Exceptional Volunteers Honored

Front Row (L to R): Deb Belden, Lindy Anastis, Denise Freeland
Back Row (L to R): Wayne Wellbaum, Executive Director Dan Moeglin, Patrick Cooper, Howard Montgomery from NE Ohio Orienteering Club. 
Not Pictured: Patricia Quick

Stark Parks celebrated volunteer accomplishments in 2022 at the annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner at the Exploration Gateway at Sippo Lake Park earlier this month. Through September, nearly 14,000 volunteer hours have been logged in 2022.  These difference makers were celebrated at the annual Volunteer Recognition dinner.  Special awards and a framed photo taken by one of the award winners were presented to the following volunteers and groups:

Community Pride Awards honoring dedicated community partners were presented to: Northeast Ohio Orienteering Club for holding public events in park locations throughout northeast Ohio, including Sippo Lake Park, Quail Hollow Park, Walborn Reservoir, and Fry Family Park. The volunteers who conduct the preparation and execution of events are phenomenal.

The Stark County Federation of Conservation Clubs is made up of hunting clubs, firearm clubs, fishing clubs, conservation clubs, parks, and sportsmen who promote ethics in sportsmanship, sponsor conservation education programs.  Their history with Stark Parks goes back over 50 years through presenting fishing derbies and other youth events and partnership with displays at the Stark County Fair. 

Rising Star Awards recognize individuals in their first three years of volunteering who make an outstanding contribution.  Patrick Cooper of Wadsworth, began as a volunteer in 2019 and became very involved at the Wildlife Conservation Center last year.  He volunteers twice a week for the majority of the day and with a willing and friendly attitude working with the raptors.

His nomination said, “We can always depend on him not only to show up and help but to pay very special attention to the animals he cares for.” 

Lindy Anastis of Canton was applauded for her willingness to volunteer in many areas including Saturday morning parkrun, at community events, and children’s wildlife and nature programs.   Her nomination included that, “Stark Parks is lucky to have such a motivated and positive volunteer.”  Lindy’s photo of a Northern Cardinal, the State Bird of Ohio, was presented to each award winner. 

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Wayne Wellbaum of Canton for making significant, unique, and lasting volunteer contributions in 2022.  Wellbaum was described as a wonderful volunteer who has grown and blossomed while helping Stark Parks in many ways including the Wildlife Conservation Center, Eagle Observation Area at Walborn Reservoir, Pontoon Boat Captain, and taking photographs while on the trails.  At the Wildlife Conservation Center, he was commended for developing close relationships with animal ambassadors that can be challenging to train and interact with.

A Lifetime Achievement Award paying tribute to a volunteer who continuously shows commitment to the success of the Stark Parks was presented to Deb Belden of Uniontown.  Belden has volunteered at the Wildlife Conservation Center since 2010 and is known for being reliable, friendly, and fun to work with.  Here faithful attention to each animal and the steps needed to return them to the wild has made her stand out over the years while growing and developing her knowledge about their species.

Two Retiring Park Board of Commissioners were also presented awards for their years of service.  Denise Freeland of Minerva and Patricia Quick of Canton were honored for their terms on the Park Board.  Major accomplishments during their time included the opening of the Joseph J. and Helen M. Sommer Wildlife Conservation Center, the final connection of the Towpath Trail in Massillon, the management of the Sippo Valley Trail and Quail Hollow Park, the addition of Tam O’Shanter Park, the Mindfulness Walk debut at Petros Lake Park, and the connection of the Iron Horse Trail through the City of Alliance. 

Recognition was also given to several volunteer in attendance for a Coral Crochet project that took over 600 hours to create.  Under the direction of volunteer, Maiken John, 20 volunteers from local library groups created a community crochet art piece to raise awareness of the impact our waterways in Ohio have on coral reefs around the world.  Coral reefs have declined since 1950 due to a variety of impacts including rising water temperatures, agricultural runoff, industrial waste discharge, sewage, and other factors causing coral bleaching.

Photo Description (Award Winners): Stark Parks 2022 award recipients pose with their award, a photo of a cardinal taken during the 2021 Winter Photography Contest by Lindy Anastis.

Representatives from the Stark County Federation of Conservation Clubs.  (L to R) Lanny Griffin, Mike Rutledge, Bill Bonk, Jim McNemar
Volunteers from the Coral Crochet Community Art Project.  Teresa Hornbrook, Linda Howard, Maiken John, John Tustin, Melissa Durisko, Donna LaMar