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A Great Big Thank You to Our Volunteers!
We are always thankful for the time and talent that volunteers bring to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Through everything from stewardship to events and serving on committees, volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. To help us better honor our volunteers, CMLC gives the Lady Slipper Volunteer Award three times per year through our Landscape newsletter. The Lady Slipper award recognizes outstanding service by volunteers in support of CMLC's mission of land conservation. Below is a sampling of the fine volunteers that have received the Lady Slipper Award. Please click on their name, or scroll down to read a little bit about them and their incredible service!
Lady Slipper Volunteer Award Recipients
The desire to make “positive, restorative change in our ecosystems” drives Jordan Luff in everything that he does. Jordan began volunteering for CMLC last year after a stewardship workday with his Haywood Community College natural resources class. For Jordan, this experience was a game changer: every time he “enters the forest with CMLC,” he is “motivated by the difference that is made.” He added that seeing “the fruit of our efforts is the most rewarding feeling,” and in his time with us, he has definitely been a part of some great efforts.
With guidance of David Lee, the Natural Resources Manager, and Jack Henderson, the AmeriCorps Stewardship Associate, Jordan was able to take on an independent project—tackling the non-native invasive Reed Canary Grass at Lewis Creek Nature Preserve. To Jordan, non-native invasive species are “one of the most serious ecological issues” in our region and in the world, and he is doing his part to protect and restore our regions natural lands through his work not only at Lewis Creek but his regular attendance at other stewardship workdays.
Jordan located to Western North Carolina with his family from Atlanta in 2002, and since then, has become more involved in outdoor and environmental activities. In addition to being an outdoorsman, Jordan is a talented musician whose band just returned from a tour in Europe! Jordan is leaving WNC in August to pursue his Bachelors in Forestry at NC State, with plans to tackle his Masters in Forestry afterwards.
“I’ve always loved the mountains,” Brenda Hillyer responded when asked what brought her to Western North Carolina six years ago. After growing up in the flatlands of New Orleans, she discovered on an early vacation that the green mountains of North Carolina were her “true north.” She returned to the region permanently after retiring from a career in fundraising for Dartmouth College and George Washington University. She has never looked back-- “I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Since the start of her service with CMLC almost six years ago, Brenda has been an integral member of several committees, including the Conservation Celebration, the Development, and the Green Cemetery Committees; the latter of which is working to promote a significant role for CMLC in the development of green burial practices. Brenda also heads the Henderson County Advisory Council, and served on the CMLC Board of Trustees for three years. Through her volunteer work, Brenda hopes to “see more of the community’s leaders catch fire about the mission of CMLC.”
Brenda has been involved in many of CMLC’s events, and has enjoyed being part of CMLC workdays aimed at removing invasive species at Foster Creek and cleaning up at Flat Rock Park. When she’s not helping to conserve this great region, Brenda is actively involved in her church. She also likes to garden, read, and hike. “Outside is where I feel most at home,” Brenda notes. Like many in this region, Brenda feels a special connection to these mountains and to our natural wonders and makes it her priority to “be sure that we hang on to what makes our part of the world so special.”
With the arrival of winter in WNC, our mountains are now missing their vibrant foliage. So, too, are they missing Howard McDonald.
Few individuals have had such an astonishing impact on WNC’s trails as did Howard. Howard passed away this year at the age of 89, but not before leaving our region with a lasting legacy that will better enables us—and generations to come—opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
As a dedicated volunteer for the Carolina Mountain Club, Howard helped with construction on nearly all of CMLC’s trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge—including the Bearwallow Mountain Trail, Florence Nature Preserve Access Trail, and the new Trombatore Trail. One of his final projects was the construction of a wooden stile, a stepladder that enables hikers to safely cross over a barbed wire fence, near Blue Ridge Pastures on the Trombatore Trail.
"Trail work combined his love of the outdoors and his love of hard work,” said his son John. All in all, Howard donated more than 200 hours to CMLC’s trails as well as an astonishing 8,400 hours of service to all WNC trails across the last three decades.
Said fellow trailbuilder Skip Sheldon, "What he loved the most was to do work where he could put his hands on it and know that it would be there after he was gone."
