One World honors volunteers, board members

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BENNINGTON — One World Conservation Center held its annual award luncheon on Thursday and recognized longtime volunteers and board members for their contributions over the years.

Bill and Lois Davis were named the volunteers of the year at the third annual event, for their support of the center over the last 20 years. They were introduced by board member JJ Williams, who said that the husband and wife were responsible for introducing him to the world of natural science and were his inspiration for joining the One World team. Lois Davis currently serves on the organization's board of directors alongside Williams.

The Davises are the third set of people to be honored as volunteers of the year. Mary Fuqua was the first, in 2015, followed by Mark Raymaker last year.

Two younger volunteers, Sophia-Lyn and Hayden Schmidt, were also acknowledged for the hard work they put in at the One World's first Farm to Table Fundraiser in November, along with their mother, Jamie-Lyn Schmidt.

Also honored were four founding board members, W. Scott Hoover, William C. Grant Jr., James M. Hunter, and Harry D. Wilson, alongside two board members who have each served for over 10 years, Mary M. Fuqua and David D. Richardson.

"This facility was founded on the idea of a very grand dream, and that has been what it has proved to be," said Hoover, who founded the center in the early 90's as the New England Tropical Conservatory. "Even though the grand dream of a tropical conservatory hasn't been achieved, what we have here now is something that is a real benefit for Bennington."

Hoover thanked everyone who has contributed to the center over the years, and praised the current management, including director Holly Betit, and encouraged them to keep up the good work. "It's obviously making a difference," he said.

When the center moved to its current location in 2004, after purchasing what is today the Greenberg Reserve, they initially planned to build a 7,000-square-foot biodome that would have housed tropical plants, a research and education center, some laboratories, and a classroom space on the land in Bennington. "Of all the things in the world that we as human beings depend upon, plants perhaps are the most important," said Fuqua at the time, in her role as the organization's president. "We build our houses out of them, we make our clothes from plant sources, a lot of our food comes directly or indirectly from plants, most of our medicines come from plants."

While not all of those goals were realized, the center continues to be a valuable resource to the community, with its summer programming for students, guided nature walks, Homeschool Toolkit class series, its Third Thursday lecture series, and more.

The awards ceremony was preceded by a luncheon for staff and friends of the center.

"It's been an exciting year here, with a lot of ups and downs, but I feel we are ending on a distinctly positive note," said board member Amy Halsted, who led a toast after everyone was finished eating. She praised the work of Betit, saying that she accomplished everything that was asked of her "on time and with grace."

To learn more about the center, visit oneworldconservationcenter.org.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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