Appreciating Volunteers

Nothing’s quite as rewarding as a stranger walking up to you, giving you a pat on the back, a handshake, and saying “Thanks for the effort!”
I read in the newspaper (yeah, I still do that) that April 10-16 was National Volunteer Week.
According to the website
“National Volunteer Week is an annual opportunity to step back and recognize the hardworking volunteers who dedicate their time, talents and passions to improving every corner of this great nation.”
I second that!
It is therefore about time that we raise our hand in salute, backslap, and handshake to our friends and neighbors who have raised their hand to volunteer.
So this week, for all of my fellow volunteers working hard for the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, here’s your pat on the back, handshake and thanks.
THANKS to one of the USRC’s hardest working volunteers, Chuck Berschinski, who heads up our highway cleanup efforts. He and fellow “retired” volunteers Jon Hanson, Joe Niernberger, along with several other volunteers, can frequently be spotted along Highway 47 or lurking around I-74 on and off-ramps picking up trash that won’t flow downstream into the Sangamon River.
Chuck also heads up our efforts to maintain the Historic Hazen Bridge and can often be counted on to pick up a chain saw to clear a fallen tree from the river.
THANKS to Alan Weith, the USRC’s treasurer for many years running who also helps with our Annual Duck Race. Alan can be spotted selling rubber ducks under a shady tent in front of the Mahomet IGA on summer weekend mornings. But perhaps most importantly, Alan designed and brought to life the giant yellow duck that poops on Mahomet’s Annual Riverfest Parade (if you don’t know what I mean, you haven’t been to the parade, now have you?)
THANKS to USRC founding member and current President Bruce Colravy. Bruce also coordinates all of the USRC’s scientific endeavors including the Riverwatch Program and annual mussel surveys on the Sangamon. And THANKS to the dozens of volunteers who come out to help with those events.
And THANKS to the many members who can be counted on to help out wherever they’re needed for many USRC activities including Mike Daab (with the Forest Preserve District), Bart Duesdieker, Mary Stech, and Phil and Elaine Hult (and many, many more).
THANKS to the members who are known not only for their service to the group, but also for volunteering their home including past Board Members Tim and Linda Garrow and Mike Boero. And when Mike can’t come along on the river, he volunteers one of his many kayaks in service to the cause.
And THANKS to Ken Keefe, our webmaster who maintains our website and electronic mailing lists.
And this brings to mind several past volunteers: THANKS to Jeff Carpenter (website), Jim Wilcoski (founding member and first treasurer), and Rick Williams (founding member and historian).
And I should also say THANKS to USRC founding member, consistent supporter, cheerleader and past Forest Preserve Executive Director Jerry Pagac. Jerry, myself, Earl Seamands and Mary Everhart were some of the earliest folks to start thinking about forming a local Sangamon River citizen’s group. So THANKS to Earl and Mary, too!
And posthumously, THANKS to one of Mahomet’s most well-known and very frequent volunteers, (so much so he never knew which t-shirt to wear during Riverfest) USRC founding member and board member Tom Meachum, may he rest-in-peace. But I assure you that wherever Tom is, he’s not resting: he’s raising his hand at every volunteer opportunity.
And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a heart-felt THANKS to my better half, Carol, currently heading up Mahomet’s Rivertrail committee and who has been right there with me and the USRC since the start. Since we met long ago in Florida, Carol has inspired in me – by her own example – a sense of community volunteerism that drives me ever on.
All of the folks I’ve mentioned here are your friends, neighbors, fellow-church goers, or members of the other volunteer organizations you are on. So if you see them around, be sure and give them a hearty pat on the back, a handshake and a “thanks, for the effort!”
You’d probably be amazed how rewarded they’ll feel.
Finally, if you yourself would like to become a more active local volunteer, believe me, our community has loads of organizations for you to help out with in any number of ways.
Just remember, getting started volunteering can be very difficult. So to get you started, here’s Scott’s Guaranteed Five-Step Guide:
1. Begin in a seated position.
2. Stand up.
3. Take your left hand and grasp your right forearm just behind the wrist.
4. With your left hand, carefully and deliberately raise your right above your head with your palm pointed out and skywards.
5. That’s it. You just volunteered.
I’m not actually sure what you just volunteered for, but I’m sure it was something meaningful that will bring greater purpose to your life, introduce you to new, lifelong friendships, and someday even earn you a nice pat on the back from a stranger, a handshake, and a “thanks for the effort!”
And that, I guarantee you, will be reward enough.
Note: If you’re looking to find out how you can get more involved with the USRC and the Sangamon River, please come out to our First Annual USRC Showcase at the Izaak Walton cabin at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve on Saturday, April 23, from 1 to 5pm. We’ll be sure to fix you right up!

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, April 21, 2016, by Scott Hays

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