Four years ago, Bob Carlson and Kim Chao were unhappy with CMLC. They had recently moved to western North Carolina and were excited to begin the Hiking Challenge, but Bob noticed it took weeks for the website to update participants’ completed hikes. Frustrated, he called to complain, and was asked “Would you be willing to help with that?” So “I put my time where my mouth was,” Bob says. From entering Hiking Challenge data to taking care of trails, Bob and Kim have never looked back. This may be an unusual beginning, but it’s well within character for these two former teachers and lifetime volunteers for a variety of causes. “It’s hard for me not to stop the car and pick up a beer can along the side of the road,” Bob says. “It’s a way of life.”
Bob and Kim monitor a section of trail at Florence Nature Preserve, keeping it clean and safe for visitors. For these avid hikers, this hardly feels like work. “We’re out in the nature that we love,” Bob says. “The volunteering is not an aside from what we like to do; it is what we like to do.” They are especially passionate about getting people out into nature through trails. “We both feel like we’ve lived blessed lives,” Kim says, “and this is a way of giving back.” And even with a frustrating start, Bob says, their story has a happy ending: “I’ve never regretted making that phone call.”
“We do everything together,” Al and Barb Pung say, so it’s no surprise that they dove into volunteering at CMLC as a joint effort. Their current project: digitizing CMLC’s 20-year archive of news articles. Along the way, they’ve learned a lot about a region they’re new to but have come to love.
The Pungs moved from Michigan in 2013. Like many people, their love for the mountains began at one special place: Bearwallow Mountain. They happened to visit when Kieran was giving a guided hike, so they went along – and then they went back. “We went every day for probably a week,” Al says. While Barb admits she “barely made it up that mountain,” you’d never know it now. After completing Hiking Challenge 3 in November, they’re just getting started.
Although they only recently started hiking, Al and Barb have a longstanding fondness for the outdoors. In Michigan, they built a log home on 36 acres, where they gardened and explored the woods. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve spent as much time as possible outside,” Al says. Translating their love for nature into volunteer work was an obvious choice. Volunteering helps them feel connected not just to nature, but to the community. “We thought, ‘This would be good to get involved in,’” Barb says. “You feel like you’ve helped with something.”
David Brown has lived much of his life outdoors. He grew up on a farm, “swore [he’d] never live in a city,” and had a 40-year career with the North Carolina Forest Service. It’s little wonder, then, that even in retirement he’s outside as much as ever. As the volunteer caretaker for CMLC’s Ruth Jones Farm in Transylvania County, David has spent this year clearing brush, fixing burst pipes, creating a timber management plan, and safeguarding Jones’ generous legacy. Said David, “I just enjoy helping out and seeing things improve.”
Brown met Ruth Jones at the Cedar Mountain church they both attended. When Jones willed her farm to CMLC, he understood why: “I’m sure she wanted to see the property maintained as a farm and not become a development.” David is familiar with this feeling. He spent the last 11 years of his career as the supervisor at DuPont State Recreational Forest, a period that he calls ‘a dream.’ “When you live two miles off the paved road in a 10,000-acre forest,” he explained, “you can’t get much better than that.” He finds similar peace at the farm. “It’s nice in the summertime to sit out there on the porch, looking out over the pastures and the mountains and listening to the birds.”
While it isn’t always easy, Brown says he has “never regretted a career in forestry” and has enjoyed his time at Ruth Jones Farm. “It’s satisfying to work out in the woods and see things improved,” he says; “protected, too.”
Mary Beth Hayes attended a Volunteer Information Session in October 2013 and has been helping weekly in the office and in our Community Arboretum ever since. Her knowledge of native plants and plant-pollinator relationships has been essential in establishing a new pollinator garden, which was completed this July.
While living in Ireland, Mary Beth’s interest in gardening developed when she wanted to find a good way to reduce the area of her yard that needed to be mowed. After 9 years abroad, she and her husband felt compelled to return to the United States and were drawn to WNC by the natural beauty of the area, and the rich cultural scene. It was when she moved to Hendersonville that she became interested in native plants and creating a productive and healthy backyard habitat.
