NWF View - Volunteers

The heart and soul of everything we do

  • Mark Van Putten
  • Feb 01, 1997
The full measure of a man, an old saying goes, is not found in the man himself but rather in the way he inspires accomplishments in the people around him. I would like to take that thought one step further to say that the full measure of an organization is not found in the halls and think tanks of its offices but rather in the way in which it inspires its members to take action. And that being the case, I believe that the real strength of the Federation lies in the determined, selfless efforts of its grassroots volunteers. Working from their homes, offices and schools all across the country, they are the heart and soul of our activism. They make NWF one of the nation's most effective, broad-based conservation organizations.

Among the more than 150 NWF supporters in attendance were three people from a group of volunteers that provides countless hours of expertise and leadership to our organization: the NWF Board of Directors. One of them, Tom Martine, who owns a ranch in the Austin area, hosted the event. Tom is a longtime wildlife activist in his native Texas, and also represents Oklahoma and Louisiana on the NWF board. As past president of Austin Woods and Waters, a local group, and former head of two regional sportsmen's groups, Tom has been the linchpin of many successful Texas conservation efforts. Today, he continues to serve as a vital link between the state's diverse conservation and sportsmen communities.

Jerome Ringo, an NWF Director-at-Large from Louisiana, also attended the Austin sneak preview. Jerome has been active for more than 15 years on environmental justice issues, playing a key role in trying to protect poor communities from the effects of toxic contaminants. Formerly a chemical plant worker, he now heads his own consulting firm that works with citizen groups around the country on such issues as cleanup of Superfund sites. Jerome has been especially effective in linking environmentalists with African-American leaders in combating so-called takings bills. If passed, such bills would require taxpayers to compensate landowners for property values that are purportedly diminished because of environmental rules, thus crippling the ability of governments to protect community health and environmental values.

We were also joined in Austin by Director-at-Large John Rainey, who traveled from South Carolina to attend the event. Chairman of the Board of Santee Cooper, that state's publicly-owned electric utility, John brings his knowledge as a businessman and attorney to our board. He serves as Vice Chairman of NWF's Endowment and as Chairman of our new major donor society, the Regents of Nature. In 1994, John was voted Conservationist of the Year by our state affiliate, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, for his unselfish efforts to protect the environment--efforts that he continues to pursue.

Like Martine, Ringo and Rainey, the other members of our board have all paid their dues by working as grassroots conservationists in their own communities. Most of them are elected each year by delegates from NWF's state affiliates at our Annual Meeting, which this year will be held in Tucson, Arizona, on April 3-6. The Federation strives for a board that is made up of people from diverse backgrounds and occupational skills, and united in its commitment to common-sense conservation.

As impressive as their own commitments are, however, the NWF board members are merely representative of the hundreds of thousands of conservationists who join the Federation to help protect wildlife and wild places. NWF is continually developing new ways to reach out to our members and supporters, and we welcome you to attend our Annual Meeting, interact with our Board of Directors and senior staff and generally let us know what you think. If you would like information about the Tucson meeting, or about more upcoming regional member events, call our Public Affairs office at 1-703-438-6085.

I also urge you to become a part of our heart and soul--our grassroots volunteers. Let us help you find programs that interest you from the many efforts NWF and its state affiliates are undertaking. By inspiring you, we will be better able to take a full measure of ourselves.

Mark Van Putten 
President; Chief Executive Officer
National Wildlife Federation

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