Our Stories

2022 Communicator + Outreach Awards

Categories: Volunteer Stories


Communicator Award recipients are volunteers who do exemplary work in promoting the Trail or the NCTA through a communications medium (newsletter, web site, brochure, etc.) or personal contacts over a three-year period or more.

James Falk. NCTA staff have long since relied on the expertise of graphic design contractors for producing a variety of materials. When the need arises for a refreshed Association brochure or a new fundraising mail piece, Jim is the first person staff call. He has worked in graphic design for over four decades, and he has produced a multitude of items for the NCTA for many years, on both a volunteer and contract basis. His most impressive work includes multiple NCTA Annual Reports and (annual) Trail Progress Reports, and many direct mail pieces for appeals. Jim works blazingly fast. He is always respectful of tight schedules and deadlines, and communicates promptly. Despite the vast amount of materials Jim has produced for the NCTA over the years, he still manages to deliver fresh designs while maintaining the Association’s branding. He is offered abundant creative flexibility and never seems intimidated by it. His productions are consistently professional, concise, and attractive, representing the NCTA and the Trail in the best way. Jim’s support for the Trail and the NCTA goes beyond his eagerness to collaborate on design work: He has also been a member of the NCTA and Western Michigan Chapter for over a decade.

Marty Anderson. Over the past three years, Marty has produced eight highly professional videos for the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA), offering a valuable resource to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) community. The videos range from a conversation with a writer and photographer about the history of the SHT, to safety and training videos for our volunteers. The videos are regularly viewed on the SHTA YouTube channel, have increased promotion of the trail, and enhanced training capabilities of the Association. When Marty attended a prospective volunteer meeting, he thought he was going to be picking up a shovel. When he heard the need for a videographer, he jumped on it. He now regularly asks SHTA staff for new projects that he can take on. The SHTA is lucky to have Marty sharing his passion for video with the Trail Community.

Outreach Award recipients are volunteers whose efforts to build coalitions, partnerships, or other forms of local support have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of the Trail.

Arlene Steimle. Arlene is quite active within the Chief Noonday Chapter (Mich.). She is a Trail Adopter, assists at workdays, helps with Chapter hikes, and participates in other Chapter events. In the past year, Arlene has taken on the role of developing trail angels within the Chapter, and has aided numerous long-distance hikers as they traverse the 119 miles of NCNST within the Chief Noonday Chapter segment. This is a new undertaking for the Chapter and is long overdue. Arlene does a wonderful job of managing this data and contacting volunteers when assistance is requested.

Sister Lyn Szymkiewicz. Sister Lyn is a woman of many talents. She is the Director of Grounds and Eco-Projects for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, Pa. She works with farmers and community groups to foster environmental education, conservation, and sustainability. She is a certified beekeeper, and helped create a grant program for local community gardens across two counties, addressing feeding local families with daily food access concerns. All this, yet she still finds time for the Wampum Chapter. She is Chapter’s Diversity Chairman and is to be commended for her outstanding leadership in addressing and raising awareness about issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, both on the Trail and in the community. She has worked closely with organizations including Outdoor Afro, Venture Outdoors, and Tiger Pause, to get more people outdoors. Sister Lyn also serves on the Community Events/Outreach Committee. She has spoken with counselors at local colleges to get students involved with Chapter trail projects, and is an advocate for mentoring. She participates in many events, helping with hiking stick carving, the information table, and occasionally hauling the Chapter trailer.

Patty Warner. Patty and her husband Dave joined the Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter (Mich.) in 2011 and hit the ground running. They quickly became Trail Adopters and Patty, a Section Coordinator. They are often on the Trail, reporting any issues they can’t handle, and are trail angels assisting hikers with shuttles, lodging, meals, and resupply. Patty encouraged the citizens of Fife Lake to get involved during a major NCNST reroute project, and the Village became an NCTA Trail Town – she ensured a spur trail into the Village was included. Patty then turned to the Village of Kalkaska and got them re-interested in the Trail. It is now another very supportive Trail Town, hosting National Trails Day events and a reroute of the NCNST through town and along the scenic North Branch of the Boardman River. Patty connected the Chapter to TC Energy, a natural gas company, that has since provided funding for a second tool trailer and food (and cooking!) for events. Patty’s planning work with the Jordan Valley 45° Chapter (Mich.) for the 2019 NCTA Celebration cannot go unnoticed, even though she knew another commitment would prevent her from attending. She steps into Chapter leadership roles during transitional times and gets work done.

Nominations for 2023 awards are open until May 1. See all awards categories, past winners, and nomination information at northcountrytrail.org/volunteer-awards.