From Bethel to Soldotna to Homer to Fairbanks; Friends were reaching out in April and May.

by Poppy Benson, Friends Board Vice President

From a Ducks Unlimited Banquet in Bethel to The Month of the Military Child in Fairbanks, Friends were reaching out to new and old audiences spreading the word about Friends and Alaska’s incredible 16 National Wildlife Refuges.  

Birders flocked to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer in early May giving us our biggest opportunity to recruit new members and talk up all the refuges beyond the Alaska Maritime with which we cosponsor the festival.  Sixteen Friends from Soldotna, Anchorage, Homer and Colorado worked our outreach booth for 4 days signing up 40 new and renewing members.  Most also volunteered with other Festival events as well.  Beyond the booth, we had opportunities to reach out to this audience of Alaskans and lower 48 birders at the keynote event and again at the Birder’s Coffee which we host.  

Friend Susan Watkin’s painting of a moose crossing through the refuge’s Sterling Highway wildlife underpass served as a photo booth and a highlight of the Kenai Refuge exhibit at the Sports and Recreation show in Soldotna.  Five Friends under Marie McConnell’s leadership worked at a Friends table co-located with the Kenai Refuge allowing Friends to help with fun refuge activities, share their knowledge of the Kenai Refuge and recruit members.  This was a different audience with important ties to the Kenai Refuge and 12 new members were recruited.

Becky Wick and Tim Shipman work the Friends booth at the Soldotna Sports and Recreation Show.  The 12 new members recruited at the Show bring Friends membership in the Kenai/Soldotna area to 50.  pc: Marie McConnell

Also on the Kenai, the refuge’s Greenup, Cleanup service project turned into an outreach event when Friend Becky Wick showed up with 10 members of her hiking group.   Plenty of opportunities to chat about Friends while cleaning up three refuge campgrounds and access roads on Saturday and the refuge’s muti use trail on Friday.  Tim Shipman, long time Team Friends organizer, remarked that the campgrounds were cleaner this year.  

Although not technically an outreach event, our members turned the Kenai Refuge Greenup, Cleanup into one by inviting friends, family and a hiking club.  L to R Dan Moultrie, Becky Wick, Dan Musgrove and Robin Musgrove.  pc: Marie McConnell

Ten people flying from Alabama to Bethel for dinner was just one unexpected twist to our first ever Bethel outreach event.  When Yukon Delta’s Refuge Manager, Boyd Blihovde, told his new Friends liaison, Ryan Peyton, that he wanted to see Friends do an event in Bethel like a Ducks Unlimited (DU) banquet, he was talking to the right guy.  Ryan, a long time DU member, quickly saw the benefit in developing a relationship between the waterfowl rich refuge and the waterfowl group who has done so much for habitat conservation.  Ryan hosted a Friends’ outreach table at the DU banquet adjacent to the refuge’s information table.  The DU banquet is the biggest conservation event in Bethel with over 125 people attending including the 10 from Alabama.  Ryan hopes he set the stage for a greater role in next year’s event and other cooperative activities with DU.

Ryan Peyton, a long time Ducks Unlimited (DU) member and Yukon Delta Refuge liaison, staffed our first ever outreach effort in Bethel at the Bethel DU Banquet.  About 125 people attended including people from out of state.  pc: Laurie Boeck/USFWS

Military children and families are an important part of the Fairbanks community.  Due to refuge staff transfers, the northern refuges were at risk of being a no-show at the community event marking Month of the Military Child.  Arctic Refuge’s Friends liaison Jeff Walter came to the rescue and singlehandedly ran the northern refuges’ booth which was visited by at least 90 people, half of them children.  The focus here was not on Friends recruitment but interesting the kids and families from Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base in wildlife and wildlife refuges.

Jeff Walters, Friends Arctic Refuge liaison, was the sole staffer for the northern refuges booth at a Fairbanks community event celebrating the Month of the Military Child.  About 90 people, half of them children, stopped at his table.

This spring was an exciting time of growth for Friends outreach due to the new audiences, diversity of locations and sheer numbers of Friends who volunteered.  Thanks to all who helped.