The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) presented their Chief's Field Award to Kelly Shrable, district conservationist in the Salem Field Office in Fulton County, Arkansas, during a ceremony on April 25 in Washington D.C.
The award, presented by NRCS Chief David White and National Volunteer Program Coordinator Michele Eginoire, recognizes the best volunteer program in an NRCS office nationwide. The Salem volunteer program is managed by Michelle Ward, district technician with the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD).
"Volunteers play a vital role in providing us with the necessary workforce to get our jobs and conservation activities completed," said Shrable. "Great opportunities and achievements come from volunteering. Without the support of volunteers and the communities we work in, our conservation efforts would have been far harder to achieve."
The Salem Field Office actively recruits and uses Earth Team volunteers to complete the NRCS and AACD goals and missions and to assure volunteers have a worthwhile experience while doing work. Their mission is to provide leadership in helping people help the land, give aid and support to farmers through the field office, and to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities.
"The dedicated Earth Team volunteers who have committed their time and talents to conserving and protecting our natural resources play a vital role in achieving NRCS's mission of helping people help the land," said Michael E. Sullivan, state conservationist in Arkansas."Volunteers at our offices increase the agency's effectiveness as it works with partners and customers. We are proud of our Earth Team volunteers in the Salem field office and congratulate them on their award."
Last year, the Salem Field Office had 42 volunteers who contributed 498 hours of service. Volunteers are trained on a one-to-one basis by field service center employees.
Volunteers worked at numerous outreach and informational meetings. They assisted with setting up displays, staffing booths, and handing out educational brochures about NRCS and AACD programs. Volunteers assisted more than 1,000 people during these events.
Numerous volunteers also assisted with their 8th Annual Fulton County Fishing Derby which was a joint effort with the AACD, Arkansas Farm Bureau and the city of Salem. Moms, dads and 178 kids enjoyed the outdoor event and activities held on an eight-acre lake. Volunteers assisted with planning, preparing meals, youth registration, parking, dispersing trash receptacles, supervision, and cleanup after the event.
At another event, field office employees and volunteers advised more than 60 high school and college students on life decisions, careers in agriculture and opportunities with NRCS.
Twelve members of the Fulton County Master Gardeners volunteered 325 hours to landscape the front of the USDA building and to face the existing concrete base of the USDA sign with flat sandstone.
The Fulton County Conservation District and the Salem NRCS field office also
won the National Association Conservation Districts/Natural Resources Conservation Service's National Earth Team Award in 2008.
In 2009, 566 Earth Team volunteers provided more than 12,036 hours of service in Arkansas, valued at $251,913. Since 1985, more than 500,000 volunteers across the nation have donated nearly 15 million hours valued at $314 million to conserving our natural resources nationwide.
Earth Team volunteers are diverse. Individuals 14 years of age or older can become Earth Team volunteers. They support conservation through field work, data collections, resource survey and analysis, planning assistance,contract and project support, monitoring and evaluation, conservation engineering assistance, administrative support and conservation education.
If you want to become an Earth Team volunteer, contact any NRCS office located in the phone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. You may obtain additional information about NRCS's Earth Team, by visiting www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/volunteers.