Mary Beth is educated in English and International Environmental Law and volunteers with several environmental organizations including ECO of Hendersonville. The way she sees it, many environmental issues are interconnected and so land conservation is essential for protecting native plant communities, water quality, wildlife habitats, and even preventing natural disasters such as landslides. Mary Beth lives with her husband, Matthew Hayes, and their cat, MeToo.
Tom Davis and his wife, Jane, both had the seed—one that would grow into a deep love for conservation—planted in them upon attending summer camp in western North Carolina when they were children. Years later following retirement from a career as a cardiologist, the mountains called Tom back to make them his home. It didn’t take long for his interest in conservation to lead him to become involved in CMLC’s mission.
For more than 11 years since, Tom has been passionately supporting CMLC’s efforts to conserve WNC’s natural resources. Five years ago, he elevated his commitment to the organization by joining our Board of Trustees. Also a longtime member of our Stewardship Committee, he now serves as its chair. Endlessly generous with his time, Tom has also been an active contributor to the Development Committee and Events Committee.
Tom enjoys working outside and finds his extensive work with CMLC’s many committees to be especially rewarding. Most of all, he enjoys how volunteering with CMLC allows him to share his time and ideas with like-minded people and staff.
We are proud to present Tom Davis with our Yellow Lady Slipper Award in appreciation of his dedicated service & commitment to CMLC.
Bill and his wife Nancy moved to western NC from New Jersey in 2010 to be closer to their granddaughter. After volunteering for many years with the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky, Bill sought a volunteer opportunity at an organization closer to his new home in Hendersonville.
According to Bill, “blind luck” connected him to CMLC at a Henderson County volunteer fair. Since then, Bill has been capturing special moments and beautiful scenery with his camera for CMLC at three consecutive Conservation Celebrations as well as nearly a dozen workdays and events on conserved lands. “I just love trying to capture the gift we have here. Doing it for an organization like CMLC makes sure that the beauty can be shared with others,” he explained.
Bill also regularly monitors and captures images of CMLC’s Lewis Creek Nature Preserve—a particularly challenging subject to photograph. But he sees potential in the increasing wildflower and bird populations and looks forward to spending more time getting to know the property. Aside from photography, Bill also assists CMLC with volunteer recruitment and collecting CMLC-related news articles.
Mark received his first Peterson Field Guide at the age of eight and has felt compelled by the wonders of the natural world ever since. He spent his childhood poking around the wild pockets of south Florida with the Boy Scouts and venturing to western NC on backpacking trips. These experiences, combined with inspiration from formative prose of environmental writers like Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey, instilled in him a strong conservation ethic that has stuck with him throughout his life.
When asked what motivates him to dedicate so much time to conservation, Mark explains that he feels a personal responsibility to protect our natural resources. For him, CMLC’s work represents “a physical example of protecting the details of conservation, within the bigger picture—because if you can’t protect the land, you have nothing left.” He points to Leopold’s philosophy as his guide, “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
Mark generously lends his time and expertise to stewarding CMLC’s protected areas. “The most rewarding experiences are seeing the work on the ground—what we are physically doing to protect water quality and the forests, and working with a dedicated and youthful staff,” he explained. When in the field, Mark brings both a background in wildlife biology and countless tales of adventures in the woods—not to mention his trusty trekking pole.
We are pleased to present Mark Robson with our Yellow Lady Slipper Award in appreciation of his dedicated service to CMLC.
When Claire first heard CMLC staff speak to her college class about protecting the region’s natural resources, she had no idea she would soon be so intimately acquainted with the flora, fauna, and topography of our beautiful mountains.
A senior Environmental Studies major at Brevard College, Claire completed her capstone internship in service to CMLC as an assistant to AmeriCorps Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG) Steward, David Lee. Her internship—focused on invasive species inventory among more than 1,500 acres in the HNG—led her on countless adventures of hiking off-trail, battling tangling kudzu and gnashing greenbrier, and climbing up perilously steep rockfaces. When asked what she learned as an intern, Claire replied, “to re-define impossible. Covering this terrain, I discovered the amazing things you can do with your feet.”
Working with David kept her service humorous and entertaining so that “the things that should be awful became fun.” Claire gained valuable skills in plant identification, GPS technology, and a greater knowledge of the wilds of our region.
