Thursday, October 14th marked a milestone for the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy as we celebrated our first Fall Fundraiser at Little Flower Barn in Lake Isabella. This event marked the first large gathering hosted by the CWC since the cancellation of our 2020 Spring Banquet. It was great to see both old friends and many new faces. By all accounts the evening was a great success.
The evening began with a social hour which gave everyone an opportunity to catch up with people they may not have seen in person since our 2019 Spring Banquet. The social hour also gave people the chance to participate in prize raffles which replaced the previous silent and live auctions. Popular raffle items included a Traverse City vacation package, a wine tasting experience at Young Farms Winery, totes filled with items from the Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market, and a custom charcuterie board package. The wine pull, which was introduced during our 2019 Spring Banquet, was also very popular with attendees. Participants in the wine pull paid $10 to draw a numbered cork that corresponded with a randomly numbered bottle of wine. Unlike the raffles, everyone who participated in the wine pull was a guaranteed winner. Entertainment during the social hour and throughout the evening was provided by the Big Rapids-area band Cold Leather Seats who played a mix of rock, folk, country, and Americana favorites.
The social hour was followed by a fall-themed buffet dinner which was capped off by a seasonal selection of pies. After dinner, CWC Executive Director Mike LeValley gave a brief recap of everything that has happened since the cancellation of our 2020 Banquet. Highlights of his presentation included the increased usage of our preserves over the past two years, volunteer successes at removing invasive species, completion of a new river access site at Szok Riverbend Preserve, and construction of a new trail at Hall’s Lake Natural Area.
A highlight of the evening was the announcement of the 2021 Bob Ball Award recipient. The Robert (Bob) Ball Award is given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the CWC’s purpose of protecting natural habitat and open space. This year’s recipient is Cathy Murray.
Cathy is being recognized for her long-term service as a volunteer to the CWC. Among her many contributions, Cathy has served as a preserve monitor and steward (for more than a decade); as a conservation easement monitor; and as a volunteer on numerous biological surveys of preserves. Cathy has also dedicated hundreds of hours toward the removal of invasive species such as autumn olive, glossy buckthorn, and Japanese barberry from CWC preserves. Cathy is constantly striving to learn more about the flora and fauna of Central Michigan and she has cataloged hundreds of species sighting on CWC preserves through iNaturalist. She is more than willing to share this knowledge with others and has led a series of popular fern identification walks at Audubon Woods Preserve.
When notified of the award and why it was being given, Cathy stated that she was honored but that she “would have done it all anyway.” It’s that spirit of selfless service that makes Cathy especially deserving of this award.
The evening was capped off with the drawing of raffle winners. We began by drawing winners for the in-person raffles. It was fun watching people scanning dozens of raffle tickets for winning numbers with yelps of excitement and surprise from winners and groans of disappointment from those who hadn’t won. The final drawings of the evening were for our Florida Vacation Package (won by Jack and Cora Neyer) and our 50/50 drawing (won and graciously donated back by Claudia Roth).
Overall the evening was a great success, thanks to our volunteers, sponsors, and members, and our event planning committee. Together we raised more than $12,000 to support our operations. We are grateful to all those who continue to support conservation efforts in our region and we’re excited to begin planning our 2022 Fall Fundraiser.