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Volunteer honored for preserve work

(ran EO edition)

Oldsmar resident Catherine Foster won a Partners in Public Service award for environmental management at Brooker Creek Preserve. The awards were handed out by Pinellas County during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 20-26.

"This year it was a trophy shaped like a globe because the volunteers make a world of difference," said Craig Huegel, manager of Brooker Creek Preserve.

Three years ago, Foster read an article in the Times about the preserve. In it, Huegel was putting out the call for his most important resource: volunteers.

"We needed volunteers for Trash Removal Day," Huegel said. "One Saturday a month we'd go out in a big group of people. We had lots of trash back then."

Not that the preserve is as trash-free and pristine now as Huegel would like.

He said he is disgusted that some people, especially small contractors, still dump their waste along the fence line.

"Did you see the Dumpster outside?" Huegel asks. "It's full. It (represents) a month and a half of removing trash from the same place."

Foster still helps pick up trash when she sees it.

"People like Cathie are involved in all aspects (of running the preserve)," Huegel said. "She does things well. She doesn't cut corners and is very professional."

Foster's two sons, Justin, 19, and Travis, 15, also do their share for the preserve.

"Craig wanted to put on the nomination form, "She volunteered her two kids, too,' " Foster said. "It's become a family affair."

Since Trash Removal Day years ago, Foster, a teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater, has taken on a variety of tasks.

"She helps with fence-line monitoring," Huegel said. "We have 20 miles of fence. (Sometimes) a tree has fallen on it or someone's cut it."

She also guides and organizes walking tours one Saturday a month, one of the reasons she won the award.

"The biggest thing she's done, and why I nominated her, was I had two big projects she was willing to work on," Huegel said.

One is managing the Saturday hikes. The other is getting the summer camp for kids off the ground.

"She listens to messages on our hike line, calls people back, registers them, tells them how to get here and communicates with the trail guides."

Huegel said he tried to take on the Herculean task of arranging the hikes while managing the preserve, but it was just too much. Foster stepped in without being asked.

"She knew it was needed," he said. "It helps us immensely."

Foster said she loves taking people out on the trails.

"I feel good when I'm out there," she said. "It's kind of neat to get their reaction. They say, "This is Pinellas County?' They hear the wind in the trees. When I started 2{ years ago I thought I'd get tired of it, but I haven't."

She is also working on the summer camp that will help introduce fifth-graders to the preserve and its beauty.

"This is our maiden voyage," Huegel said. "She's helped develop the curriculum and ads. It will be a cool summer this year because of her."

There are only three salaried people who work on the 8,500-acre Brooker Creek Preserve. That's why Huegel depends so heavily on his 60 to 70 active volunteers spanning all ages. Almost none have any experience running a nature preserve. They arrive green and learn on the job, which is just fine with Huegel.

"Every aspect (of the preserve) is driven by volunteers," Huegel said. "They research projects, collect data in the field, help us with our global-positioning system, which helps create maps of things that are important to us, and (perform) office management (duties). Some are waist-deep in water with me."

Huegel said the volunteers also do some seed counting.

"One of our ongoing projects is studying a rare lily that grows here," he said. "Some of the volunteers count the seeds."

Huegel said it is vital that the preserve is supported by the public in all aspects, from keeping track of the tiniest seeds to helping when the new education center is built. "It's important to our long-term health," he said.

Annual Oldsmar award

goes to "unbelievable guy'

For winning the Homer Brunson-Ward Schrencengost Governmental Award, Oldsmar Assistant Public Works Director Bob Cyr received a plaque inscribed with the words, "For outstanding service, dedication and leadership to the City of Oldsmar," two extra vacation days and, best of all, $500.

"I was really pleased, elated," Cyr said.

What will he do with the cash?

"I don't know," Cyr said. "Something fun."

Cyr's boss, Fred Schildhauer, said Cyr is an organized worker and has a "very conscientious attitude for providing service."

Schildhauer's boss, Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland, thinks the world of Cyr.

"He's an unbelievable guy," Beverland said. "It was a wise choice when Bruce (Haddock, the city manager) hired him. He's a people person. When someone requests something get done, he's right on top of it."

Cyr, a seven-year city worker, is the supervisor for the street and drainage division, the facilities division, which maintains buildings, and the garage division, among other duties.

"He has a very cooperative attitude with his approach to getting the job accomplished, the task completed," Schildhauer said.

Cyr said the award's unusual name is derived from "two former mayors of the city who were hands-on guys and very active in the city."

Beverland said Homer Brunson gave a total of 18 years to the city as mayor and a City Council member. Ward Schrencengost, his political rival, served 24 years.

"When someone gives that many years to the city, after they die, people forget who they were," said Beverland, who started the award. "They were both fine men. (Now) at least once a year, people will remember them."

Serving Oldsmar seems to run in the Brunson family. Lynda Brunson, Homer Brunson's daughter, is the secretary to Oldsmar's finance director.

Beverland said the award, which has been handed out for six or seven years, is important to the employees.

"It shows we care about them," Beverland said.

All city employees and board members were asked to vote for the award. Cyr was chosen from the top nominees. He was presented with the award April 7 during a City Council meeting.

Two fifth-graders are

named Come Back Kids

Two students, Tyler Johnston and Emily Drahush, have demonstrated such a tremendous improvement in their school work and overall attitude that they were recognized as Come Back Kids by the Rotary Club of East Lake Oldsmar.

At a noon ceremony April 23 at the Marriott Stratford Court of Palm Harbor, Tyler, 10, son of Jan and Bill Johnston, was given a plaque for improving homework and grades. He is a fifth-grader in Carmen Cogan's class at Forest Lakes Elementary School.

"Tyler is the son of the vice principal of Forest Lakes," said Larry Gilbert, Rotary Club vocational club chairman. "It was real nice to see how objective the teachers can be and pick the student that deserves it."

Gilbert said Tyler is "into basketball and into computers."

Emily, 9, daughter of Mark and Debbie Michael of Oldsmar, was rewarded for her good grades, participation in class and self-confidence. She is a fifth-grade student in Sandy Cowley's class at Oldsmar Elementary School.

"I coached her in the girls Oldsmar Little League," Gilbert said. "I hadn't seen her in a year. She changed so much. She's a real nice, dynamic little girl. She's a hard worker. I'm not surprised to see a person like her (get the award)."

We are on the lookout for news for this Oldsmar column. If you have news about Oldsmar organizations, churches, schools, businesses or residents, please contact Eileen Schulte at the North Pinellas Times. She can be reached by phone at 445-4229, by fax at 445-4206, or you may mail material to her at 34342 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.