Exceptional Volunteers Honored

Stark Parks Volunteers and their accomplishments were celebrated at a red carpet-themed dinner on Thursday, November 21 at the Exploration Gateway at Sippo Lake Park. The theme was a nod to the superstar individuals and groups who donate their time and energy in assisting Stark Parks. Volunteers totaled an estimated 19,372 hours (through October) serving people, places, and wildlife in 2019. Special awards were presented to the following individuals and groups:


Community Pride Award: South Stark Career Academy

The Community Pride award recognizes a continued and dedicated partnership between Stark Parks and a local organization. This year’s recipient included two programs, the Animal Science Program with teacher, Lindsey Rueckert, and the Construction Trades Program with teacher, Todd Elliott. Students worked to create a larger-than-life fish sculpture that was filled with recyclables at the inaugural Earth Day Open House and volunteered during the event. The Animal Science classes adopted Esmont Park in Canton and held regular clean ups in the park.


Rising Star Awards: Jarrod Rizor and John and Pam Severa

The Rising Star award recognizes individuals who are beginning to discover the meaning of volunteerism in the community. These volunteers are in their first to third year of involvement, and have made an outstanding contribution of time and effort to support the mission of Stark Parks.

The first recipient was Jarrod Rizor of Canton who was acknowledged as a faithful Wildlife Conservation Center volunteer, coming in many Saturdays to help care for the birds of prey. His time was spent doing whatever was asked including animal diet preparation, feeding, cleaning, and weighing birds, and setting up new enclosure spaces for various animals. Rizor also assisted with live wildlife presentations at community events.

The second recipient(s) of the Rising Star award was John and Pam Severa of Hartville for their commitment to leadership and many hours promoting the history of Quail Hollow Park while welcoming new visitors and volunteers. This duo has proven to be invaluable, volunteering with Sunday Manor House Tours at Quail Hollow Park, the Art, Craft, and Herb Fair and Christmas at the Hollow events. The pair also helped with many local booth and outreach opportunities as Stark Park Ambassadors.


Volunteer of the Year Awards: Cynde McLaughlin and Mike Abrams

The Volunteer of the Year award is presented to those who have made significant, unique, and lasting volunteer contributions during the course of the year.

The first recipient of the 2019 Volunteer of the Year award was Cynde McLaughlin of Canal Fulton for dedication to her role at the Wildlife Conservation Center.  She was honored for her willingness to perform what most would consider the “dirty jobs” and bringing her a positive attitude and upbeat energy. Cynde also volunteered many Saturday mornings at the parkrun event at Sippo Lake before heading to the Wildlife Conservation Center to volunteer in that capacity.

The second recipient of the 2019 Volunteer of the year award was Mike Abrams of Bolivar for his multitude of volunteer positions and his ability to do each one well. Mike volunteered as a Park Ambassador, Trailblazer, Lead Volunteer for guided bike rides, and a Sippo Lake parkrun director. Mike’s exceptional commitment to helping people enjoy Stark Parks included a popular Tuesday bike ride in the spring and summer and his tireless efforts to promote the parks and programs wherever possible.


Lifetime Achievement Award: Yas Aral

The Lifetime Achievement award recognizes an outstanding volunteer who continuously shows his or her commitment to the success of Stark Parks. Yas Aral of Alliance was awarded the Lifetime Achievement winner for her outstanding level of devotion to Stark Parks as a sub-permittee volunteer, helping care for injured bats and songbirds at her home. She was also recognized for her willingness to help with many tasks at the center like laundry, dishes, and cage cleaning, helping at the Stark County Fair, live wildlife events, and mentoring new volunteers.


Photo Description (Award Winners): Stark Parks 2019 award recipients pose with their award, a photo of a meteor shower at Walborn Reservoir taken and donated by photographer Andrew Dolph.

Volunteer Award Winners 2019

Front Row (L to R):  Lindsey Rueckert, Pam Severa, Cynde McLaughlin

Back Row (L to R): Mike Abrams, John Severa, Jarrod Rizer

Not Pictured: Yas Aral