MANSFIELD, Ohio — Richland Soil and Water Conservation District awarded its 2023 Volunteer and Cooperator of the Year awards during the joint Richland County Farm Bureau and Richland SWCD Annual Celebration held Sept. 7 at the Kehoe Center.
Leonard N. Fox is the Volunteer of the Year. William R. Flanagan Jr. is the Cooperator of the Year.
Volunteer of the Year
Fox began volunteering with Richland SWCD in 2016. He serves the district as a precipitation monitor and reports daily rain and snow amounts in real-time on the Richland SWCD website. Fox also volunteers with the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and participates in the Knights of Columbus. He enjoys beekeeping, hunting, fishing, spending time with family at their farm and at the lake in the summer months.
He planted butterfly-friendly plants and milkweed plots to help Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Each fall he collects the milkweed pods and donates them to the conservation district for distribution. Leonard also received the Richland SWCD Forestry Award in 2014.
He is semi-retired from Schumacher Farms, Inc. where he is part owner. He and his wife, Kathy, have two daughters, Theresa and Michele; sons-in-law, Jeremy and Michael; and four grandsons, Xavier, Calvin, Sam, and Jack.
Richland SWCD plants a tree in honor of the volunteer of the year because Fox and other volunteers are committed to soil and water health and a tree provides long-lasting benefits. Fox chose Seltzer Park in Shelby, near the gazebo and playscape, because his grandchildren enjoy playing on the playscape. A Black Gum tree was planted in Leonard’s honor in August. The Shelby Park staff, Mayor Schag, and others assisted in the tree planting.
Cooperator of the Year
Flanagan was awarded for his work at the Nature Park located at the Richland County Fairgrounds. Over a 10-year period, the lifelong master gardener has transformed and maintained the landscaping into a green space with native plants. He coordinated the work at the Nature Park with help from other volunteers including his wife, Tonya, Howard Harriman, Linda Bixler, Barb Keller, Vickie Eichof, Doug Versaw, Jim Kulig, Carol Sheppard and Randy Hanlon. Flanagan’s love for native plants was inspired by Doug Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home.”
If you go to the Nature Park on most Wednesdays at 4 p.m. from March through November, you will find Bill and other volunteers mowing, planting, watering, dividing plants, installing landscape art, putting up Nature Park signs and enjoying each other’s company.
Other projects Flanagan has been involved in at the nature park include removing non-native species, reconstructing a wall and providing plant identification. He’s also devoted to educating the public and fellow volunteers about the importance of planting native plants. He invites groups to the Nature Park to learn more about native plants and conducts an annual program highlighting the native plants during the Richland County Fair.
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