the operation to provide for a better work environment for the staff and a better visitor experience. They have forged lasting friendships with many members of the Zion National Park staff and get along amazingly well with staff members from all divisions of the park, from the maintenance staff to the law enforcement rangers to the dispatchers to the fee rangers.

The entire staff at Zion National Park is proud to have the opportunity to congratulate Ken and Nancy on their amazing accomplishment of receiving the Presidential Volunteer Award. Words cannot express the appreciation we feel not only for the incredible work they do for the park, but especially for the time we’ve been lucky enough to spend with them and the privilege it is to call them friends. We look forward to seeing their smiling faces back in the glow of the red rock of Zion!

Jill Modrak-Killian
Watchman Campground Supervisor
Zion National Park

Once Ken and Nancy finish their work at Zion National Park, they move on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and volunteer for another 3 or 4 months as fee assistants at the Monument's Twin Peaks Campground. Pictured above with the Linendoll's is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Chief of Interpretation, Andy Fisher.

San Diego River Park Foundation

At a recent San Diego River Park Foundation event co-sponsored by Take Pride in America, the Bureau of Reclamation Southern California Area Office, the California Department of Transportation: Don't Trash California Campaign, Union Bank of California and REI, volunteers removed over 6,000 pounds of trash!! The ninety-five volunteers, included Navy personnel & family members and employees from a local Wells Fargo Bank.

One lucky volunteer happened upon this 98 year old trophy! The trophy was awarded to the American Show Print Company. The company started in 1849 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and created the lighted scoreboards for baseball games. It makes you wonder how it got all the way to the banks of the San Diego River!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Big Bend National Park honors 29 volunteers at April 6th Awards Ceremony

As the spring season draws to a close at Big Bend, staff and volunteers gathered for a special lasagna dinner at the park headquarters Community Room which was transformed by the addition of flower arrangements and tablecloths. As everyone gathered for a social hour, the emphasis was on getting together and catching up on the news since some of the volunteers had not seen each other since orientation in January. The highlight of the evening was a slide show followed by the awards presentation.

The slide show highlighted the accomplishments and activities of the volunteers during the past three months. The 29 volunteers provided 8,825 service hours during February and March with work continuing through April. In addition to staffing visitor centers and campgrounds, volunteers assisted River Rangers, performed backcountry and fire patrol and contributed to various projects for Science and Resource Management.

An unknown author said, “No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” We are grateful for the time and energy that all the volunteers contribute here at Big Bend and hope that the Awards Ceremony was successful in conveying our appreciation.

Featured is NPS Interpreter Mary Kay Manning and volunteers Pat and Marshall McCall.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Checking in with Clifton

In 2007, the City of Clifton, New Jersey's Clean Communities program was recognized with a Take Pride in America National Award for their outstanding efforts in promoting volunteerism and public lands stewardship...and we are proud to say that they are still going strong! Clifton is home to 23 Take Pride Schools that continue to engage students in activities that benefit their schools and community as a whole.

Recently one of Clifton's outstanding citizen volunteers was recognized with the Presidential Volunteer Gold Service Award. Theresa Evans, a teacher at Christopher Columbus Middle School took on a beautification project that included over 900 personal volunteer hours! She also coordinated over 5,000 volunteer hours form students, parents, teachers and inmates from the Passaic County Jail. Together they transformed an overgrown courtyard into a beautiful outdoor haven for students. She also tackled the school grounds and they are now beautifully landscaped with trees, bushes, a cinder path, benches and picnic tables.

Theresa was honored at the annual Clean Communities awards ceremony that was held on March 12, 2009 at Clifton High School.

Photos of the school grounds before the beautification project...

Photos of all the hard work...

Photos of the school grounds after the beautification project...

It's amazing what the vision, dedication and hard work of one person can accomplish...especially when they have an army of volunteers behind them! Congratulations Theresa and thank you to the City of Clifton, NJ for continuing the mission and goals of the Take Pride in America program!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Battery Creek High School Volunteer at Hunting Island State Park

Twenty-eight Battery Creek High School students earned community service hours this month by collecting litter at Hunting Island State Park. A Take Pride In America sponsor and under the direction of Friends of Hunting Island State Park, Karen Whitehead, Litter Director.