Originally from Wahalla, SC, Claire is also star collegiate tennis athlete and an accomplished whitewater guide on the Chattooga River. She strives to live by her grandfather’s motto, the Latin illegitimi non carborundum, which translates roughly as “don’t let ‘em grind you down.”
CMLC thanks Claire for her youthful, energetic service to our mission of conserving and stewarding our WNC mountains. We are honored to present Claire Dillman with our Yellow Lady Slipper award.
Known as “The Birdman” around the CMLC community, Rich Leppingwell has volunteered his time and expertise for well over ten years. Hailing originally from New York City, Rich served in the US Air Force and lived in Dallas, Washington, D.C., Boston and Nashville before settling in western North Carolina. What brought Rich to the magical Blue Ridge? “Mountains,” he said with a sigh, “and the birds that call this area home.”
Rich and his wife joined family in Hendersonville, and immediately found a strong community that quickly felt like home. As an avid birder, Rich found that the area offered the added bonus of excellent bird habitat and high diversity of bird species. It was his passion for birds, and desire to teach others about them, that ultimately brought him into the fold of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy community. He found CMLC to be a comfortable, welcoming place where he could always find a way to be involved and to lend a hand.
Rich is a regular volunteer with CMLC and has been instrumental in an array of important projects. He often leads bird walks and conducts bird counts on easement properties. Each year, Rich assists staff with building, installing and monitoring bird boxes at CMLC’s Lewis Creek Nature Park. In addition to spearheading educational programs, Rich has consistently been involved behind the scenes in committee work, and currently serves on the Human Resources committee. And last but not least, Rich makes weekly trips to the bank to safely deliver CMLC deposits.
Rich is celebrated around the CMLC office for his wry sense of humor and his consistency. “I’ve seen great volunteers come and go. Rich is a rare constant,” said Administrative Coordinator Mary Ann Hailey. In addition to volunteering with CMLC, Rich has dedicated his time, energy and labor to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, where he has spent the past eleven years leading educational programs, teaching fishing courses and building bird boxes with kids. He also currently serves as president of the Henderson County Bird Club, for which he regularly leads birding programs in the area.
CMLC thanks Rich Leppingwell for his long, dedicated service to CMLC and always brightening the day off staff when at the office.
Kevin Simpson has lived in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming, taught English and travelled through Taiwan and South Korea, and backpacked extensively through Central America and Mexico.
So how did he end up in Western North Carolina? “Mountains and family,” Kevin explained, simply. With his family close by in their home city of Raleigh and mist-covered Blue Ridge Mountains dominating the horizon, western North Carolina was an easy choice for a place to settle down after years of travelling. Kevin began exploring local mountain history through the Lookout Tower Challenge, an initiative crafted by CMLC staff member Peter Barr to get local citizens exploring the stunning peaks that featured watchtowers over the past century. It was on top of Bearwallow Mountain, one of the peaks highlighted in the challenge, that Kevin connected with CMLC staff and learned about the ongoing effort to conserve the mountain.
Since then, Kevin has become a regular volunteer with CMLC, and is a virtual fixture at workdays and special events, often working long hours behind the scenes to make sure they go smoothly. Most recently, Kevin served on the Bearwallow Beast volunteer planning team over a period of several months. “Kevin was instrumental in planning and getting huge numbers of people from Asheville involved in the race,” race director Chet Howland commented. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Kevin’s volunteer service is that he also holds two jobs: one at the Buncombe County School District assisting and tutoring struggling youth, and the other at the Autism Society helping autistic youth realize their full potential. He also volunteers with half a dozen other local non-profit organizations. “I try to set aside my Saturdays for volunteer work,” Kevin says. It is because of his dedication to service and tireless volunteerism to CMLC that we are honoring Kevin with the Yellow Ladyslipper Award for Summer and Fall of 2012. Thank you, Kevin, for all your hard work helping to protect the beautiful places of western North Carolina!
In the five years Mark has been volunteering with CMLC, he has become a fixture with the organization, donating his time and abilities in a variety of different areas. Mark serves on CMLC’s Land Protection Committee, chairs our Nominating Committee, and donates handyman help around the office and on conservation properties-installing a shower and building boardwalks at the Lewis Creek Nature Park, to name just a few occasions! We're very happy to honor Mark with the Lady Slipper Award for Spring 2012. Mark, your tireless service is tremendously appreciated, thank you for your commitment to land conservation in western North Carolina!
