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Aquarium Honors Outstanding Volunteers For Dedicated Service During National Volunteer Week
Pacific Grove, Marina and Salinas residents recognized for their contributions
Each year the Monterey Bay Aquarium has the challenging task of selecting just a few from over 1,000 volunteers as the recipients of the Lucile S. Packard Memorial Award for outstanding volunteer service. The recipients are always announced during the aquarium’s annual celebration of National Volunteer Week, April 15 - 21.
This year’s honorees – Gary Russell of Pacific Grove, Beverly Wilmot of Marina and Dave Netzer of Salinas – were recognized as individuals “whose dedication and selfless service exemplify Mrs. Packard’s lifelong commitment to volunteerism.” Award criteria include the impact of the individual’s activities on the aquarium, their commitment to the aquarium’s mission, objectives and goals and their length of service and number of hours contributed.
The awards will be presented at the annual volunteer gala at the aquarium on April 21.
All of the Lucile Packard Award honorees epitomize the hallmarks of aquarium volunteers: service to others, commitment to the aquarium’s mission and a love of nature. And each is outstanding in different ways.
Gary Russell has been volunteering at the aquarium for six years, and in that time has accumulated 6,201 volunteer hours, including 87 dives in the Sea Otter and Kelp Forest exhibits. “His reliability, attention to detail and gentle and friendly nature inspire countless coworkers throughout the aquarium,” says Ruth Buell, senior manager of volunteer engagement.
In his time at the aquarium Russell has volunteered in various husbandry areas, depending on where help is needed the most. One current special exhibition, “The Secret Lives of Seahorses” and a former exhibition, “Wild About Otters” have benefited from his innate ability to build, design and fix tools. In collaboration with staff veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray, Russell designed and built a frame to x-ray seahorses and seadragons in a vertical position, providing more detailed information than the traditional method of laying the animal on a horizontal surface. Additionally, he has years of experience as a volunteer guide and shift captain, and contributed many hours to leading behind-the-scene tours.
“His influence at the aquarium is far reaching,” says Buell. “Gary’s support to fellow volunteers, to staff and to the aquarium as a whole is the epitome of selflessness.”
Beverly Wilmot is a charter volunteer, having donated over 4,700 hours of time in 27 years. Her mastery of storytelling and warm demeanor makes her an invaluable asset to the aquarium. She initially served as a volunteer guide and since 2003, as an information desk volunteer. Fellow volunteers share that in every interaction Wilmot ensures that ocean conservation is front and center. Her vast knowledge of the aquarium has served colleagues and the many individuals she has mentored.
“Beverly is an aquarium encyclopedia, sharing the most incredible stories with visitors about the aquarium and her adventurous life,” Buell said. “She delights in engaging visitors and mentoring the next generation of ocean stewards.”
Like Wilmot, Dave Netzer has been volunteering at the aquarium for more than 27 years – before the aquarium opened its doors to the public. In that time he has contributed more than 1,827 hours to helping inspire ocean conservation, most of those hours as a diver. Netzer has conducted over 765 dives, spending over 570 hours underwater in aquarium exhibits.
“Dave is the kind of volunteer who would have made Lucile Packard proud,” said one employee at the aquarium. “His positive attitude and love for the ocean is contagious.”
In all those years, Netzer has never missed a shift. When he is not volunteering at the aquarium he’s diving around the world and spreading the aquarium’s mission at local dive shops.
“Dave is truly the heart and soul of the Volunteer Dive Program,” says Senior Dive Safety Officer George Peterson.
Mrs. Packard, along with her husband David Packard, made the initial gift to build the aquarium. She was the driving force behind creation of the aquarium’s internationally acclaimed volunteer program.
More than 1,250 individuals are currently active volunteers at the aquarium. Collectively, they donated 13,290 hours every month in 2011, for a total of 159,493 hours.
The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans. To learn more, visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.
Mika Yoshida, Public Relations Administrative Coordinator
Angela Hains, Public Relations Senior Associate Manager