Volunteers replanting the Hoop House

2023 Volunteer Award Recipients

Recognizing Volunteers

Maple Syrup Festival Volunteers
Each year, Indian Creek Nature Center honors the priceless contributions volunteers have made throughout the preceding year.

Volunteers play an integral role advancing Indian Creek Nature Center’s mission to promote a more sustainable future. The impact of volunteers over the years has transformed the Nature Center so deeply, so routinely, and so powerfully that it’s impossible to know what the Nature Center would be without their time, talents and dedication.

Once a year, Indian Creek Nature Center pauses to recognize the priceless contributions of our volunteers. Each and every volunteer makes a difference. Whether they are sharing their love of nature with schoolchildren, maintaining our facilities and grounds, offering helpful hands at a special event, or connecting the Nature Center with opportunities in the community, every volunteer makes an impact in their own way.

At the Volunteer Recognition Event (January 18, 2024) we recognize the profound impact of some of our most dedicated volunteers with awards that acknowledge their substantial contribution of time over the course of the 2023 calendar year, and reflect the unique way they helped to create Champions of Nature.

Volunteer Awards

Land Management Volunteers
Volunteers impact ICNC’s mission in many ways – all of which are deserving of recognition.

Outstanding Service by a Community Supporter:

Awarded to an individual, organization, company, corporation or foundation who makes a substantial contribution of volunteer time, as a group/entity, shows particular dedication to the ICNC mission of creating Champions of Nature through education and/or inspiration.

Commitment to Excellence Award:

Awarded to a Board Member who shows particular dedication to the ICNC mission of creating Champions of Nature through education and/or inspiration, and/or provided support integral to a project or program.

Land and Sugar Grove Volunteer of the Year:

Awarded to a volunteer who shows dedication to land stewardship, ICNC property, grounds, and the facility, above-and-beyond the average volunteer, and/or was part of projects that would have been challenging to complete without their support.

Education Volunteer of the Year:

Awarded to a volunteer who shows dedication to the ICNC mission of creating Champions of Nature through education, above-and-beyond the average volunteer, and/or provided support integral to an educational project or program.

Outstanding Special Project:

Awarded to an individual, organization, company, corporation or foundation who makes a substantial contribution of volunteer time, as a group/entity, shows particular dedication to the ICNC mission by making significant contributions integral to a project or program.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Award:

Length of involvement is more than one or two years and their work has some continuity. Quality of the involvement includes effective work with positive results for the Nature Center, as well as a variety of kinds of volunteer work.

Founders’ Award:

Given in honor of Indian Creek Nature Center founders Jean O’Donnell & B.B. Stamats. Only persons who have been active volunteers for a period of twenty years or more may be nominated. 

2023 Award Recipients

Click on an award winner to learn more about their impact.

Outstanding Service by Community Supporter
Monarch Research Project

Accepted by Augie Bergstrom

The Monarch Research Project’s mission is to rekindle and nurture green infrastructure that sustains the native monarch and our native wildlife, forming an interconnected tapestry within our community. 

In collaboration with their partners, Monarch Research has incorporated over 1,200 acres of native prairie into local parks and trails. This initiative,  named the “1,000 Acre Plan,” was accomplished in six years. Their partnership with the Nature Center extends to shared leadership–Executive Director John Myers is a board member of MRP. 

Their support of the annual Monarch Fest and their work to grow habitat for monarchs is exemplary.

During Monarch Fest, MRP provides more than half of the caterpillar eggs that get adopted out each year and nearly all of the butterflies that are released during the festival.  They lead the monarch butterfly releases and talk to people about monarchs and their organization. This includes information about the tents they sell and how an individual can engage in this work. 

If you have participated in a monarch butterfly release at Monarch Fest– then you have experienced the pure joy and beauty that Monarch Research Project brings to this event. If you have adopted a caterpillar at Monarch Fest and watched it change and grow– you have experienced the sense of wonder this butterfly creates. 

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa

Accepted by Sue Anderson and Barb Horak

MEI is a crucial partner because of the pollinator education they provide to their members through their facebook page year round. 

All members of the ICNC Monarch Fest Committee are MEI members. MEI members donated eggs, milkweed and whatever else was needed to have another successful Monarch Fest. As noted earlier, MEI has been a partner with ICNC from the beginning. 