A driving land ethic inspired Bill and Jerry McAninch to become involved with CMLC through theirs efforts to conserve Worlds Edge, a 1,586-acre project now part of Chimney Rock State Park. Bill’s dedication to stewarding western North Carolina’s protected lands fuels his commitment to conservation volunteerism. Once Worlds Edge was protected, Bill volunteered to monitor the property and soon got involved with our Stewardship Committee, which he now chairs. Bill also chairs the Risk Management Committee and continues to serve as a volunteer easement monitor for CMLC as well as other local conservation organizations.
Jerry first got involved in planning the annual Conservation Celebration when she saw how much fun her friends had preparing for the event. In addition to hours spent planning and securing donations for the event, Jerry supports CMLC’s fundraising efforts through the donation of her handmade jewelry and unique experiences such as a guided geology hike in the Hickory Nut Gorge complimented by an exquisite home-cooked meal.
Thanks to the McAninches for all their incredible service to the organization. We are proud to honor you with the Winter 2011 Lady Slipper Award. We couldn't do it without you!
Rick came to CMLC through several good friends and got involved in planning the 2008 Conservation Celebration soon after he moved to Hendersonville from Naples, FL. He has dutifully volunteered at holiday gatherings, Run for the Hills and many other CMLC social events ever since. Rick was also recruited onto CMLC’s Stewardship Committee and enjoys exploring conserved properties with staff and AmeriCorps through his role as an easement monitor. When asked what he enjoys most about volunteering with CMLC, he says “Being around you guys. [The staff] is so energetic and involved; it’s a lot of fun to volunteer.” Rick’s community involvement doesn’t end with CMLC. He is a 35-year member of the Kiwanis Club and volunteers for Flat Rock Playhouse and Historic Flat Rock events. Rick’s generous spirit and riotous sense of humor also inspire him to provide lunch and other goodies for his fellow volunteers, doing more than his part to keep morale high. It is for that reason that CMLC is honoring Rick with the 2011 Summer-Fall Lady Slipper Award. Thank you for all your wonderful service Rick!
Patrick Horan received the Lady Slipper Award for his outstanding work to help save hemlocks at CMLC's Florence Nature Preserve and other conserved lands throughout western North Carolina using biological controls. Patrick retired from being a professor of sociology at the University of Georgia in 2004, and has devoted much of his free time since to studying the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, a parasitic insect that defoliates Hemlocks and ultimately leads to their death. Alarmed by ominous forecasts such as those that predicted the entire Hemlock population of the Southern Appalachians may be wiped out in ten years, Patrick set to work meticulously studying the epidemic and possible solutions.
It was during this time of research that Patrick became interested in predatory beetles from Japan that naturally preyed upon the Wooly Adelgid. Eventually, Patrick became a regional expert on private biological control efforts, even supporting a laboratory that raised and sold the Sasi beetles to private landowners. Patrick worked closely with CMLC stewardship staff to plan and implement a Sasi beetle release and hemlock monitoring program at the Florence Nature Preserve. In addition, Patrick has put his 122 acre property under conservation easement, donated his time as a member of CMLC's Stewardship Committee, and served as a volunteer Hemlock monitor, among many other volunteer roles.
To Learn more about biological control and how it can aide in saving hemlocks on your own property visit http://www.savinghemlocks.org. Thank you Patrick for your dedication to our hemlocks!
The Carolina Mountain Club Friday Crew was a shoo-in for our Winter 2010 Lady Slipper Volunteer Award. The crew made improvements to the Blue Trail at the Florence Nature Preserve years ago and have helped maintain the Florence trails ever since. The crew spent many of their Fridays this past winter building the new trail on Bearwallow Mountain which opened in 2011. Crew Leader Skip Sheldon and the rest of the Friday Crew have been excellent to work with, bringing years of experience and lots of great times to CMLC's trail projects. Learn more about the Carolina Mountain Club at www.carolinamountainclub.com.
