In November, Renee Hartwig, long-time MAVA member and supporter, received the Lifetime Achievement award from Hamline University at the annual Women in Public Service (WIPS) conference. The award recognizes women who have made a lifetime commitment to serving the public good.
Renee is the Director of Alumni and Volunteer Programs at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR); she's worked in public sector volunteer management for over 40 years, serving 35 years at the DNR. She manages the DNR’s statewide volunteer program, involving over 22,000 volunteers annually in sustaining and enhancing Minnesota's natural beauty for the enjoyment of people of all ages, interests and abilities. She was nominated for the award by her co-worker and collaborator, Janine Kohn, Project WET (Water Education for Today) Program Coordinator.
I caught up with Renee to find out more about this well-deserved honor and what it means to her. Renee ses it as an opportunity to bring recognition to work that that happens behind the scenes, since leaders of volunteers make things happen that people notice, but don’t know how they happen. She related, “I play a consultant role – I help staff work with volunteers, but I’m removed from the work, so I’m nowhere in the picture”. Getting this award was a chance to be seen and recognized for the value of her contributions. She described the recognition as “pulling the curtain aside to show what it takes to do volunteerism”, like orchestrating, organizing, and following through on all aspects of volunteer activities and events. She hopes that receiving this award, which has typically gone to women working in social service arena, showcases the impact of volunteers on the community, and helps others in public service recognize that working with volunteers also promotes the common good.
In her own work, Renee continues to expand opportunities for volunteers preserve and promote Minnesota’s natural resources. She sees DNR volunteer roles that get people into the outdoors as a way to build support and advocacy for natural resources, as well as having a direct impact on the environment, and bringing like-minded people together. Renee boosts access to the outdoors by creating opportunities for communities that are less familiar with ways to volunteer in natural resource work. She and her team work on adapting volunteer roles to help families participate with their children, so that supporting natural resources becomes part of young people’s understanding of what it means to volunteer.
Renee reminded me that nominating colleagues and leaders of volunteers for awards can help increase visibility of the work we all do, as well supporting each other's professional advancement. Looking for an opportunity to recognize an fellow volunteer engagement professional? Don’t forget about the MAVA Excellence in Volunteerism Awards; nominations for the Fall 2023 awards will open later this spring.