Exceptional Volunteers Honored


Stark Parks Volunteers and their accomplishments were celebrated at a honeybee-themed Recognition Dinner on Thursday, November 15 at the Exploration Gateway at Sippo Lake Park. The theme paid tribute to the hard work, variety of roles, and the common goals that are represented in the volunteer program. Volunteers from over a dozen capacities along with service groups and adopt-a-trail partners were recognized. Volunteers totaled an estimated 16,500 hours serving the people, places, and wildlife in 2018. Special awards were presented to the following volunteers and groups:


Community Pride Award: Gary and Denise Riggs: Wild4Ever

Dr. Gary and Denise Riggs of Norton, the founders of Wild4Ever, were awarded the Community Pride Award for their dedicated partnership with Stark Parks, specifically the Wildlife Conservation Center.  Their generosity helped fund a new Flight Cage at Sippo Lake Park.  Dr. Riggs has donated countless hours of medical support for injured and orphaned native wildlife in Stark County for many years.


Lifetime Achievement Award: Lee Rinehart

Lee Rinehart of North Canton received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding commitment to Stark Parks as a docent at the Canalway Center at the Exploration Gateway and providing guided tours at Quail Hollow Park. Rinehart was praised for his above and beyond approach to research, creativity, and portrayal of living history characters.


Rising Star Awards: Carol Lunger, Lenny and Scarlet Nestor

Carol Lunger of Canton began volunteering in 2017 and immediately began expanding her park knowledge by exploring parks and trails and volunteering to help at programs and events. She brought a helpful attitude as she measured fish at fishing derbies, led activities and games at community events, and went through Park Ambassador outreach training.

Lenny and Scarlet Nestor of Hartville began volunteering at the Wildlife Conservation Center in 2016.  Their nomination cited a high devotion to quality animal care and the willingness to take on any job or help out at events. Lenny has also served as the well-dressed “groundhog handler” for Groundhog Day programs.


Volunteer of the Year Awards: George Wagner, Tamara Jones

George Wagner constructed squirrel boxes out of spare wood and materials and donated them to Stark Parks for several years.  After officially joining the volunteer program, Wagner helped refine plans for wildlife boxes for better efficiency and longevity. He also became a Park Ambassador and adds his knowledge of local history and resources while urging people to visit a park.

Tamara Jones of Clinton volunteered at the Wildlife Conservation Center at least twice a week with a special passion for helping mammals.  Jones has mentored new volunteers, prepared meals for mammals, and cleaned animal enclosures.  Jones has also served as a sub-permittee, caring for infant squirrels in her home with a tremendous amount of patience, time, and resources.


Retiring Board Member: Charles Ringer

Charles Ringer of Canton served as a volunteer on the Board of Park Commissioners from 2016 to 2018. During his tenure, he oversaw the opening of Fry Family Park in Magnolia, updates made to Quail Hollow Park in Hartville, the celebration of Stark Parks’ 50th anniversary, the completion of the Pioneer Trail in Canton and the dedication of the Celebration Gardens in Louisville.


Photo Description (Award Winners): Each volunteer received a framed photo of a bee pollinating an Oxeye Sunflower taken by Steven Klinger, Seasonal Staff Member and Volunteer Photographer.

2018 Volunteer Award Winners

Left to Right: George Wagner, Lee Rinehart, Scarlet and Lenny Nestor

Not Pictured: Gary and Denise Riggs, Tamara Jones, Carol Lunger, Charles Ringer