They filled 30 garbage bags with plastic bottles, cans, paper and old clothing, and one student found the cover of an outboard motor. Freshmen and sophomores are required to complete between 40 and 50 hours of community service this year to help the high school earn designation as an accredited International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program, which serves 11- to 16-year-old students, said Julie Petroff, the school's coordinator for the program. Battery Creek already offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which gives upperclassman an opportunity to earn college credit in high school.

"They had a blast," Petroff said. "I think teenagers can be very self-
centered, not in a bad way so much, but they are really into themselves. This kind of gets them out of that and starts them on thinking about other people and thinking about the environment."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

C & O Canal Pride Days

With spring fast approaching, it's time to get one of our favorite national parks ready for the visitor season. Join us again for C&O Canal Pride Days, a joint effort between the Trust and the C&O Canal National Historical Park to tackle dozens of much-needed projects in the park. Volunteer activities this year will include painting buildings, repairing and painting picnic tables and grills, cutting back overgrown vegetation, rehabilitating trails, and much more.

This year's kickoff event will be at the Great Falls Tavern in Potomac, Maryland on Saturday, April 18th. Come early to enjoy brief opening remarks from C&O Canal NHP Superintendent Kevin Brandt, light refreshments to jump start the day's activities, and a unique opportunity to “Meet a Mule.”

We encourage you to join us in completing projects at any or all of these locations throughout the spring:

Saturday, April 18th – Great Falls
Saturday, April 25th – Lander and Brunswick
Saturday, May 2nd – Williamsport and Hancock
Saturday, May 16th – Cabin John (Team River Runner project)

Last year Take Pride in America had the pleasure of teaming up with the C&O Canal Trust for our final event of the 2008 Southeast Voluntour Across America. You can read about our event here, and enjoy some great photos from the event below.

For more information, visit the C&O Canal Trust website.

Friday, February 27, 2009

San Diego River Park Foundation

Volunteers with the San Diego River Park Foundation removed 1,200 pounds of trash from the San Diego River. Interesting items included a
waterlogged punching bag, bike frame, car battery and burned lounge
chair. Below Shannon Quigley, the Field Operations Associate from the San Diego River Park Foundation, shares some of the highlights.

Marissa and her Dad Ricardo came to help clean up the San Diego River
because Marissa is very conscious of trash and she loves animals and
nature. Ricardo said that Marissa picks up trash wherever they go. Ricardo
thought volunteering with the San Diego River Park Foundation Clean and Green
team would be a great opportunity to satisfy her desire to clean up the
environment. Along with numerous other trash items Marissa and her Dad
found this old rusted bike frame near the river and pulled it out. Great job
Marissa, the San Diego River is definitely cleaner because of your

Alan and Brigit are two of our newest volunteers. Alan is a senior and
San Diego High School. After high school he wants to pursue a degree in
Environmental Engineering. Alan volunteers with the clean-up events
and other River Park activities because of the experience he gains. Brigit
was at the Mission Valley Preserve a week before and noticed how dirty the
area was, she volunteered to help remove the trash and get the area clean so
her walks can be more enjoyable. Alan and Brigit found a lounge chair in
the San Diego River. The two worked together to bring it to shore.

Elementary School Students Participate in Restoration Project at Lake Berryessa, California

On Wednesday, February 4, 2009, the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students of Capell Valley Elementary School arrived ready to feel the earth beneath their fingernails and eager to help restore native grasses to the Lake Berryessa Visitor Center. As part of Take Pride in America, 14 students and 3 adults participated in a Reclamation sponsored project to rehabilitate the area’s natural vegetation and to resurrect a piece of California’s “herbaceous heritage,” while at the same time controlling erosion and the encroachment of invasive weeds. The students took up their work enthusiastically, digging holes and gently planting plugs of native fescue, purple needle grass and soap plant. Learning that the native bunch grasses being planted were perennial gave the students a feeling of pride that their efforts would continue to prosper through the years. The sense of a lasting contribution even gave a few students a desire to name individual grass bunches so that “Fred the Fescue” could be checked up on at a later date.