2011 Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner Award Recipients

On October 28, 2011 the Michigan Nature Association held its annual Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner. The dinner was at the Lexington Lansing Hotel. The Volunteer of the Year, Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service and Richard W. Holzman award recipients were honored at this dinner, and donors were recognized. The major  land donors in 2011 include John B. and Mary Jane Weiss, Melvin C. Schafer, Lyle A. Rizor Living Trust, Ken Luneack and the Kenneth R. Luneack Living Trust, and  John Woollam and the J.A. Woollam Foundation. The major financial donors in 2011 include Hildegard Wintergerst, Mason C. Schafer, The J.A. Woollam Foundation, Jean Boyle and Betty White. MNA is very thankful for all of these dedicated and hard working people that have helped shape MNA into what it is today. Below is a list of  the 2011 award recipients.


Volunteer of the Year Awards


Volunteer of the Year awards recognize exceptional volunteer contributions, above and beyond the ordinary, during the previous 18 months, with a minimum of 50 hours of service to MNA during that period. Most Volunteers of the Year are recommended by individual staff members who have recently worked closely with the volunteer, typically in a wide variety of volunteer roles in the field or in the MNA office. We are grateful for every effort provided. To see previous Volunteers of the Year please visit our archives.


Matt Gorentz

Matt has been volunteering with MNA since 2009. He has become an invaluable member of the MNA team. Matt volunteers across southern Michigan. Although he lives in Battle Creek Matt has been sighted volunteering as far away as Big Valley in northern Oakland County and at Hamilton Coastal Plain March in Cass County.  Matt is also a member of the MNA burn crew.


Dr. Paul and Sue McEwen

Paul and Sue have volunteered with MNA for many years, but when Paul retired in late 2009 he called the office and said “I want to help!” After working at a few sites, Paul and Sue decided to take over being the stewards at one of MNA’s busiest sanctuaries, Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary, in Fenton.  Paul and Sue also give many additional hours working across southeast Michigan.


Sharon McIlnay and Tom Miller

Sharon McIlnay and Tom Miller of Matias Energy LLC have helped MNA with several important legal issues in the past two years. In particular, Sharon and Tom worked for many months to resolve an issue facing MNA in connection with our Hylton Memorial Plant Preserve in the Keweenaw. Sharon and Tom worked tirelessly to resolve these issues without litigation wholly on a volunteer basis. They are now working on securing an addition to the Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary.


Ted and Alice Soldan

Ted and Alice have been dedicated MNA members since 1989, and long time volunteers at the magnificent Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Besides hosting a number of work days, in 2010 they rerouted part of the trail and added more than 200 feet to the boardwalk section. Ted and Alice were also vital to the success of the 2010 Fall Adventure, which highlighted a number of Keweenaw sanctuaries, including Estivant Pines. Ted and Alice’s knowledge of the history of Estivant Pines is incomparable.


Dave Wanty

Each week, Dave Wanty gets in his car and drives more than 2 ½ hours round trip in order to help MNA with one of its top priorities, preparing for Land Trust Alliance Commission accreditation. The work requires a keen eye for detail, and Dave does a terrific job. In addition to hours spent reviewing MNA’s legal files, Dave volunteers in the field protecting our sanctuaries from invasive species and assisting with other stewardship needs.


Holzman Award


The Richard W. Holzman Award was established in 2010 to recognize and thank volunteers who have selflessly served the Association over an extended period of time, typically in a variety of roles including service as a Trustee of the Association.  Holzman Award recipients are selected by the President after consultation with the Board of Trustees and senior staff. This award is named after Richard W. “Dick” Holzman, who served 14 years as MNA President, longer than any other President (1970-78 and 1988-94), and 20 years as a trustee. To see previous Holzman Award winners please visit our archives.


Edna Newnan (posthumously)

Edna Newnan selflessly served MNA for many years, including as co-editor of the book In Retrospect, detailing MNA acquisitions and activities between 1960 and 1988. Edna also served as MNA president, trustee, field explorer, and in countless other ways to advance MNA’s work. Edna passed away in January 2011 leaving behind a legacy of conservation, love of truth, compassion, and abiding faith. 


James R. Buschmann

Jim Buschmann continues more than 40 years of service to MNA. Jim has served as president, general counsel, secretary, trustee, volunteer, field explorer, stewardship volunteer, photographer, and birder for MNA. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Jim has devoted countless hours working on property acquisitions and deeds. He also loves being outdoors and spending time at Lefglen Nature Sanctuary, Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary, and Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.


