Mokena resident Mark Bettin received the Volunteer of the Year Award at the Forest Preserve's annual volunteer banquet, held March 30.
Bettin, vice president of engineering/sustainability for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., has served as a District volunteer since 2014. He began by participating in volunteer workdays and Forest Preserve events.
"He was such a great volunteer and so good with people," explained Forest Preserve Volunteer Services Supervisor Renee Gauchat of Bettin's early volunteer work. 'I knew he was someone who we could cultivate to play a greater role in the District’s volunteer program."
As Gauchat predicted, Bettin's volunteer responsibilities continued to grow. He has worked as an interpreter aide at District programs. He has served as a bluebird monitor at Hickory Creek Preserve in Mokena, compiling data and building habitat boxes. He also has been an outreach specialist at volunteer workdays, educating participants about the volunteer program; and a preserve steward, assisting in workdays for large school groups.
Bettin was not only named Volunteer of the Year, but he also was recognized at the banquet as a member of a volunteer group that received a District Team Award. This group was acknowledged for its habitat restoration efforts at Hickory Creek Preserve. In addition, he was selected to receive a grant from the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of the Will County, the Forest Preserve’s fundraising foundation, to assist with his duties as a steward at Hickory Creek Preserve.
He also received a President's Volunteer Service Award – Silver Level for accruing more than 263 volunteer hours with the Forest Preserve throughout 2016. Bettin has been recognized with a President's Volunteer Service Award for every year of service with the District.
Bettin said that he was very excited to be named Volunteer of the Year.
"It has been rewarding to see prairies, forests and rivers transformed with the restoration efforts performed at workdays, and to see teamwork develop among scouts, school groups and companies who volunteer," he said.
In addition, he said it has been "equally rewarding to see families having fun painting pumpkins, flying kites, catching fish, viewing art in nature and experiencing the early settler days at the many events the District holds. I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for the Forest Preserve."
Other awards presented at this year's volunteer banquet and their recipients were: Special Acts, awarded to Carol Malnar of Joliet; Outstanding Group Project to St. Ignatius College Prep – Chicago; Outstanding Family to the Michael and Kathy Swift Family of Crete; Outstanding Youth to Hannah Sigler of Beecher; Outstanding Senior to John Mittelbrun of Joliet; and Rookie of the Year to Dave Nordin of Naperville.
Along with the award presented to the Hickory Creek Barrens Restoration Team, team awards were also given to the Lincoln-Way High School Key Club for assisting with Forest Preserve programs and events and to Ruth Meyer of Joliet and Carrie Rock of Homer Glen for trail and flora monitoring, and for leading hikes at Lake Renwick Preserve in Plainfield.
Volunteer of the Year Recipients from Past and Present
Many of the past years' recipients of the Forest Preserve's Volunteer of the Year Award were present at the 2017 volunteer banquet, held in March. Pictured are: (from left, top row) Ken Lewellen of Bourbonnais (2012 honoree); Kate Caldwell of Crete (1999 honoree); Dave Wendt of Joliet (2008); Don Nelson of Plainfield (2004); John Nerren of Mokena (2014); Rodney Dabe of Country Club Hills (2011); Mark Bettin of Mokena (2016); (second row) Marie Wendt of Joliet (2008); Espie Nelson of Plainfield (2004); Barb Ferry of Hickory Hills (2015); Bill Willis of Joliet (2007); (front row) Emily Kenny of Steger (2003 and 2013). Other recipients not pictured but in attendance at the banquet included Gil Anderson of Shorewood (2000) and Rita Renwick of Joliet (2006). Phyllis Schulte of Mokena (2001) was unable to attend. (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)