Friday, August 25, 2006

Polk County success reflects dedication of volunteers

By Elaine Shein

RICKREALL, Ore. — As the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District celebrated its 40th anniversary last night in Rickreall, Ore., some of the things that really stood out was the enthusiasm, dedication and closeness of a lot of people who work in the district office either as paid staff, elected board members or volunteers.

It’s always great to have people passionate about what they do as they work towards common goals. In this case, the goals (according to the SWCD’s annual report) include offering technical and financial assistance towards conservation or wise use of soil and water resources in Polk County, supporting watershed management, having educational and outreach efforts related to soil, water and other natural resources, and making sure the operations are “effective, economical, efficient and responsive to legal requirements, funding sources and public needs.”

Perhaps one of the most energetic people at the meeting was the district manager Jackie Hastings, who handles everything from supervising staff, volunteers and interns to prioritizing projects and developing new programs.

Along with the other people in her office, Hastings proudly pointed out how much work and dedication she sees from everyone involved in soil and water conservation projects in her district. The 40th anniversary celebration dedicated the majority of the time recognizing some of the work done by the volunteers, explaining some of their accomplishments, the amount of hours they’ve given, and why their efforts have made a difference.

It was a nice touch that a lot of the awards were plaques with pictures on them of the people as they were involved with different activities and projects through the year. Clearly a lot of the award winners were delighted with these images, but also felt honored to be recognized by their peers.

The efforts of the district have also been receiving national recognition. Last night the district received three out of a possible seven national category awards that are given out by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Appropriately, one of them was the Chief Knight award, given to the district that has the most effective volunteer program in the nation.

After seeing how everyone interacts in the community, it was understandable why the award was given to this district, but also encouraged other people to want to be part of this successful soil and water conservation district in the future.

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