Award Recipients

Congratulations Leonard N. Fox, 2023 Volunteer of the Year!

Leonard 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. He said, “Being a farmer, you are always interested in the weather. Rainfall is important for so many reasons including crop growth.” Leonard enjoys volunteering with the district because he said the precipitation monitor program is easy to use and he is pleased the data helps the county and can be used nationally.

Leonard also volunteers with the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and participates in the Knights of Columbus. Leonard 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 Richland SWCD for distribution. 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 Leonard and other volunteers are committed to soil and water health and a tree provides long-lasting benefits.

In addition to providing shade and adding beauty to an area, trees reduce the amount of stormwater runoff which helps reduce erosion and pollution in our waterways. Native trees are adapted to our climate, require less watering, and their strong roots help hold soil in place.

Each volunteer of the year picks a public location for the tree planting and Leonard 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. Black Gum trees are native to the Eastern United States including Ohio, other than in the drier counties in the northwestern part of the state. A Black Gum tree also goes by the name Tupelo. Each fall the tree will be bathed in beautiful scarlet and orange hues. Although hardly noticed by humans, the flowers and fruit are a good source of nectar for bees and food for birds. As it grows, it will contribute to the beauty of the park to be enjoyed by Leonard and Kathy, their family, our community, and future generations. 

The Shelby Park staff, Mayor Schag, and others assisted in the tree planting. Jerry Marshall, Shelby Park Supervisor, and his staff will care for the Black Gum in coming years.

Leonard received the Richland SWCD Forestry Award in 2014. Between 2012 and 2014 he developed a forestry management plan to help meet his goals for his woodland. He improved forty acres of woodlands with grapevine removal and culling of mediocre trees. By following his Forest Stand Improvement Plan, Leonard allowed the profitable trees room to grow which improved the woodlands value. 

Thank you for all you do for the district, Leonard! Watch this video our intern, Austin Michael, created about Leonard and the tree planting.

The 52-member volunteer team has contributed more than 1,800 hours since September 1, 2023, which has saved the General Fund approximately $52,200. Volunteers contribute high quality data that is used to track soil and water health in Richland County’s eight watersheds.

Congratulations William R. Flanegan, Jr., 2023 Cooperator of the Year!

William received the 2023 Cooperator of the Year award for his work at the Nature Park located at the Richland County Fairgrounds. Over a 10-year period, the life-long, master gardener has transformed and maintained the landscaping into a beautiful green area adorned with native plants.  He has 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.

If you go to the Nature Park on most Wednesdays at 4:00 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.  They are happy to point out pollinators who land on a plant and share their knowledge about the plants. Spotting a pollinator never gets old.

Bill’s love for native plants was inspired by a book he read by Doug Tallamy, “Bringing Nature Home.” Now he inspires others to use native plants for the benefits they provide like having a strong root structure which helps prevent soil erosion, being acclimated to our climate so they require less watering and helping pollinators and other wildlife.

Other projects Bill has been involved in at the nature park include removing non-native species, reconstruction of a wall and providing plant identification. Have you ever planted a dead tree upside down on purpose? Bill has and he is unapologetic. He said, “These are bird attractors and for some reason they just feel safe perching in them. We also planted some dead Black Locust trees upside down to display contorted root systems. I love watching people’s reactions to this oddity. I think it is natural “art”.”

William is 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.

Watch this video about William, created by intern Austin Michael.

Thank you for being a commendable steward, William!

Cooperator of the Year Award Recipients 1964-Present

1964: Chester Hampton
1965: Lee Oswalt
1966: Jack Gatton
1967: Al Schumacher
1968: John Winger
1969: Chester Mowry
1970: Ralph Winters
1971: Leonard Krietemeyer
1972: Ken & Robert McConkie
1973: LaVaughn Oswalt
1974: Harry Benson
1975: Tom Kranz
1976: John Simmons
1977: Bob Kissel
1978: Jim Zimmer, Sr.
1979: John Scherer
1980: John Ramsay
1981: Bill Bierly
1982: Carl Mowry
1983: Owen Galloway
1984: Howard Doner
1985: Ken Nixon
1986: Jim & John McCarron
1987: Floyd McFarland
1988: Leonard Krietemeyer
1989: Ted Hickerson
1990: Howard & Dean Cook
1991: Gene & Steve Spoerr
1992: Dr. Charles Young
1993: Bill & Charlie Briner
1994: Dean Swigart
1995: Ed Huff
1996: Kenneth Ernst
1997: Van Ross Wade
2004: John Culler
2005: Grant Milliron
2006: Ivan Ulmer
2007: Robert Niese
2008: Fred & Lynn Cooke
2013: John & Martha Sherer
2014: David Burley
2015: Charles &Diane Winger
2016: Walter, Regina, Peter, Cathy Berg—Berg Farms
2017: John Akers & Beer Farms
2018: Jay Miller
2019: Winfield Meek
2020: Eisenhauer Family Farm
2021: Kingwood Center Gardens
2022: Roger Baird

2023: William R. Flanegan, Jr.