Florida Park Service Honors Park Volunteers in South Florida

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Florida Park Service Honors Park Volunteers in South Florida

~Florida volunteers contribute more than 1.2 million hours of service annually~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In celebration of National Volunteer Month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is honoring south Florida individuals and groups with 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Awards for their invaluable contributions at Florida State Parks.

More than 14,400 state park volunteers and 82 Friends groups, or citizen support organizations (CSOs), contribute over 1.2 million hours of service annually. From painting cabins to leading nature hikes, volunteers help protect resources and improve visitor experiences at Florida's 175 state parks and trails. In addition to individual volunteers, a network of CSOs supports individual state parks or groups of parks.

In south Florida, the following volunteers and CSO were honored:

  • Three volunteers were recognized for 30 years of service. Sammy Alba and Rubin Orta were honored for their work at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Each week for the past 30 years, the pair has helped clean the park's eight fishing platforms and seawall, in addition to assisting with other essential maintenance tasks. Karen Sunderland was honored for her work at Long Key, Windley Key, Lignumvitae Key, Indian Keys and Curry Hammock state parks. She has been a member of the Friends of Islamorada Area State Parks since its inception in 1987 and assists with annual events highlighting historical and natural resources. 
  • Wally Olson, a retired firefighter and volunteer at Bahia Honda State Park since 2014, was recognized for his service teaching CPR and hosting regular safety training sessions for staff to help ensure visitor safety. 
  • The Ralph Middleton Munroe Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association was recognized for their work constructing a 14 ft. Cape Cod Sharpie Oystering Skiff at The Barnacle Historic State Park. After countless hours of hard work and dedication, the boat was launched in December 2018, and gave park visitors a glimpse of the park's rich boat-building history.  
  • The Friends of Cape Florida Inc. was recognized for their commitment to co-sponsoring and organizing the Second Saturday Monthly Beach Cleanup events at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. With the help of the Friends, the event has grown from 10 participants to more than 200.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines was recognized as an Outstanding Corporate Contributor for their partnership with Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Each year, the cruise line donates $3,000 to help secure items needed for the park's Second Saturday Monthly Beach Cleanup. They also have dedicated staff that regularly volunteer to help clean the beach and picnic areas. 
  • Two young volunteers were recognized as Youth Volunteers of the Year for their contributions to visitor service and resource management. James B. Diaz was honored for serving more than 275 hours at The Barnacle State Park, assisting with boat building projects and debris removal following Hurricane Irma. Twain Glas was honored for his involvement as a Junior Friend and work with citizen science data collection at MacArthur Beach State Park.
  • Mary and Art Dodd were recognized for dedicating 10 years of service at the Elsa Kimball Environmental Education and Research Center at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. The pair has spent a combined 6,500 hours at the center assisting visitors, and always with a positive attitude. 
  • Director of Education for the Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park, Veronica Frehm was recognized for creating a citizen science marine debris program at the park. Since June, approximately 300 participants have removed more than 650 pounds of ocean debris.
  • Crystal Karaginis was honored for her volunteer work producing the 2018 Haunted Ballet event at The Barnacle Historic State Park, which combined history and Halloween themes with ballet to the delight of visitors. 

Congratulations to the individuals and groups honored during the statewide 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Awards, sponsored by the Florida State Parks Foundation. Find more information about the 40-plus volunteers and Friends Groups that received statewide awards on the Volunteer Appreciation page of FloridaStateParks.org

Volunteers support and improve Florida State Parks with their time and talent. Learn how to get involved.