by Alex Van Loh, program coordinator
Back in 2012, with the Master Water Steward (MWS) program merely a grand idea, Freshwater staff gathered a group of 30 water organizations to ask the question, “What could this program do and what do volunteers need to know to accomplish this?” Seven years later, the answers to that question have led to a robust program, grown from a pilot of 18 people in the west metro to a statewide network of over 350 volunteers engaging their communities and improving the health of our waters. This is thanks largely to the efforts of Deirdre Coleman, who helped call that initial meeting and has continued to shape and guide MWS since.
This November, Deirdre received the well-deserved Award for Excellence in Volunteer Program Development from the Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administration. This award recognizes an individual who has made a superior contribution to furthering the culture and climate for professional volunteerism in Minnesota by developing an outstanding volunteer program and incorporating the essential elements of leading volunteers. Since the program’s creation, Deirdre has worked tirelessly to improve its structure and practices. She has grown the program from one partnering organization to nearly 20, and has led the charge to adapt the training curriculum to better suit the needs of each locality. The program now has several tracks for Stewards to choose from including urban or rural stormwater management, water conservation, and a brand new art-focused track. The program continues to expand with the goal of including and serving new communities.
Deirdre received this award as she was transitioning to a new role outside of Freshwater. We are sad to see her go, but her work and legacy of serving the water and people of this state with passion will continue. We wish her all the best – thank you Deirdre!