Quote from Andria Cossolotto “MEI members are the all important EDUCATORS of the day.  They tell participants how to care for their caterpillars, how to plant their plants and most importantly how to help pollinators.  MEI and its members are pretty much how we can pull off Monarch Fest each year.”

Thank you to all MEI Monarch Fest Committee members: Cammie Machholz, Jan Aiels, Roberta Lympus, Susan Anderson, David Anderson, Loralee Walker, Shelley Kamp, Heather Wilford, Emily Zimmerman, Anna Migila

Lion Bridge Brewing Co

Accepted by Ana and Quin McClain, founders, owners, and operators of Lion Bridge Brewing Company

Opened in 2014, Lion Bridge Brewing Company is a pillar of the Czech Village and New Bohemia neighborhoods. Their beers are world-class. Most recently, in the 2023 World Beer Cup competition from the Brewers Association, they won a silver medal for their Old 17 Irish Stout in the classic Irish-style dry stout category. The competition drew 10,213 entries from 2,376 breweries representing 51 countries. Ana and Quin set out to create a company that not only excels in their craft, but also focuses on community. 

Their support of the Nature Center is demonstrated in many ways. One is, for the past 8 years, an annual beer collaboration with 10 gallons of local honey from our apiary at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm. They brew, can and sell their Honey Gold beer with a co-branded label sharing about the importance of regenerative agriculture. 

For every draft beer sold at Lion Bridge of the honey collaboration they donate $2 to the Nature Center. 

They create a special sandwich in March using our maple syrup to help promote the Maple Syrup Festival. 

In 2023, they donated a 90 person farm to table dinner to support the 50th Anniversary by increasing the number of lifetime members. This dinner alone helped recruit 56 new lifetime members! Their farm fresh dinner also featured produce from our Etzel Sugar Grove Farm. 

Ana serves on the ICNC board. The McClain family have been supporters of the Nature Center for four generations. 

Commitment to Excellence Award 
Chris Graw

Chris Graw has shown particular dedication to the ICNC mission of creating Champions of Nature through education and inspiration. His support of the lifetime member recruitment farm to table dinner was second to none. You focused on your guests, their experience and helped create a long term connection for them to the Nature Center. Thank you. 

Chris is a Partner and Senior Wealth Advisor at Carson Wealth. 

Chris’ support through Carson Wealth – with employee and community engagement – has been integral to our work this year. For example, Carson Wealth hosted a Kentucky Derby watch party and asked their guests to make donations to select charities, including ICNC. They were able to build awareness of the Nature Center while also providing over $500 in donations. Carson Wealth was a sponsor for the 50th Anniversary Celebration last October. 

The Carson Wealth team shared “Chris is a genuine guy that has a heart to serve. Kind, compassionate, and committed are words that come to mind. He loves to help and teach , but he also strives to learn and grow so he can be and do his best.  We are proud that Chris is a leader in our office and proud of his work outside of it as well. Chris is very deserving of this award and we are so excited for him!”

Land Volunteer of the Year
Dave Cook

Dave is an excellent chainsawer, problem solver, and always shows up to help with a smile and ready to tackle any project. Lately he has helped extensively with the Věčný Woods project. Many times this past fall he felled trees, broke trails, and a year ago he helped with the process of restoring the prairie at Věčný. Thanks to his help, we have much safer trails at Věčný. If you get the chance, ask Dave about a particularly “fun” tree that he dropped this fall off the trail. It was probably one of the more problematic trees we’ve had in a while–a large tree, branches hanging off in all the wrong ways, one that you walk up to and want to head the opposite direction– but that didn’t stop Dave. With his patience, problem solving, and eye for safety we were able to get that tree dropped, which was a huge relief. Another large and impactful project we worked on the last few years was derecho clean up. Anytime we would have a day chainsawing at Sugar Grove or Amazing Space, it was very likely Dave would be signed up and out in the field helping us in the woodlands. Dave, thank you for volunteering with us, your positive outlook and work in land restoration has helped keep Indian Creek Nature Center a safe place to recreate and share our outdoor spaces with the community. 

