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Blackstone Heritage Corridor Celebrates Its Volunteers

Abigail Epplett Named Suzanne Buchanan Volunteer of the Year Award Winner

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC) hosted a volunteer recognition celebration for its Volunteers-In-Parks program on December 15, 2022, where it named the first recipient of its Suzanne Buchanan Volunteer of the Year Award. This prestigious award was created to honor the legacy of BHC’s former volunteer program coordinator, who served in that role for a combined total of 23 years with the National Park Service and the nonprofit BHC. The special event also marked the 8th anniversary of its partner, the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, created on December 19, 2014.

Abigail Epplett of Uxbridge, MA, earned the distinction of receiving the inaugural Suzanne Buchanan Volunteer of the Year Award through her varied and consistent volunteer efforts with BHC and Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

“Suzanne Buchanan inspired volunteers to imagine the possibilities of historic preservation and natural resources conservation. She showed us that these resources can be the basis for exciting recreation and a vibrant quality of life,” explained Molly Cardoza, BHC’s Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement. “When looking towards our volunteers, there is no one who better embodied Suzanne’s welcoming spirit and enthusiasm as a Volunteer-In-Parks volunteer with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor than Abigail Epplett. “

According to Cardoza, Abigail volunteered across the VIP program, with the National Park Service in Pawtucket, at special events, and with BHC’s partners. “When we put out a call for volunteers, Abigail is always one of the first to respond and always arrives with infectious energy and enthusiasm,” Cardoza continued. “Abigail started volunteering with the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in 2019 and has served as a volunteer and an intern with us. This year Abigail has greeted visitors to the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark, helped with maple sugaring crafts at Maple Sugar Days, showed visitors the stars at a Night Sky program, cleaned up the Blackstone Valley as part of ZAP50, and did so much more. We know when Abigail signs up to volunteer, she will be there and will give her all! Volunteers like Abigail are what make this program so successful.”

Volunteers with the Volunteers-In-Parks program, including several partner organizations throughout the Blackstone River Valley, served a total of 30,607 volunteers hours for the Fiscal Year 2022 (October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022) at a value of $916,679. The national average value of a volunteer’s time is currently $29.95. Reported hours are considered an in-kind donation and can be used toward matching grants.

Three of BHC’s volunteer partner organizations received Partner of the Year Awards this year, including Waters Farm Preservation, Inc. of Sutton, MA; East Providence Historical Society of East Providence, RI: and North Smithfield Heritage Association of North Smithfield, RI.

“Volunteers are literally worth their weight in gold!”  remarked Richard Moore, BHC’s Board Chair. “That statement isn’t false praise by any means when, according to calculations from Independent Sector, our Blackstone Heritage Corridor volunteers contributed the equivalent of nearly one million dollars as a key part of the Heritage Corridor team!  For an organization that receives only limited federal and some private funding, BHC could not be as successful as it has been without the time and talents of our volunteers.”

Volunteers who serve 250 hours earn a complimentary America the Beautiful Pass, providing them free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day-use fees) at national forests and grasslands and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Thirteen of BHC’s volunteers earned an America the Beautiful Pass in the Fiscal Year 2022, including Norma Bedrosian, Sue Ciaramicoli, Bonnie Combs, Bill Ela, Ken Ethier, Pam Gurney Farnham, Keith Hainley, John Marsland, Albert Menard, Betty Mencucci, Alan Salemi, Paul Schaefer, and Edward Walker.

“BHC’s award-winning volunteers are essential to the mission of the Heritage Corridor beyond the valuable time they donate,” Moore added.  “They are often among our most loyal donors of financial support, provide contacts for grants from businesses and foundations, and represent the public face of the Corridor.  They collectively make a positive impact and ensure the long-term vitality of their communities and the region!”

According to Moore, BHC’s Volunteers-In-Parks volunteers embody the mission of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor to work with community partners to preserve and promote the Valley’s historic, cultural, natural, and recreational resources for current and future generations.  “Our actions today support and promote development which, in turn, supports and promotes our environmental systems and enhanced recreational opportunities, as well as our social and cultural heritage,” he added.

To learn more about the Volunteers-In-Parks program, contact Molly Cardoza at [email protected] or call 508-234-4242. To learn more about BHC, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org.