McGlaun and Harkins Named Elachee 2016 Volunteers of the Year

February 19, 2016 (Gainesville, Ga.) – Elachee Nature Science Center is pleased to announce Garry McGlaun of Gainesville and Nick Harkins of Flowery Branch are the organization’s 2016 Volunteers of the Year.

Honored at Elachee’s annual volunteer appreciation dinner held February 18, these two join a hallowed group of individuals who for nearly four decades have also dedicated their energy and passion to promoting environmental understanding through education and conservation. 

McGlaun, a transplant from Texas who thought he would live in Gainesville a couple of years and then move on, has since 1968 been a stalwart in the community – generous with his time, skills and talents, much of which is shared with Elachee.

His unique expertise as Elachee’s beekeeper gives students and visitors a peek inside the wonders of a working beehive, part of a newly installed permanent pollinator exhibit at the Nature Center.

A highlight of this annual event is hearing from each volunteer their respective contributions to Elachee. When it was his turn, McGlaun jokingly reminded his volunteer brethren that he had been around long enough to have helped build the first hiking trail in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve – now part of the 12-mile hiking trail system managed and preserved by Elachee. 

On the other end of the age spectrum, 16-year-old Harkins has earned his place among Elachee’s volunteer elite. Growing up spending summers at Camp Elachee, as soon as he “aged out” as a camper, Harkins turned his attention to creating unique experiences for young Elachee campers as a counselor-in-training.

According to Camp Elachee Director Ciara Frakes, “Nick has mad leadership skills ... for a high schooler!”

In addition to the hundreds of hours Harkins has logged as a camp volunteer the past three years, he readily assumes the role of Elachee ambassador at special event programs, greeting visitors with a big smile and helpful attitude. This year he will complete his Eagle Scout project at Elachee.

McGlaun recognized the significant contributions of the many long-time volunteers present at the February 18 event, stating his pride in being part of a committed group of individuals who have made Elachee Nature Science Center the regional resource it is today. He also reinforced the critical need for a younger generation take on the challenge, and then said he was inspired to see so many young Elachee volunteers who have a similar passion, actively shepherding the Elachee legacy for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Volunteering is a rich tradition at Elachee. Upon receiving its fifth consecutive SACS/AdvancED-accreditation last spring, Elachee was commended on the depth and breadth of its volunteer corp. That same sentiment has been  validated via feedback from hundreds of participants who attended the concurrent Association for Nature Center Administrators and the Nature-Based Preschool national conventions hosted at Elachee this past August. 

Elachee volunteers are vital to the organization’s ongoing ability be a fresh and relevant environmental education and recreation resource – whether that service is through preserve management with the trail crew or community grounds keeping projects, governance, as part of a fund raising committee or by sharing expertise to enhance our school and public nature education programming.

LEARN the many ways to get involved at Elachee or call 770-535-1976.

About Elachee

Elachee Nature Science Center in north Georgia’s 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve is a private, independently operated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. For more than 35 years, this premier SACS/AdvancEd-accredited nature center has been instrumental in building environmental literacy for Georgians. Elachee serves tens of thousands of visitors annually through STEM-based environmental education classes for PreK-12 schools, Camp Elachee summer day camp, museum exhibits, 12 miles of pristine hiking trails, other quality educational experiences, conservation activities and special programs for the public. The campus is also home to Elachee Nature Preschool, the first and only State-licensed and SACS-accredited nature preschool in the southeast. Elachee relies on earned income and tax-deductible donations, planned gifts, grants, corporate partnerships and fund raising events to fund operations.