We celebrated our 2023 volunteer award winners at our annual Holiday Mingle early this month! We would like to highlight and celebrate our honorees for their contributions to St. Johns Riverkeeper (SJRK) and our river.

Alicia Smith receiving her award at Holiday MingleVolunteer of the Year: Alicia Smith

Alicia is a founding member of our young professionals group, Rising Tides. For nearly 11 years, Alicia and Rising Tides have been leading monthly cleanups of McCoys Creek.

In addition to cleanups, she has helped lead numerous fundraising and outreach events for SJRK as part of Rising Tides and is a regular volunteer at our annual Oyster Roast. Due to her unwavering commitment and dedication, Alicia is also the only person to receive this award twice – the first time being in 2012. Thank you Alicia!

Ben Williams giving a tour of Wetland PreserveEducators of the Year: Ben and Louann Williams

Ben and Louann have been with St. Johns Riverkeeper since our inception. Ben is one of our founding Steering Committee members and a former Board member. Louann volunteered for numerous years, helping our education staff deliver programs and boat trips for school groups.

Both are avid hunters and anglers who have spent countless hours in the woods and on the waters of the St. Johns. They are constantly using their real-world experience and knowledge of the outdoors to educate others about the importance of conservation.

In 2009, they purchased Wetland Preserve – 3,800 acres of land adjacent to the Rice Creek Conservation Area in Putnam County. On the farm, they are using sustainable best management forestry practices, replanting native longleaf pine, and restoring habitat. Part of their mission is to educate about sustainable land management practices and introduce kids and adults to the wonders of the natural world.

They provide tours of the farm throughout the year- including one for SJRK supporters earlier this year. Thank you Ben and Louann!

Advocate of the Year: John November

Jennie and Brooks Busey receiving their award at Holiday MingleBusiness Partner of the Year: Sadler Point Marina

Jennie and Brooks Busey, part owners of Sadler Point Marina, have been involved with SJRK for nearly 20 years. Brooks served on the Board of Directors from 2006-2012 and Jennie served as our Education Director from 2012-2016.

In addition to their numerous contributions as volunteers and staff, the Buseys have been generous and committed business partners, hosting numerous Low County Boil fundraising events over the years and providing significant in-kind donations. Notably, Sadler Point has provided storage for our patrol boat, the Kingfisher, at no cost to our organization. In fact, Brooks sold the Kingfisher to us at cost. Thank you Brooks, Jennie, and Sadler Point Marina!

Special thanks to Will Dickey and Ryan Buckley for donating the beautiful photos and framing for the awards.

We are grateful for volunteers who clean up our waterways, help our events run smoothly, tell others about our mission, educate people of all ages about the river and more. If you have ever volunteered with St. Johns Riverkeeper in any capacity, we invite you to join us on January 10 at 6 p.m. for our Volunteer Appreciation Night at Iguana on Park for a night of complimentary food, drink, and live music. Thank you to Iguana on Park for hosting this event and allowing SJRK to be the first recipients of their “Joy Spotlight.” Learn more and register for the event.