Darke County Park District volunteers help enrich community


GREENVILLE — During a volunteer appreciation evening for the Darke County Park District, at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday, a new award was presented in the spirit and in memory of the late volunteer Paul Grote.

According to volunteer Susan Gray, who had worked with Grote at the park district, “Paul got things done.”

“It never bothered him how big the project was,” she said. “He wanted things done right now.”

Implementing the Paul Grote Memorial Volunteer Award was the idea of retired Darke County Park District Commissioner Steve Shaltry, who had served the district 24 years. While every volunteer is valuable, he wanted to highlight someone with the same can-do spirit as Grote, Darke County Park District Director Roger Van Frank said.

The Paul Grote Memorial Volunteer award this year went to long-time volunteer Jim Poeppelman, of Versailles.

This isn’t a lightly thought out item; it is something staff and commissioners have talked about for awhile, Van Frank said. Some of the long list of projects Poeppelman has worked on at the district include: the Sugar Shack, the Log House, the lean-to over the oven, the new mew, the bowery, another bridge and the tractor and trailer rides.

“On behalf of the park district, I want to give you the biggest ‘give a hoot’ award that we have ever given,” Van Frank said to Poeppelman. “I twisted his arm so badly, he had to put it in a sling for a week to build the mew. I can tell you, he has lost sleep, he has lost weight and when he cleaned up yesterday, he said, ‘You aren’t going to see me until Prairie Days’. You are one of the guys I can go to and count on to help me out. You said it was only going to be five years, we are up to 10 buddy.”

Darke County Park District Commissioner Roger Brocious said Poeppelman is a great asset to the district.

“In all of the years I have done volunteer work here, I have enjoyed working Jim,” Brocious said. “I have learned a lot, and he puts a great amount of enthusiasm in his work – he really does.”

Pam Siegel, of Greenville, was the volunteer with the highest number of hours, clocking 626 over the last year. Siegel has volunteered for four years for a number of projects, such as: school programs, Prairie Days, the candlelight dinner and the winter luminary walk. But by far she said her favorite project has been reading to Greta, a blind Great horned owl that lives at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center. She has read children’s books to her, everyday for four years.

“Greta was my dream,” Siegel said. “She is my girl and we love her. I will do this until one of us goes.”

Through the reading process, Greta has learned Siegel’s voice and has become more trusting of the public in general. Routine is very important to her, Siegel said.

“She had no socialization when she came here,” she said. “I started sitting outside and talking and reading to her and gradually went inside. That was my goal, to get her accustomed to voices so that the public can come and see her and enjoy her, without her being upset and afraid.”

Another announcement made at the gathering was the hiring of volunteer-Volunteer Coordinator Kathi McQueen as full time naturalist. The district is seeking another volunteer for the volunteer coordinator position. McQueen brings a lot of experience to the position, including a master’s degree in zoology, many internships and trainings.

“I think animals talk to people,” McQueen said. “It makes pulling in all of the ecological concepts of what we are teaching about the environment easier, if we have a live animal. We have a captive audience with a live animal, and can relate almost everything in nature back to that animal. People relate to that.”

Darke County Park District Commissioner Tina White congratulated McQueen.

“You have done an amazing job of volunteer coordinator,” White said. “I will love watching the animals progress with your vision.”

The volunteers received awards of carved wooden owls, with their number of clocked hours engraved on them. Owls were chosen because the volunteers “give a hoot”. They were also given a t-shirt. Numbers of hours were yelled for the year, as folks received their awards: 235, 410, 75, 430.

“I can’t tell you the total number of hours, but I can tell you since this park district has started there has been tens of thousands of hours of volunteerism,” Van Frank said. “Through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. That is unheard of. You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”

The Darke County Park District is in great need of volunteers for Prairie Days September 23 and 24. For those interested, call 937-548-0165.

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A Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire1.jpgA Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.” Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

A Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire8.jpgA Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.” Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

A Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire2.jpgA Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.” Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

A Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire3jpg.jpgA Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.” Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

From left to right: Darke County Park District Director Roger Van Frank and District Commissioner Roger Brocious enjoy a rare relaxing moment during a Darke County Park District appreciation evening at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center, Wednesday evening.
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire4.jpgFrom left to right: Darke County Park District Director Roger Van Frank and District Commissioner Roger Brocious enjoy a rare relaxing moment during a Darke County Park District appreciation evening at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center, Wednesday evening. Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

A Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.”
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire6.jpgA Darke County Park District appreciation evening took place at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday. According to District Director Roger Van Frank, through 2015, the district has received more than 100,000 hours of volunteer labor. “That is unheard of,” he said. “You guys are to be thanked. You are what makes this place and the community great.” Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate

During a Darke County Park District appreciation evening at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday, a new award was presented in the spirit and memory of the late Paul Grote. The Paul Grote Memorial Volunteer award went to volunteer Jim Poeppelman, of Versailles. From left to right: Darke County Park District Commissioners: Roger Brocious and Tina White, District Director Roger Van Frank and 10-years and counting volunteer Jim Poeppelman.
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/09/web1_retire7.jpgDuring a Darke County Park District appreciation evening at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center Wednesday, a new award was presented in the spirit and memory of the late Paul Grote. The Paul Grote Memorial Volunteer award went to volunteer Jim Poeppelman, of Versailles. From left to right: Darke County Park District Commissioners: Roger Brocious and Tina White, District Director Roger Van Frank and 10-years and counting volunteer Jim Poeppelman. Carolyn Harmon | The Daily Advocate
Park volunteers enrich community

By Carolyn Harmon

charmon@dailyadvocate.com

The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.