While Tonsmeire accepted the Conservation Champion Award at the Georgia Ducks Unlimited Annual Convention, the Cartersville Chapter took home first place in its statewide division, known as flights.
“There are several different flights in Georgia, but in our flight, the Wood Duck Flight, we got first place in fundraising for the entire year of 2012 and that’s out of the entire state,” Tonsmeire said. “There are four or five flights and they’re based on dollar amounts raised. ... Typically, chapters that are about the same size are in the same flight. For example, second place in our flight was Albany. So we’re competing with people from all three regions in the state, north, middle and south.”
To win the award, the Cartersville chapter increased its over-the-year fundraising by more than 60 percent, totaling $47,000 in 2012, well over the $29,000 raised in 2011.
At the June 7-9 state convention held at the Dillard House in northeast Georgia, Tonsmeire was named a Conservation Champion for her efforts in creating a new statewide program. As lead coordinator on the project, Tonsmeire helped unveil the 2014 Georgia Ducks Unlimited Calendar. This calendar, however, will separate itself from others by giving away a gun a week for the entire year. Only 1,000 calendars will be sold numbered 000-999 and guns of varying make and model will be given away by matching calendar numbers each Thursday to the Georgia Lottery mid-day Cash 3.
“The Conservation Champion Award is a volunteer recognition award presented by the state chairman. It’s an individual recognition, they said for volunteers who go above and beyond,” Tonsmeire said. “I’ve headed up a state program for them that is a calendar raffle. We unveiled it last week and we’re doing this statewide. We’re selling 2014 calendars, specific to Georgia, and we’re giving away a gun every single Saturday.”
Tonsmeire’s passion for duck hunting, outdoor recreation and the conservation of habitat came largely from her father, Louis Tonsmeire Jr.
“My dad has been involved since the early ‘80s so I started going [to Ducks Unlimited events] with him about four years ago,” Sarah Tonsmeire said. “Of course, I love the outdoors and I believe in the organization and their mission, which is wetlands conservation. They are the nation’s leader in wetlands conservation, they’ve conserved over 13 million acres.
“It’s centered around water fowl, but they are certainly not the only species that benefits from the work Ducks Unlimited does.”
Ducks Unlimited program dollars recently went toward the reconstruction of a habitat in Floyd County. The Arrowhead Lakes project sought to rehabilitate a once-public lake and fishing area, which was rendered unusable after changes were made to dam regulations. Ducks Unlimited partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to reconstruct a new dam and create a wetland habitat below the lake. Plans are now in place to create a handicap-accessible duck blind.
“Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats,” states the Ducks Unlimited website, www.ducks.org. “Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”
For the Cartersville Ducks Unlimited Chapter, the year’s largest fundraising effort will come around again on Sept. 24 with the organization’s annual banquet. Last year’s event hosted 250 guests for a night of food, fellowship and prizes. This year, the Cartersville chapter looks to continue its success by expanding the event and reaching out to perspective members.
“We’re hosting a recruitment event, and this is to try and get a few more people involved on the committee level,” Tonsmeire said. “Hopefully, we can build on the excitement of being No. 1 in our flight and get some more people hands-on because we’re hoping for at least 300 people this fall, so we will need a little extra help.
“That will be an informational session where we go over all the work Ducks Unlimited does, what we’re looking for in some committee members, how they can help, what are the benefits to being a committee member — things like that.”
The informational session and membership drive will be held Thursday, June 27, at Stonewall Manor, 104 Stonewall St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Food and drinks will be served for the free event. Organizers just ask that those interested in attending RSVP to Tonsmeire, 770-655-2900, or co-chair Mark Worthington, 770-820-9422.