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Local group recognized by National Forest Service

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Mark Fox
ALL |

The emerged “head and shoulders above everybody else” in the running for the National Forest Service’s Volunteer Program Awards, forest service spokesman Pat Thrasher said.

The local nonprofit organization received the award – which names them the volunteer group of the year – earlier this year and announced it at their volunteer appreciation dinner last week.

Seven groups won awards in five categories. The Dillon group was selected among many regional nominations to go up against the top choices from each of the Forest Service’s nine regions, Dillon District Ranger Jan Cutts said. They were the sole recipient of the national sponsored/group of the year award.

The group’s diversity of projects, the in-kind dollar value contributed to the Forest Service and the support of the community made Friends of the Dillon Ranger District stand out, Thrasher said.

“The sheer amount of work and commitment they make to the Forest Service was deemed significant enough to be recognized by the (award),” he said.

White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams called the award a “huge honor.” He said the organization’s focus on delivering essential services to the public – the White River National Forest is one of the most visited national forest in America – also helped them stand out.

“The competition for the recognition is fierce and (Friends of the Dillon Ranger District) stood out because of the amount of vital work they get done on the ground,” he said. “As Forest Service budgets continue to tighten, the work our volunteers do is more and more essential to the public. We no longer consider the work of FDRD as an ‘extra.’ It is essential to what we do and will continue to be as budget cuts are looming.”

The award should be an asset to the organization’s fundraising efforts, said FDRD’s executive director Jessica Evett. It should help create awareness of the group beyond its local boundaries. Which is good, she added, “because the issues we take on are not small, or local.”

“We’re small, but we’ve received national attention for what we’re doing,” she said.

It’s also a pat on the back for the hard work of the organization’s approximately 1,300 volunteers who logged more than 7,000 volunteer hours and contributed more than $150,000 of in-kind value last summer to the Dillon Ranger District, program coordinator Sarah Slaton said. Evett said it’s good to have recognition as the volunteers face projects that often seem never-ending.

“It’s definitely a huge thing in terms of recognizing what our volunteer community has been able to accomplish in a short time,” she said. The group has been official since 2005. “The volunteers really put a lot of sweat equity into the programs … anytime you work hard, it’s nice to get some recognition.”

She added that the award serves as a reminder that the group has a solid foundation, and that as they move forward, they should honor what has worked so far.

“(Friends of the Dillon Ranger District) is an example of collaboration and partnership at the highest level,” Fitzwilliams said. “We are honored to work with them and it is a pleasure to see groups committed to getting work done on the ground in a cooperative manner.”

To find out more about Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, go to http://www.fdrd.org


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