Each year Virginia State Parks solicits nominations for Volunteer of the Year from its 41 parks. Only one person is selected for the award – a difficult task because all of the nominees are dedicated and exemplary volunteers who are much appreciated by the staff of the park at which they serve. One such exceptional nominee for the 2021 award was Terri Mewborn, who was nominated by then Chief Ranger Alex Qualls of Occoneechee State Park. I wasn’t surprised to receive the nomination, because I, myself, had had the pleasure of experiencing Terri in action at the park in 2021.
To ensure that others can follow in her footsteps, Terri wrote interpretive program plans (IPPs) for all of her interpretive programs, putting them neatly into binders for easy use at the park. The programs cover the spectrum of nature and history topics relevant to the park and many parks and go beyond presenting facts to encourage emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual connection to the natural environment and historical resources of the park.
Terri’s boundless enthusiasm for nature and natural areas led her to launch the Southside Online Naturalist Group (SONG) to share images and stories of Southside Virginia natural resources, native wildlife (including identification requests), ecology, conservation, citizen science, and related topics. Following that, along with others on the coordinating committee, Terri helped initiate the Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists in 2021. Their first training is underway presently and will provide more volunteers to help enhance the work of conservation organizations.
For all of these reasons, Terri was nominated as Volunteer of the Year for Virginia State Parks and her work shines as an example to others desiring to make a positive impact on the natural world, including its human inhabitants.