Interior Secretary Norton Honors 2005 Take Pride in America Award Winners

More than 140 recipients representing twenty-five volunteer programs in sixteen states converged on Washington last week for the 2005 Take Pride in America National Awards Ceremony hosted by Marti Allbright, Executive Director of TPIA. The volunteers came from as far away as Alaska and were as young as elementary school students from Edmond, Oklahoma. Awards were given in thirteen categories including federal land managers, students in several age groups, individuals, non-profit organizations, a corporate award, local, state and federal government projects and public/private partnerships.

The evening before the ceremony, honorees and friends were guests at a reception at the White House Visitor's Center. They were welcomed by American Recreation Coalition President Derrick Crandall, Take Pride in America Partners Council chair, and by David Lustig, representing the host of the reception, Unilever, which is a member of the council. Brian Waidmann, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, shared greetings from Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton. The recipients also enjoyed a preview of TPIA Public Service Announcements featuring Clint Eastwood, National Spokesperson for Take Pride in America.

The awards ceremony took place in the Department of Interior auditorium. Marti Allbright Executive Director of TPIA introduced a videotaped message from Clint Eastwood thanking the volunteers and praising the spirit of volunteerism and its importance in maintaining and improving our most special places for Americans' enjoyment now and in the future.

Desiree Sayle, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the USA Freedom Corps, brought congratulations from President Bush and said that American's volunteer efforts are "near to his heart and soul."

Secretary Gale A. Norton spoke to the recipients before presenting the awards to each group. Secretary Norton praised the volunteers saying, "You are Americans who are living their citizenship; patriots who are giving of themselves to make this Nation a brighter place...who rise above the essential duties of citizenship. You freely give your time. You willingly give your toil. You make this Nation great." Secretary Norton praised the variety of efforts, from river cleanups to the creation of butterfly gardens, from constructing outdoor classrooms to building birdhouses. She noted that on a single day last year 1,900 volunteers contributed 9,600 hours to clean up Florida's public lands devastated by four hurricanes.

Gary LaBella, Vice-President of Public Relations and Advertising for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, an active supporter of TPIA's Public Service Announcements campaign, presented the Secretary with a commemorative copy of the print PSA on behalf of RVIA and The Richards Group, the agency which has developed the print PSA on a pro bono basis. Ms. Allbright thanked him for the invaluable assistance of RVIA in this effort.

A special Spirit of Take Pride in America award was presented to Kym Murphy, senior vice president of Environmental Policy at The Walt Disney Company. The award is not presented annually but rather only in those years when someone's efforts on behalf of Take Pride in America merit special recognition.

"Kym Murphy and the Walt Disney Company truly partner with the Take Pride program," Allbright said. "Their consistent generosity and long-standing history with Take Pride demonstrate that it's not just a business decision, but a commitment to reaching those individuals who can make a difference with Take Pride."

Presented annually, the Take Pride in America national awards recognize specific volunteer projects and efforts in a variety of categories. These awards honor those who best maintain and enhance our public lands, including parks, forests, grasslands, reservoirs, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, local playgrounds, and other recreation areas. This year marks the third year the National Awards have been given.

Take Pride in America is a national partnership program established by the U.S. Department of the Interior that aims to engage, support and recognize volunteers who work to improve our public lands, including parks, forests, waterways, grasslands, wildlife refuges, cultural and historical sites, local playgrounds and other recreation areas.

Reintroduced in 2003 with more than 100 Charter Partners, including ARC, Take Pride now engages Federal, state, and local governments; conservation, youth and recreation groups; and top national corporations and organizations.

For a complete list of the winners, and more about the 2005 Awards Ceremony, [click here] .

For full descriptions of the individual projects, [click here] .

To see the PSAs featuring Clint Eastwood, [click here] .