National Wildlife Refuge System

Six Refuges, 21 Years, More Than 10,000 Volunteer Hours

By Jennifer Anderson

Take Pride in America National Volunteer Award recipient Sharon Glock lives on Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona with her husband, Charles, a Service maintenance worker.
Take Pride in America National Volunteer Award recipient Sharon Glock lives on Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona with her husband, Charles, a Service maintenance worker.
Credit: Charles Glock/USFWS

National Wildlife Refuge System volunteer Sharon Glock is the daughter of a San Antonio preacher. Helping others has been a way of life for as long as she can remember.

“We would go into poor neighborhoods and put on parades and puppet shows. We’d have the kids come to church for Bible study, singing and praying,” she says. “I can remember I would be so hoarse I couldn’t even talk.”

As an adult, Glock has turned to nature, putting in more than 10,000 volunteer hours in 21 years at six refuges.

For her dedication, she received the 2011 Take Pride in America National Volunteer Award. Take Pride in America is a Department of the Interior partnership program authorized by Congress to promote stewardship of public lands nationwide.

Glock was among 14 people or groups to receive Take Pride awards this year and be recognized at a White House ceremony.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depends on people like Glock and tens of thousands of other volunteers at refuges. From staffing visitor centers to pulling invasive weeds, “we would not be able to accomplish half of what we do if it were not for these amazing volunteers,” says Deborah Moore, national volunteer coordinator for the Service.

Since last year, Glock and her husband, Charles, have been at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, where volunteer coordinator Bonnie Swarbrick says she nominated Sharon because of her years of service—and her personality.

“She’s bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic and always cheerful,” says Swarbrick, who describes Sharon as “quite physical,” removing sheetrock one day and digging trenches the next.

Sharon’s concern for others is impressive.

“When other volunteers leave, she throws going–away events for them, cooking up a variety of tasty goodies,” Swarbrick says. “She does this all of her own initiative.”

“I want them to feel like they were really appreciated,” Sharon explains.

The Refuge Life

Sharon’s two–decade affiliation with the Refuge System has exposed her and her family to rare experiences.

In 1991, when Charles started as a maintenance worker with Blackbeard Island Refuge, the couple moved with their three young children to the uninhabited island off the Georgia coast that is accessible only by boat.

Sharon homeschooled the children, and the family maintained the beaches and trails, gave tours and assisted boaters driven ashore by storms. Sunday nights the family stayed in a camper on the mainland so Sharon could work a 24–hour shift as a paramedic.

In 1996, Charles transferred to Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge, where Sharon created a filing system for photos and slides. She also helped Charles and his maintenance crews demolish old barns and houses.

From 2000 to 2008, Sharon helped out first at Wallkill River Refuge in New Jersey and then at Montezuma Refuge in upstate New York. During this time they lost their daughter, Racheal, to a double major stroke. Their sons, Micheal and Joshua, are grown and on their own.

Sharon trained to operate heavy machinery during a two–year stay at Blackwater Refuge in Maryland. “There are not a lot of girls out there running heavy equipment,” Sharon says. But no matter—“I love it.”

In 2010, the couple made their latest move, to an old ranch house at Buenos Aires Refuge in a landscape known as Brown Canyon. They work shoulder to shoulder renovating buildings, resealing roofs, re–fencing pens for endangered species and greeting visitors.

In the isolation, they have found contentment.

“There’s no cell phone service, our closest neighbor is five miles by foot, our power is totally solar, and we get our water from a windmill,” Sharon says. “The other day we heard mountain lions fussing at each other off our front porch.”

Jennifer Anderson is a frequent contributor to Refuge Update.

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Refuge Update November/December 2011

Last updated: November 21, 2011