Associate State Director Howard Lemm, Sandra Padilla, Ann Boucher, and BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson at the BLM’s annual Making a Difference award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
A commemoration of William Clark’s 1806 stop at Pompeys Pillar recently evolved into a trip to Washington, D.C., for two Montana BLM employees.
Sandra Padilla, a park ranger in the Lewistown Field Office, and Ann Boucher, volunteer coordinator in the Montana State Office, were co-recipients of the 2007 Making a Difference Award. Designed to recognize and promote the BLM volunteer program, the awards are presented annually to the bureau’s outstanding volunteers and employees who work with the volunteer program.
Sandra and Ann’s roles in recruiting, training, scheduling and supervising nearly 400 volunteers for last year’s Clark on the Yellowstone National Signature Event earned them the nomination and the subsequent award. The signature event was held last July at Pompeys Pillar National Monument east of Billings.
Over four of last summer’s hottest days, an estimated 47,000 people visited the monument, a relatively small site with few built-in accommodations. Volunteers ranging in age from students to seniors were prepared to handle a variety of tasks and situations. Among other things, volunteers set up a temporary “tent city,” directed traffic, provided visitor information, distributed refreshments to workers, delivered supplies to food vendors, and removed trash. Despite 100+ degree F temperatures, a fierce thunderstorm, and large crowds, there were no serious incidents or injuries, thanks in part to the volunteer staff that donated a total of 5,970 hours during the four-day event.
Sandra and Ann’s work began long before the signature event’s opening ceremony. Six months prior, they joined partner organizations in working out the event’s final details. Four months prior, they began conducting training sessions to prepare the volunteers for the task ahead. They conferred with each person to match their schedules to their interests and availability, and filed all the necessary paperwork. When it was all over, they made sure that each volunteer received recognition for his/her contributions.
Both are quick to point out that the volunteers themselves are what made their job a success. “We had some great volunteers from the community,” said Ann. “They were thrilled to be part of the event and were always willing to help out wherever they were needed – even picking up trash and directing traffic.”
Sandra agreed, adding that a lot of support came from inside the BLM. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of employees and the support of the management team,” she said. “Management allowed their staffs the time to help with everything from designing the t-shirts to setting up the tents, and afterwards provided the funding for us to host a reception to thank the volunteers.”
Volunteers have repeatedly expressed gratitude for the opportunity to take part in such a well-organized and rewarding event. Ann and Sandra’s work ethic, attention to detail, organizational skills, and ability to anticipate needs were crucial factors in building such a capable volunteer workforce; their leadership elicited the respect of everyone who worked with them on this once-in-a-lifetime event.
The BLM will enjoy some long-lasting benefits from the signature event. It was a partnership effort on a grand scale, and the highly visible and essential roles that Sandra and Ann played emphasized the value of those partnerships and encouraged future partnership and stewardship opportunities. Additionally, the volunteers experienced first hand the satisfaction of their personal involvement, and many of these same people continue to volunteer at Pompeys Pillar.
Sandra and Ann traveled to Washington, D.C., the week of May 7 to receive their awards. There they joined award recipients from five other states for a visit with Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and the awards ceremony in the Main Interior Building.