Etzel Sugar Grove Farm Volunteer of the Year
Harold Schoen
Harold is a jack of all trades. Although he is getting the Etzel Sugar Grove Farm award, he has helped many times at Amazing Space location as well. He was a steady presence at Sugar Grove this past summer season taking care of mowing, weed whacking, and general maintenance. This helped free up more time for staff to spend in the permaculture field which I know was greatly appreciated. Harold didn’t stop at just mowing, he helped move several truck loads of mulch to the farm, finished painting the shed at Sugar Grove, and many other tasks. This past spring he helped chainsaw, haul brush, and collect sap at Amazing Space. The most recent project he has helped with is installing some new signs off the trails just in time for this very wintery weather. Harold has helped keep a lot of the day to day moving along, and is always seeking more opportunities to help at the Nature Center. There isn’t a week that goes by that he isn’t asking what more can be done to help. In this last year, he has increased his volunteer time working here at the Nature Center and we are grateful for his positivity and interest in tackling any project. Harold, thank you for your commitment to Indian Creek Nature Center.
Education Volunteers of the Year 
Phil Shaff
Phil Shaff is one of our most consistent and reliable volunteers with educational programs. He helps out with programs all year long in all seasons and all weather. He helps with a wide variety of programs, from public programs to school field trips to summer and winter camps. He is always excited to learn more and spread his knowledge to kids of all ages as well as adults. He consistently shares new ideas with us, his knowledge, and curiosity about different parts of our programs. He is always up for an adventure with whatever group he’s working with that day. Through all of this, he is never without a smile. Phil Shaff is a very deserving recipient of our Education Volunteer of the Year Award.

Mary Ann Peters
Mary Ann is always quick to lend a hand with anything she is asked to do. She is willing to hit the trail in all weather, organize supplies, and even bring her guitar for a jam session with the preschool! Mary Ann is a source of joy to all of the programs she helps with.
Outstanding Special Project
Hoop House Committee
Hoop House Committee members include Roberta Lympus, Jan Aiels, Susan Anderson, Loralee Walker, Cammie Machholz and Dave Anderson.

Between a long COVID-19 disruption and derecho aftermath, the hoop house east of the Amazing Space building had seen better days. By the fall of 2022, it was clear that a new start was needed.

I approached David and Sue Anderson, whom I also know to be pollinator and plant experts, and shared my thoughts regarding the hoop house and asked if they’d be willing to lead these efforts.  I then sat back and held my breath.

Luckily, from there, David took the idea and made it his own, complete with phenomenal execution. A team was quickly formed. The Hoop House Committee of Dave and Sue Anderson, Jan Aiels, Roberta Lympus, Cammie Maccholz and Loralee Walker held meetings, wrote minutes, and even developed a mission statement for their group (without me even asking them to!):

Educate others by showcasing the importance and beauty of our native Iowa prairie plants, with emphasis on milkweed and nectar sources of high value to the Monarch butterfly. This approach brings awareness that native Iowa plants benefit ALL of our pollinators, and it creates a beginner blueprint to encourage the “I can do this too” attitude.

Plans were literally drawn, with lots of talk about which plants to use and where to place them, and plants were ordered. Most of the plants were started at their homes and later transplanted to the hoop house. Compost was brought in and weeds were pulled.

The committee’s work didn’t stop there. Their main goal was still to educate. Plants were nicely labeled and a QR code was developed to provide care information for all plants found in the hoop house, in case a visitor was inspired and wanted to plant some in their yard.

It is important to note that, in their spare time, all six of these dedicated volunteers were also heavily involved in the Monarch Festival, donating all plants for the plant giveaway, and also having a large role in collecting monarch eggs to be adopted out.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Award 
Phil Shaff, Dan Sauerbrei, John Donner, Helga Mayhew
This year’s award winners are Phil Shaff, Dan Saurbrei, John Donner and Helga Mayhew. All of our awardees have been volunteering for us for many years. They have volunteered as Teacher Naturalists, assisted with countless events in a variety of ways, cleaned tree debris, helped with maple syruping and performed more tasks than can be named. The time and commitment they have given to the Nature Center have produced so many positive results for the Nature Center that their impact will be felt for years to come.
Founders’ Award
Deb Hartung
Deb began volunteering at Indian Creek nature Center in 1996 and has been a steady presence ever since. She was actively involved as a Women in Nature committee member for more than 20 years and regularly volunteered at the Maple Syrup Festival.

Dorothy Hinman
Dorothy Hinman was one of Indian Creek Nature Center’s earliest Teacher-Naturalist volunteers. She began volunteering in 1975 and has been a consistent member and volunteer ever since.
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