National Wildlife Refuge System

Give Me a Hammer

Friends Forward April 2014

Roxy Jungwirth learned to use a circular saw as a founding member of Women in Preservation.
Credit: Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands
Women in Preservation cleared debris from the 1848 lighthouse ruins on Plum Island in Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, WI, in preparation for an archaeological dig.
Credit: Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands

Specialized groups of friends within Friends can be a novel way to give people a stake in the refuge mission, projects and events.

When Mary Beth Volmer learned that she was not alone in her desire to learn to handle drills, circular saws and chisels, a group called Women in Preservation was born last summer at Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. “It is my goal for each woman to leave with dirt under their fingernails and a learning experience within their soul,” says Volmer, a board member of the refuge’s Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands.

The women are focused on restoring and preserving historic maritime structures, including a lighthouse, on Plum and Pilot islands in Lake Michigan, both part of the refuge.  “It’s a great bonding experience with women of all age groups. We’re out in the beauty of the refuge, learning new skills, contributing to a project larger than ourselves, laughing , sharing, learning about each other and creating something of great pride,” says Volmer. Besides, the women “now have a stake in the heart of the project. The networking they do within their communities can only help to spread our mission.”

Last summer, the women learned to cut, measure and paint covers for windows and doors on a life-saving station.  This summer there will be workshops on masonry and other preservation skills. The group also plans to build an informational kiosk and simple, wooden Aldo Leopold benches for the Patrol Trail. There are ten Women in Preservation currently and Volmer is seeking new members through the Friends newsletter and Facebook page with an appeal to women interested in “hauling, sanding, staining, hole digging, concrete mixing, picture taking, or holding the other end of the tape measure.”


Members of the Tuesday Club at Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex work three hours every Tuesday building everything from observation platforms, to rabbit boxes, bird houses and photography blinds.
Credit: USFWS

“If it’s made out of wood, we make it.”

The Tuesday Club has been showing up at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex every week for more than a decade. The group includes six guys – all widowers in their 80s except one – who have built everything from observation platforms, rabbit boxes, a photography blind and “I don’t know how many millions of bird houses,” says Bill Wright. He and his wife started volunteering as trail monitors until a volunteer coordinator learned of his skills with a saw and a hammer.  

Wright says the group has lost members over the years – many were aging veterans of World War II – but friends find other friends and the group has maintained about half a dozen regular members.

The men show up for three hours every Tuesday morning. In 2009, they were named Outstanding Refuge Volunteers. They built an information kiosk for the Providence Parks Partnership, part of the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative, as well as the display stands for the Rhode Island Federal Junior Duck Stamp Competition.  “The fact that they meet every week allows us to support other partner projects and not only refuge projects,” says Sarah Lang, refuge volunteer coordinator, who adds that the most frequent refrain from the men is, “We need more work.”

Last updated: April 11, 2014