IDNR Recognizes Volunteers of the Year

By Benjamin Cox on August 23, 2023 at 6:53am

Four familiar faces at local historic sites have been awarded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for their volunteer work.

IDNR recognized recipients of their 2023 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards on Saturday, expressing gratitude to individuals and members of outdoor organizations for their volunteer service to IDNR and the people of Illinois.

Mary Crain of Springfield was recognized for her decade of service at the Illinois State Museum. Crain assists with programs and museum events on site and in the community, and is known for her engaging programs for children.

Craig and Linda Nelson of Lockport have been driving more than 170 miles from their home to volunteer in Menard County at Lincoln’s New Salem Historic site since 2016. During the past year alone, they have logged more than 500 hours of volunteer service at the site. Much of their volunteer time is spent in the historic village wearing period clothes in weather that is not always ideal. They visit Illinois schools and other sites as ambassadors for the site. Visitors are familiar with the Nelsons, as evidenced by anecdotal stories and the Google reviews that reference the couple’s service and welcoming nature.

Allicent Smith of New Berlin has logged over 1,000 hours of service over the past decade at the Dana-Thomas House Historic site in Springfield. A retired teacher, she offers informative and engaging tours for adults and youth alike. She has spent years researching all aspects of the site to gain unparalleled knowledge of the House, of Susan Lawrence-Dana, and of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

IDNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie said in a press release that volunteers are the backbone of the state’s parks, historic sites, state museum facilities, and nature preserves providing vital services and upkeep for visitors to continually enjoy.