Volunteers, internship program highlight ONWR benefit

Staff writer

More than 100 people attended the Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge “Fall in Love” Dinner held Oct. 11 at Sunrise Banquet Hall in Millbury.
The event highlighted volunteer efforts over the past year, and raised more than $5,000 for the refuge’s internship program, according to Aimee Arent, executive director.
The benefit, which was sponsored in part by GenoaBank, featured the theme “An Evening in Tuscany,” with Italian food and music with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin impersonators “Frank & Dean.” Dinner was provided by Carolyn's Catering. Additionally, guests heard about the refuge’s success stories and volunteer accomplishments over the past year.
Volunteers were presented with certificates and gifts for their efforts. According to Friends-ONWR Board President Jenni Biegala, volunteers put in 14,133 hours in 2018 – the equivalent of seven additional employees.
“We would not be able to run our educational programs, maintain the pollinator gardens, complete projects on the refuge or even fully staff the Visitor Center without our volunteers,” she said.
Each year Friends-ONWR sponsors interns for the refuge. In 2018, seven interns helped staff with everything from biology to children's programs. Two of those interns, Holly Walp and Morgan Donaldson, were hired this summer at the refuge to fight invasive species as part of the Invasive Species Strike Force.
Proceeds from the “Fall in Love” benefit will go a long way to supporting the ONWR’s internship program, Arent said.
“Supporting our college intern program is extremely important. These students are our next generation of naturalists and environmental specialists,” Arent said. “By supporting this program, people are supporting our refuge’s future.”
Leftover food from the event was donated to the St. Paul’s Community Center.
In addition to Arent, Biegala and her husband, Bill, those helping to organize the benefit were Board Secretary and Perrysburg Township Fiscal Officer Shirley “Ginger” Haar; and board members Melanie Bowen-Greenwald, Carol Fingerhut, Kris Johnston, Pete Schwager, Mary Willoughby, Jake Worthington and Matt Zaleski and Betty Osenbaugh from Hubbub Marketing, LLC.
Friends-ONWR hosts many events throughout the year. To become a corporate sponsor, email Arent at friendsofottawanwr@gmail.com or call 419-898-0014.
For more information on Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, visit friendsofottawanwr.org.


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