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Posted 4/18/2013

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By Erica Skolte


All volunteers come to their position with vastly different life experiences and equipped with equally diverse skill sets, knowledge and abilities. Put them all together, and they comprise a small army of people who are ready, willing and able to tackle just about any need.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week takes place April 21-27, providing an opportunity to celebrate the many talents and accomplishments of volunteers who give of their time and themselves on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District.

In the Corps’ robust volunteer program, many couples work side-by-side, each providing their own special contributions. From much-needed maintenance to greeting guests at visitor centers and performing administrative functions, there are opportunities to use just about every skill.  For example, maintenance volunteers may check and repair pedestals, kiosks and shelters, fix water leaks, repair sinks, paint, reseal, mow and trim lawns, pick up litter, weed gardens, plant trees and install wildlife boxes, among many other tasks.

Since the Corps is the largest provider of water-based recreation nationwide, it is helpful to have volunteers who can travel to schools to provide water safety presentations that help to keep families safe while they enjoy our nation’s resources.

“Last year, our volunteers presented water safety programs to more than 45,000 children at the elementary and preschool level, and they reached more than 8,000 children this month,” said Phil Hart, park ranger and volunteer coordinator. “Volunteers saved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more than $25,000 doing water safety presentations this year alone. There would be no way for us to provide this program to the children without the volunteers.”

If Hart sounds proud of the program, it’s because he is proud. “We have one the highest number of interpretative contacts for water safety within the Corps. We are able to accomplish an important mission using volunteers instead of taxpayer dollars.”

“One other small example of the many ways that volunteers provide service and savings to the Corps is the rehabilitation of picnic tables,” said Hart.

One table has approximately 90 board-feet per table, and a tree has an average of 180 board-feet. Volunteers have redone over 500 boards. By restoring the boards, volunteers saved more than 40 trees from being cut down in the last year. With a cost of $66.47 per board, the total savings realized was more than $33,000. 

“We have great volunteers. They do outstanding work, and they save us a lot of time, money and resources,” said Hart.

Volunteers play a vital role in the success of the recreation and environmental stewardship programs at Lake Okeechobee and along the Okeechobee Waterway. Each year, approximately 350 volunteers provide more than 16,500 hours of service.

Nationwide, the Corps is the steward of almost 12 million acres of land and water and offers many volunteer opportunities in recreation and natural resources management. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Volunteer Clearinghouse is the link between potential volunteers and the park rangers at lakes and waterways that need them. If interested in volunteering, check out the opportunities listed on the website and apply online or call 1-800-VOL-TEER (1-800-865-8337).

Volunteers provide important services such as campground host, visitor center staff, park and trail maintenance, water safety program presenter and more.



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