April 2013

Hello! As the incoming President of the Friends, I might be intimidated to try to pick up where outgoing President Steve Horowitz left off, but fortunately, he never really left off, so I don't think that's going to be a problem! After serving tirelessly as Friends President for four years, Steve continues to work on many of the projects he initiated. His boundless energy has taken the Friends as an organization to new levels, with more activities ongoing here at the Refuge and more connections and visibility with other organizations in the community who share our goals of environmental education and advocacy.

Steve revived the biannual publication the Gator Tales, revived the annual art contest after a many-year hiatus, worked with Michael Rosenbaum to establish his annual photo workshop, worked with the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches to establish Star Parties here at the Refuge, worked with the Marshall Foundation to take charge of the engraved brick paver program the Foundation had instigated as a fundraiser, worked with the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Palm Beach County Cultural Arts Council to promote the Refuge through their publications and outreach, served as a delegate to the Everglades Coalition, worked with the National Wildlife Refuge Association on ways to improve their advocacy of the National Wildlife Refuge System, worked on the Everglades Day committee and served as bus coordinator, coordinated the Lee Road cleanups with the county, took responsibility for mailing T-shirts ordered through the website, and worked on the store committee, just to name a few of the Friends' accomplishments that Steve made possible.

So many Friends and volunteers contribute in so many ways to the enhancement of visitors' experiences and to the growing awareness in the community of the importance of our Refuge and the Everglades, that it's hard to single out any one person for recognition without leaving out a whole lot of others. But lest I make this column too long, let me just mention two other Friends who were recognized by Refuge staff at last month's volunteer recognition luncheon.

Kay Larche, a former Peace Corps volunteer, was named Volunteer of the Year for her readiness and willingness to help out wherever needed, whenever needed, with visitors, with Friends events, with the gift shop, and always with a smile. She's brought in many new visitors through her daily updates to our Facebook page, she takes visitors out to find the latest reported sighting of a gator or whatever's been spotted lately; she always keeps the display case interesting with a flair for decoration; she's even been known to give a visitor her own hat to save their sunburned ears!

And Pat Canning, who has been leading bird walks here for the past 31 years, received the Harvey Eisen Outstanding Friend of the Refuge award. Like so many others before me and since, Pat took me under her wing and taught me much of what I know about the flora and fauna of the swamp and marsh. That I didn't become a nature walk leader has made me a total disappointment to her. Let's hope I do better as President.

Elinor Williams President