Every year the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation pick Hartzog Award Winners from the pool of people who volunteer at National Park sites. Finally, I can tell you that Tom and I were selected as Individual winners of the Hartzog Award for 2020.
We learned we won the regional award at the end of June and we thought that was a big honor. In the middle of July we found out we won the national award, but we weren’t allowed to tell anyone until the winners were announced on the award show on August 25. Usually the National Park Service invites winners to Washington DC to receive their award in person. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the award show was virtual this year. Rats.
Winning the National Hartzog Award is an honor. Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers offer their time and skills to help protect, maintain, and interpret National Park sites. Volunteers are involved in every aspect of park operations and management. Since the Volunteers in the Parks Act of 1969, millions of hours of volunteer service have been donated to the parks. Tom and I have annually donated over 500 hours each over the last seven years.
The National Park Service created the Hartzog Award to honor volunteers’ hard work, draw attention to their vast skills and contributions, and to stimulate development of innovative projects and volunteer involvement. The intent of the awards is to distinguish those individuals or groups who give of their skills, talents, and time beyond the normal call of duty.
There are six awards:
(1) The Hartzog Individual Volunteer Award recognizes outstanding contributions by an individual.
(2) The Hartzog Youth Volunteer Award recognizes the contributions of youth under 18 years.
(3) The Hartzog Volunteer Group Award recognizes contributions by an organized group.
(4) The Hartzog Volunteer Youth Group Award recognizes contributions by an organized youth group.
(5) The Hartzog Park Volunteer Program Award recognizes an exceptional park volunteer program.
(6) The Hartzog Enduring Service Award recognizes an individual’s sustained volunteer service for a period extending beyond one fiscal year.
We won the Individual Volunteer Award, even though there are two of us. Although most of the parks where we work just refer to us as “the Hartleys.” Of course, we have been “one” since the day we got married. One individual volunteer couple.
Ranger Michael Seibert at Fort Frederica National Monument nominated us for the award for our service to the park during the first six months of 2020. This is what he wrote in his nomination: “Tom and Karen Hartley developed new standard operating procedures for living history programming, built a 18th century bake oven for visitor programming and trained staff in its use, developed visitor center protocols for COVID, created and marked 1.5 miles of nature trails for visitors to safely social distance and providing access to areas of the park previously unused, created a self guided nature walk with signage and brochure along existing trails, and created video and social media content to maintain interpretative outreach during the pandemic shutdown.
They assisted with the development and hosting of a African-American festival day that focused on the life of Robert S. Abbott and the discovery of an unmarked cemetery containing Abbotts father and two aunts. They were willing to remain at the park during the COVID-19 response past their original departure date to assist with new protocols and operations, training COVID-19 hire employees, and making sure the visitors were able to experience their National Parks.”
I told Tom that Ranger Michael made us sound awesome, and Tom responded “We are awesome.” Then we both laughed. We believe in working hard and, during the early months of the pandemic, we were glad to have something to do when so many other people were stuck at home.
Tom and I had to make a video that we sent to the National Park Foundation for the award ceremony. Ranger Leif, here at Fort Union, helped us with that. We practiced and practiced our acceptance speech because we had to keep it under two minutes. Tom and I are both used to speaking in front of people, but speaking to a video camera and knowing that it had to be very short was difficult. We made it under the two minutes but only because I cut off Tom’s last line where he was supposed to say “Finally, we would like to thank all the volunteers and rangers who have inspired us over the years.”
You can watch the Hartzog Award ceremony here. Our award and our acceptance speech start at minute 10. We will also be featured in an NPS.gov article, in an InsideNPS article, on the IEV Connects SharePoint page, and on the Volunteers-In-Parks Facebook account. We think we might get a plaque or something, but we aren’t sure. There has been frustratingly little communication about the award.
Tom and I love volunteering in the National Parks and we hope to continue to do it for many years to come. Winning this award is icing on the cake: it is nice to be recognized but we will continue to work as we always have.