Sunday, December 11, 2011

Volunteers-In-Parks Recognized At Heritage Corridor Event

More than 60 volunteers and their guests gathered at The Pines in North Smithfield, RI recently where they were recognized for their contributions to the Heritage Corridor. Ranger Peter Coffin talked to the group about the role volunteers have played since the Corridor was established in 1986.  “This place was built on volunteers 25 years ago and it will go forward with volunteers to the next 25 years.”  Ranger Chuck Arning added, “We couldn’t do it without you.  You are out there cleaning the river, talking to our visitors, and taking care of this important place day in and day out.”  Volunteer Coordinator Valerie Paul described the contribution of volunteers in dollars and cents.  “You contributed the equivalent of more that $1 million dollars in volunteer labor last year.  You are an amazing group of people.”

Each of the 62 volunteers present was recognized with a thank you gift.  A number of special awards were also presented. The Heart and Hands Award was given to three volunteers – Walt Szeliga of Pawtucket, RI for his work at the Kelly House Museum; Mike Scalzi of Cumberland, RI for his work with local cemetery restoration; and Matthew Goyette of Woonsocket, RI for his ongoing work with the Volunteers-In-Parks program.  This award, Paul explained, is for “volunteers who see a need and take care of it without being asked or without asking for anything.  They just take care of it.  The name of the award recognizes the willingness of the volunteer to give with both their hands and with their heart.”  Each recipient of the award received a lapel pin shaped like a hand with a heart on its palm.

Leaders who were present from individual partner organizations in the Heritage Corridor also received acknowledgement.  As the leaders came forward to accept their awards, Paul told the group “It takes someone special to not only volunteer their time but also be willing to step up and lead.”  Awards were presented to David Barber of the Blackstone Canal Conservancy, Irene Blais from the Woonsocket Historical Society, Diane Calvano from the Leicester Historical Society, Walter Croteau of the Blackstone River Bikeway Patrol, John Marsland of the Blackstone River Watershed Council/ Friends of the Blackstone, Betty Mencucci of the Burrillville Historical Society, William Paul of Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association, Mike Scalzi of Friends of Elder Ballou Cemetery, and Cheryl Thompson Cameron from the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club.

A special group award was presented to the “Valley Boys.”  This informal group, which consists of members of the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone, works together to clean the river and its banks on an ongoing basis.  Most recently, the Valley Boys cut down and removed dozens of trees after Tropical Storm Irene.  They also removed a 600 pound tire from the river this fall.  On the plaque was what Paul described as "a fitting tribute" to the group - a hand carved arrowhead made by a local artist from a broken bottle.

“We absolutely cherish our volunteers,” Paul said later.  “I like to think we have the best volunteers in the whole National Park Service.”