Mary Ann Czechowski

An MNA member since the 1970s, Mary Ann Czechowski is a lifelong conservationist. A geologist by training, she has written hundreds of articles and is the author of the book Gold in Michigan. Mary Ann has served MNA for more than 30 years including as secretary, treasurer, vice president, trustee, geology and oil & gas advisor, explorer, committee member, and newsletter author.  


Distinguished Service Award


The Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Awards recognize exceptional volunteer contributions to MNA over a minimum of 10 years.  This award is named after Mason and Melvin Schafer, brothers from southern Michigan, who provided exemplary service to MNA over multiple decades dating back to the 1970s.  This award was established in 2011.  As the biographies below reflect, these are the fitting inaugural recipients of the Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Awards.      


Mason (posthumously) and Melvin Schafer

Mason Schafer was one of MNA’s most tireless contributors and volunteers. Mason first came to MNA in 1978 and spent the next 30 years (until his death in July 2010) selflessly giving of his time and resources. He personally purchased and then donated 435.1 acres between 1981 and 2009 to establish the Roach Point Nature Sanctuary, recently renamed as The Schafer Family Nature Sanctuary at Roach Point, and helped to purchase large tracts of land creating the Sarah Jane’s Nature Sanctuary and Columbia Nature Sanctuary. Melvin served alongside his brother Mason as a volunteer steward at our Sarah Jane’s Nature Sanctuary, Martin Beland Miller Natue Sanctuary, and Columbia Nature Sanctuary. After Mason’s death, Melvin donated an additional 259.1 acres adjacent to Roach Point to MNA for the sanctuary, making this MNA’s largest sanctuary. 


Carl and Ann Biek

Even before Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuaries was acquired by MNA in 1983, Carl and his sister Ann Biek were instrumental in raising funds to protect this property. As part of the Cass County Audubon Society they helped raise 20 percent of the funds needed to ensure that Dowagiac Woods would remain the pristine gem it is today. Carl and Ann embody the spirit of both stewardship and volunteerism.  They cared for this sanctuary in the days before MNA had official stewards and stewardship staff. They did this all because of their love for the Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary.  




Make a Difference Day- Keweenaw Shores II at Dan’s Point

10/22/11. Make A Difference Day – Keweenaw Shores II At Dan’s Point

A flower found at Dan's Point. Photo from MNA Archives.

Dans Point in the winter. Photo from MNA Archives.

Fourteen students from Michigan Technological University, members from both the Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Phi Sigma – National Biological Honor Society, volunteered at an MNA sanctuary on “Make a Difference Day.” These hardworking students were instructed to dress for the elements and bring along work gloves; their job was to remove invasive spotted knapweed from a rocky shoreline on the shores of Lake Superior.

Nancy Leonard, the steward of the Keweenaw Shores II Nature Sanctuary enlisted naturalist Karena Schmidt and botanist Janet Marr to provide helpful instruction to the students. The goals for this volunteer day included helping students understand the threat of spotted knapweed and other invasive plants to sensitive environments, enable them to identify spotted knapweed in different stages of growth, and showing them how to correctly remove and dispose of the uprooted plants.

Removing knapweed from the shoreline portion of this nature sanctuary is an ongoing project. Keweenaw Shores II is home of a number of special concern and threatened plants, including pale painted cup (Castilleja septentrionalis) and common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris.) Lesser purple fringed orchids (Platanthera psycodes) and birdseye primrose (Primula mistassinica) are also found here.

Equipped with borrowed tools and new knowledge, the students enthusiastically tackled the project at hand. The approach was to work from the eastern boundary of the sanctuary and move over the rocky beach area. Many students set about digging up the offending plant, while others worked to locate the plants and flag them to be dug up.

After three hours of hunting and digging out knapweed on the shoreline of Keweenaw Shores II, the volunteers gathered eight bags of the invasive plant to be double bagged and disposed of at the local landfill. The project was a success and certainly will “make a difference” to the protection of natural heritage at the sanctuary.

MTU students – Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists and Phi Sigma, the National Biological Honor Society

Brianne, a student who helped organize the work outing with MNA Steward Alice Soldan said, “We all had a great time yesterday! It was such a fun experience, and I’m sure we would love to come back in the future. Thanks for a wonderful Saturday!”