Boone National Forest celebrates volunteer achievement:

Volunteer hours have grown over 50% thanks to AmeriCorps Partnership

WINCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Kelsey Gentry’s normal workspace may be miles away from the buzzing saws and busy chatter of volunteer trail crews at work on the Forest, but it is a vital part of the Daniel Boone National Forest’s volunteer program. From the Supervisor’s Office in Winchester, Gentry coordinates volunteer efforts from the Red River Gorge to the Redbird Crest Trail. Her position, a first for the Forest, is just one example of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service’s renewed dedication to volunteer and service.

“For most folks, volunteering is the type of ‘extracurricular’ activity that doesn’t demand a ton of prep. You can find an opportunity to share your time at a community center or a trail in the Forest, join for the day, and be done,” said Gentry. “However, it’s only that easy because there is someone on the other end making plans, arranging materials, organizing training and just generally making sure the experience is valuable for both you and the community.”

Gentry, herself an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, is serving as the Forest’s Volunteer Coordinator under the Forest Service’s service pilot, the Southern Region Center of Excellence for Volunteers and Service Programs. Through partnerships with AmeriCorps, Conservation Legacy, and the Stewards Individuals Placements Program, this pilot has dedicated time and resources to enhancing volunteer opportunities on forests and grasslands from Virginia to Texas. In her role on the ground on the Daniel Boone National Forest, Gentry has assisted with the recruitment and management of Forest volunteers and service participants who in turn have supported projects for resource areas like recreation, biology, fire, archeology, etc. Gentry is also working to enhance partnership relations with nonprofits and universities as well as resource development opportunities for the Forest in the future.

“A lot of time goes into the background of volunteer work that many organizations, like the Daniel Boone National Forest, don’t have dedicated people to help with. My work on the Forest is starting to fill that gap,” said Gentry. “There was a lot to sort through when I first started, but I think we have made some great gains in growing our volunteer program over the past year.”

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Daniel Boone National Forest hosted 460 volunteers and service crew members who donated over 30,000 hours of work. After a year of the pilot program, the Forest was proud to host 715 volunteers and service crew members who donated almost 50,000 hours of labor to the Forest in Fiscal Year 2021.

“I started my career as an American Conservation Experience trail crew member in 2016 and got to serve in national forests and national parks all over the South. I know how impactful opportunities to get involved in land management work can be, especially when you are just starting out,” said Gentry. “It has been so rewarding to provide those same experiences to a new crop of volunteers and service crew members. I only hope that my successor can bring the same spirit to the Forest!”

Gentry will finish her service as the Forest’s Volunteer Coordinator in April 2022. The Forest, in collaboration with Conservation Legacy and AmeriCorps, is currently accepting applications for the next Stewards VISTA Volunteer Coordinator with a priority deadline of February 11, 2022. Successful applicants will receive a direct-hire authority for Forest Service positions, as well as a living allowance, education award to be applied to loans or tuition, on-the-ground training, professional development funds, relocation allowance, health care benefits, and childcare assistance and student loan forbearance for those that are eligible. Interested applicants can apply online for the Daniel Boone National Forest position at https://go.usa.gov/xtyMd.

For more information about volunteering on the Daniel Boone National Forest, visit the Forest’s website at https://go.usa.gov/xtyMy.

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