Fairfax County Park Authority and the Fairfax County Park Commission announced their 2023 Elly Doyle awards presented annually to deserving volunteers or organizations. For 2023, two FMN volunteers received “Outstanding Volunteer” Awards via parks they support. Jo Doumbia received an award via Hidden Oaks Nature Center (HONC) in Annandale and Celia Boertlein via Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) in Hybla Valley.
Jo’s nomination letter cited her enthusiastic demeanor, graciousness in sharing her multilingual skills, and her joy of fostering natural history education in support of environmental justice. Jo is the perfect example of an outstanding volunteer.
The letter went on to say that she excels at her role inside the nature center building and also took it upon herself to go above and beyond the normal Volunteer on Duty role and extend Hidden Oaks’ interpretative outreach through a variety of activities within the local community. An experienced presenter and naturalist, Jo represents Hidden Oaks by planning and hosting nature outreach activities with neighborhood Community Centers supporting a highly diverse audience.
Since last summer Jo also interpreted monarch butterfly programs for elementary and high school age audiences at Wedgewood Community Center, which serves a highly diverse, low-income apartment complex in Annandale. These programs included monarch tagging and monarch migration activities.
She is the HONC liaison with Culmore Community Center. With Hidden Oaks’ staff, Jo put considerable effort into arranging four summer programs for 22 low-income Latino teens to attend complimentary STEM workshops at Hidden Oaks, Lake Fairfax, and Riverbend Park. Students participated in fishing, orienteering, geocaching, and kayaking. They studied live herps, STEM careers, conducted soil sampling with NVSWCD and benthic macroinvertebrates with DPWES. They were also sure to have fun at picnics and gathering around campfires. She coordinated volunteers from Fairfax Master Naturalists to assist in these events.
Through her vision and efforts, she extended Hidden Oaks’ nature interpretation programs to a more diverse audience, including those who are low-income and may otherwise not be able to participate in a paid program.
Celia received Huntley Meadows “Ken Howard” award and the Elly Doyle “Outstanding Volunteer” Award. Ken Howard was an autochthonal supporter of HMP and this eponymous award is considered HMP’s highest honor. Her Elly Doyle nomination letter stated that Celia is an essential member of the volunteer team. She wears many hats and is nearly always the first volunteer to assist with programs and scouts. Celia continues to fulfill her roving naturalist and vernal pool monitor duties without fail and dedicates an incredible amount of time and energy to support Huntley Meadows Park special events.
Celia helped immensely with the HMP Wetlands Awareness Day as a Friends of Huntley Meadows Park representative and stayed especially busy organizing the event. She continually steps up as an interpretive program assistant, field trip leader, roving naturalist, and vernal pool monitor – she is an essential park volunteer.
Celia continuously updates natural resource records with new developments in her vernal pool. She researches additional data, provides materials for others, and utilizes her contacts to reach out for more detail. She provides invaluable assistance in many different programs at HMP. Her skill set contributes to citizen science, educational, and community outreach activities. She brings a depth of naturalist knowledge and interpretation skills when speaking with park guests. As a roving naturalist she provides essential support to the park’s interpretive staff through her energetic, hands-on program assistance.