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Blackstone Heritage Corridor Recognizes Volunteers

Volunteers Receive Awards at 5th Anniversary of Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park

Whitinsville, MA (December 20, 2019) – At the 5th anniversary celebration for Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park on December 19, 2019, Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC), recognized several volunteers for their outstanding service in the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program. The awards also recognized corporate and non-profit partners.

Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone of Manville, RI, received an Outstanding VIP Partnership Program Award for the non-profit organization’s commitment to the VIP program and the substantial impact its volunteer projects have made on the natural resources within the Blackstone River Valley. “This award also recognizes and celebrates its commitment to building an environmental education center which opened this year,” noted Suzanne Buchanan, BHC’s Volunteer Coordinator. “This all-volunteer organization has been the driving force behind river restoration and cleanup events, improving access to the river, and providing canoes for the public to enjoy the river. The completion of the Friends of the Blackstone River Environmental Center demonstrates its dedication to the preservation of the river and its resources.”

Displays2go, of Fall River, MA, received an Outstanding Corporate Volunteer Award for its continued support of the VIP program. Displays2go employees volunteered several times in BHC’s Day of Service program and have made a significant contribution to the National Heritage Corridor and the National Historical Park. “Their employees have volunteered along the Blackstone River Bikeway to repair fence posts, remove vegetation, and improve the experience for all who use the bikeway,” noted Buchanan. “They also helped to close an historic home, packing and sorting its contents. They come each time with a passion to give back and have an incredible work ethic.”

Other volunteers recognized for their volunteer contributions include Julie and Steve Riendeau of Burrillville, RI; Beth and Paul Milke of Uxbridge, MA; Betty & Carlo Mencucci of Burrillville, RI: Jill and Dick Winski of Northbridge, MA; Carol and Rob Dandrade of Uxbridge, MA; Pat Choiniere of Lincoln, RI; and Marjorie Turner Hollman of Bellingham, MA.

Julie and Steve Riendeau have been volunteers since 2002 and have volunteered together helping to plan and execute paddle trips for the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club, entering its 20th season in 2020.  Julie also volunteers at area schools to bring education about the watershed, how it works, and how littering negatively impacts water quality and the health of wildlife.

Beth and Paul Milke have been volunteering together in the VIP program since 2016 and lead bird walks throughout the Blackstone River Valley in the spring and fall. Their interest in birding led to the creation of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Birding Ambassadors program and the two have developed a growing audience over the years.

Betty and Carlo Mencucci have been volunteering together since 2011 and in addition to leading history walks, the two are well-known for their historic cemetery conservation efforts. In October, the couple received the 2019 Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Service Award presented by Preserve Rhode Island and Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission.

Jill and Dick Winski visited the BHC office one day in 2017 looking for a map of the Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway and soon became key members of the volunteer program. Both volunteer with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Bikeway Ambassadors, offer BHC program support and hospitality, and also volunteer behind the scenes at the office.

Carol and Rob Dandrade began volunteering in 2016 and today Carol’s interest in photography has led to the creation of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Photography Ambassadors and curated its first-ever gallery show at the Museum of Work and Culture in September, 2019. Rob serves on BHC’s Board of Directors and is volunteering on a committee to explore the completion of the Blackstone River Greenway/Bikeway. 

Pat Choiniere, a volunteer with the Corridor since 2001, has volunteered as caretaker of the Valentine Whitman House in Lincoln, RI, for 28 years until it was sold by the town to Preserve RI in 2019. “Pat has kept the history of the area alive all of these years,” noted Buchanan, who added that Choiniere had been volunteering long before joining the VIP program. “Her commitment and dedication to the Valentine Whitman House is exceptional. She is a champion volunteer!”

Marjorie Turner Hollman has been volunteering since 2015 and addition to leading Story Book Walks and oral history workshops over the years, she contributes her writing skills by writing blogs about volunteers in action and BHC programs. “These carefully written stories serve as testimonials to the impact our volunteer program has on people and the community,” explained Buchanan. “Marjorie has a gift for capturing the magic and writes from the heart.”

Over the past five years, volunteers in the VIP program have contributed 69,159 hours in volunteer time, at a total dollar value of $1,687,256. The volunteer value is considered an in-kind donation which BHC can use as matching funds when applying for grants, etc.

“Though the gift of a volunteer’s time has a dollar value, which currently is $25.43 per hour, they are giving a gift of themselves, often juggling more than one job, step-families, health issues, and more,” Buchanan shared. “We truly appreciate the passion they bring to this program, and by logging and reporting their hours, we can continue our mission to preserve and promote our legacy as the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and work with community partners to preserve and enhance the historic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources for current and future generations.”

To learn more about the Volunteers-In-Parks program, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org or considering attending BHC’s next Volunteer Open House on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. at BHC’s office at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. To register, RSVP to Suzanne Buchanan at Volunteer@BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org or call (508) 234-4242.