“Ding” Darling Refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) celebrated their annual Volunteer Appreciation and Awards Luncheon on Friday, March 29, at The Roost at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island.


“This was the first luncheon we’ve been able to hold to honor our volunteers since COVID,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. “We gathered at The Roost for barbecue, socializing, games, and awards.”


The barbecue lunch was made possible through DDWS by the Is Cloak Volunteer and Visitor Services Philanthropic Fund and Tom Edgar Volunteer Endowment Fund.


Refuge staff reports that between refuge reopening in April 2023 through March 2024, 110 volunteers worked nearly 9,000 hours, the equivalent of 375 consecutive days. Each volunteer worked an average of 81 hours during the one-year timeframe.


“Without our loyal, hardworking volunteers, the refuge would have been unable to reopen after Hurricane Ian or continue to function today,” said DDWS executive director Ann-Marie Wildman. “As federal budgets continue to shrink, so does refuge staff. Our volunteers are our saving grace.”


DDWS formed in 1982 specifically to support a volunteer corps after the opening of the refuge’s first visitor center that year. More than 11,000 people visited in the first month after the center opened, overwhelming a staff unaccustomed to dealing with the inquisitive public. For more information about the refuge volunteer program, contact Ranger Tucker Phillips at [email protected].


Below is a list of volunteers who won awards for reaching hour and year achievement levels.


30 Years: Norm Honest


25 Years: Jim Sprankle


20 Years: Donna Adams, Mike Baldwin, Bonnie Dale, Sally Divenere, Denny Souers


10 Years: Kathryn Allen, Judy Barbieri, Lyndon Borror, Karittha Charoensri, Jan Cohen, Larry Dean, Lee Ann Emerson, Michael Galloway, Carol Gestwicki, Barb Guidotti, Jim Jackson, Andrew Jacob, France Paulsen, Patricia Rawert, Michael Rice, Nancy Riley, Sally Stranahan, Anne Suss, Jack Waszmer




7,000 Hours: Edward Combs


3,000 Hours: Mary Jo Hobbs


2,500 Hours: Janet Lucree, Nancy Riley


2,000 Hours: Jim Newes, Denny Souers


1,500 Hours: Sally Barsley, Stan Bunsick, Michael Galloway, Peggy Hupfeldt, Ed Sessa, Karl Werner


1,000 Hours: Jan Cohen, Jim Jackson, Sharon Jones, Paul McKenney, Michael Rice, Cindy Seaman, Jack Waszmer


500 Hours: Bud Dansby, Henry DeRonck, Lee Ann Emerson, Marc Giattini, Wendy Kindig, Lisa

Kirby, Tony Kirby, Robin Kirk, Janet McLaughlin, Mary Meyer, Bill Michels, Debbie Michels, Dan Moeder, Cheryl Tice, Diane Wien, Donna Wilmot


250 Hours: David Craun, Bill Dunn, Gary Eertmoed, Diane Esslinger, Robin Fidler, Laurie Harkey, David Jeffery, Charles Lais, Joanne Prestia, Dennis Pytlik, Cristina Shaul, Matt Shaul, Susie Wilson, Alice Wood


150 Hours: Catherine Grega Boucher Albert, Jeffery Clemens, Dale Hansen, Vicki Hansen, Richard Levinson, Byon Middlekauff, Kathy Sanders, Elizabeth Simler, Hellmuth Steinlin


As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop profits. To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit dingdarlingsociety.org or Ann-Marie Wildman at 239-789-8991 or [email protected].