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Joliet Woman Named Volunteer of the Year

Photo for: Joliet Woman Named Volunteer of the Year

From left: Forest Preserve chief operating officer Ralph Schultz, 2020 Volunteer of the Year Ruth Meyer, and Board of Commissioners President Joe VanDuyne. (Photo by Chad Merda)

Ruth Meyer of Joliet has been named the 2020 Volunteer of the Year by the Forest Preserve District of Will County for her 18 years of service in multiple roles.

Meyer joined the Will County Audubon Society 18 years ago, and one of the group’s volunteer activities was to assist visitors at the Forest Preserve’s Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve in Plainfield.

“So that got me going,” she said of her Forest Preserve work. “I picked up bluebird monitoring along the way, frog monitoring and butterfly (monitoring) and became a trail sentinel too. I also help with events.”

Meyer said serving as a Forest Preserve volunteer has been a wonderful experience.

“The most rewarding so far has been Lake Renwick,” she said. “I really enjoy working with the people and seeing how excited they get when they realize they can ID a bird.”

As for being named Volunteer of the Year, Meyer said she was honored to receive the award.

“It’s been fun along the way,” she said. “I’ve learned new things, I’ve met so many wonderful people and hopefully helped kids learn about birds and what the Forest Preserve can offer them. Thanks, Will County Forest Preserve, for the opportunity. It’s helped fulfill my life. I’m truly blessed.”

Meyer encouraged others to get involved.

“You should volunteer,” she said. “It really does us all good.”

Meyer plays a big role in the District for the variety of tasks she accomplishes, said Renee Gauchat, the District’s volunteer services supervisor.

“She can be called on to attend outreach booths and advise community members of District happenings as well as recruit new volunteers,” Gauchat said. “Her knowledge of birds was put on hold in 2020 because of the pandemic, but her clear voice was invaluable in keeping trail users who hit Forest Preserve paths in huge numbers safe and masked.”

Meyer was given her award at the Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners meeting on April 8.

Also picking up awards were the 2019 Volunteers of the Year Joel Craig and Barb Ferry. Their appearance at the Board meeting was delayed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 award winners were profiled in a Forest Preserve story in November.

Board President Joe VanDuyne thanked all three award recipients for their work.

“It truly is remarkable the amount of work that these folks put in,” he said.

Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer, said the District’s volunteer program is the envy of the Chicago metro area. “And we’re looked upon as leaders in volunteer services.”

For more information about the Forest Preserve's volunteer program, visit the Volunteer Page.


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