Mickey Kilpatrick began volunteering with CMLC in 2002 after hearing executive director Kieran Roe speak at the Carl Sandburg house regarding efforts to protect the pastoral view of the property. Mickey was excited to learn about all the volunteer opportunities with the organization, and was soon maintaining the membership database, serving as recording secretary for Board of Trustees meetings, assisting with fundraising events, and finally - her very favorite of all, helping to organize CMLC’s Hike Committee with a goal of increasing membership and making CMLC and its accomplishments more visible in the community. Mickey has said her favorite hike is on CMLC's Florence Preserve- due to its spring wildflowers, beautiful views, and unique history. We are incredibly proud to honor Mickey with the Yellow Lady Slipper Award for Summer, 2010, for all her wonderful service. Thank you Mickey!
From long nights creating maps to years of dedication on our Land and Stewardship Committees, Jack Drost contributes generously of his time and talents to CMLC. After college, Jack lived and worked in Charlotte where he also found a niche volunteering at the Catawba Lands Conservancy doing GIS map work. His volunteer hours evolved into a paid position doing GIS and conservation planning. Jack relocated to Hendersonville in 2002, taking the position of GIS Analyst for Henderson County. Jack considers his work to create a straight-forward visual depiction of the conservation values at Weed Patch Mountain as one of his most rewarding volunteer projects. Jack’s maps are eye and brain candy,” says Land Protection Director Tom Fanslow. “At a fundraiser, a good map conveys more information than 30 minutes of spoken word. The Weed Patch Mountain event was a success in part because people had time to educate themselves about the project beforehand, and Jack’s jumbo-sized map conveyed a lot of the information that CMLC needed to impart to potential donors.” We thank Jack for his time, skill and enthusiasm for protecting the natural areas we love!
Amy Wald is CMLC's Winter 2009 recipient of the Lady Slipper Award for her fantastic volunteer service to CMLC. As an artist, Amy has continuously assisted CMLC not only in committee and administrative tasks, but also through her artistic talents. The beautiful sign that sits in the front landscape of CMLC's office was painted by Amy. Amy and her husband, past board president Bob, became involved with CMLC through a family friend. The conservancy's work protecting the landscape they loved dearly has kept her involved for many years- serving on the Events Committee and helping to ensure Western North Carolina will stay beautiful. Thank you so much, Amy, for all your fantastic support and effort to help CMLC. We couldn't do what we do without you.
We recognize and thank Genien Carlson, who, in addition to her events committee activities, went above and beyond to help us move into our new home in an organized and efficient manner. Genien has served as co-chair of the events committee and was instrumental in several Conservation Celebrations. When it came time for CMLC to prepare for moving to a new office move she accepted the daunting task of ensuring that the move went smoothly. In addition to helping prepare for the move, Genien spent a significant amount of time helping us settle into our new space by unpacking common areas and organizing the volunteer office. Genien has a very personal connection with the land that inspires her to volunteer with CMLC. “Growing up in South Florida and returning for visits over the past thirty years I have witnessed first hand the impact of poor land management. Overdevelopment has damaged the once-thriving Everglades and Florida Keys reefs nearly to the point of no return.” Genien, we are truly happy to be able to tap into your talent and have you as a volunteer with CMLC. Thank you for all your hard work!
CMLC would like to recognize Rick Merrill for his outstanding volunteer efforts with this organization! Rick has served as CMLC’s Vice President, President, Acting Treasurer, chair of the Finance Committee, and member of the Executive, Land Protection and Nominating Committees. Rick was integral in helping CMLC secure its new office building at Ironwood Square. We are grateful for his time, hard work and dedication to CMLC and our mission! Rick came to Western North Carolina as a Vista volunteer after leaving engineering at Cornell University, and fell in love with the natural beauty and friendly atmosphere of the mountains. He has worked here as a developer and business owner for almost 40 years. Rick enjoys hiking, gardening, and traveling. He and wife JoAnne live on a horse farm in Flat Rock, much of which is under conservation easement with CMLC. When asked about his work with CMLC Rick commented, “I volunteer with CMLC to help save land and open spaces for the future. I love the outdoors and appreciate nature in all her wild, beautiful glory." Thank you Rick, for everything you've done. We could not be where we are today without your support!