NDA’s mission to secure the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting could not be realized without the tireless work of our grassroots volunteers. While we appreciate the efforts and achievements of all our Branches and volunteers, we want to take a moment to highlight a few who went above and beyond last year by recognizing our 2022 Branch Achievement Award winners.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know many of our outstanding volunteers,” said Kristen Schnepp-Giger, NDA Director of Grassroots Support. “For each Branch or individual award recipient, there were several others who were in the hunt. I wish I could personally thank everyone who donated their time, talent, and resources to drive the mission of the NDA forward and help keep us United for Deer!”
The 2022 awards and recipients are as follows:
NDA New Branch of the Year
The NDA New Branch of the Year award went to the Ozark Mountain Mark Twain Branch of Missouri. For their first fundraiser, the Branch held a raffle that raised $1,100.00 and gained 23 new members from their raffle, with the majority of those being new hunters or people interested in becoming a hunter.
In October the Branch also assisted NDA Deer Outreach Specialist Cheyne Mautzenbacher with a senior Field to Fork event held in partnership with Baptist Homes, and Branch officers have also traveled with Cheyne to multiple wildlife cooperatives, helping with logistics and continuing to spread the message of Quality Deer Management.
Additionally, the Branch partnered with wildHERness, a non-profit organization dedicated to mentoring and getting females into the outdoors, to assist with a Learn to Hunt Whitetail Camp in Willard, Missouri. They also held their own public land cleanup, where they picked up trash on a specific piece of public land.
NDA Branch of the Year
The NDA Branch of the Year award went to the Thumb Area Branch of Michigan. The Branch has consistently held one of the biggest and best banquets in Michigan, and has used the revenue raised to advance hunting and meet the needs of their community. Their long list of accomplishments in 2022 includes, but is not limited to:
- Donated $1,000 to Laker High School towards their National Archery in the Schools Program archery team.
- Held a youth day with 400 kids in cooperation with Pheasants Forever, donating $1,200 towards youth backpacks with NDA branding.
- Created a six-month billboards campaign in three counties promoting NDA and providing an educational message about deer management.
- Donated $500 to Ubly Fox Hunters Club to purchase targets used to get youth interested in archery hunting.
- Held a youth doe contest where the Branch gave away a Bear Bow, Rhino 180 Blind and a Tactacam cellular trail-camera, plus NDA memberships for all youth participants.
NDA Community Engagement Branch of the Year
The Coastal Empire Branch of Georgia earned the NDA Community Engagement Branch of the Year award by making community involvement its trademark since its inception by forging direct partnerships with over 50 corporate sponsors from not only the greater Savannah area, but across the U.S. and Internationally.
In creating mutually beneficial partnerships, the Branch’s Sportsman’s Banquet has grown to become one of the preeminent events of the Greater Savannah Area, selling out far in advance. The 2022 banquet produced a gross revenue of over $100,000 with Ford Dealerships combining resources as the $10,000 Title Sponsor for the event.
By leveraging the fundraising and participation of the Sportsman’s Banquets, the Coastal Empire Branch is able to support community events and organizations such as the Long Leaf Alliance Fire Festival, the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission Coastal District, Southeast Whitetail Annual Invitational Doe Calcutta, the Dive Savannah benefitting homeless veterans, Playing for Parker benefitting childhood cancer, a scholarship to the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, local high school skeet shooting teams, and local youth and adult new hunter programs.
NDA Branch President of the Year
Mike Ketelaar (pictured above left) received the NDA Branch President of the Year award. Mike is a selfless leader who took the reins of the West Central Michigan Branch in the midst of a turnaround and recruited a large team of Branch leaders and volunteers to help get the Branch back on track. In addition to leading his local Branch, Mike has mentored numerous hunters, organized educational seminars and outreach events like the 2nd Annual December Venison Doe-Nation Event, attended various MUCC and Wildlife Cooperative meetings, and took over as the keeper and organizer of all the NDA expo materials and merchandise for the state of Michigan. Mike is also an NDA Deer Steward 1 graduate and member of the NDA Volunteer Advisory Board.
NDA Volunteer of the Year
Jennifer Hodge McLain was named the NDA Volunteer of the Year. Jennifer is currently Vice President of the Lake Murray Branch of South Carolina, where she uses her passion for fundraising and events to engage her community. She is the event coordinator for the Branch and is the lead organizer of their annual banquet and their secondary events, which includes an oyster roast in the fall.
Jennifer’s true passion is involving the community in the mission of NDA to educate and recruit new hunters and new members. Jennifer has engaged many veterans and youth who would otherwise never have an opportunity to participate in hunts. Jennifer dedicates a tremendous amount of her time to ensure these events are flawless. She has even started a “camo closet,” accepting donations year-round so all participants can have access to appropriate clothing. When not pouring efforts into the Lake Murray Branch, she supports other Branches by attending their events. One of Jennifer’s favorite events is assisting with the youth scavenger hunt at the Palmetto Sportsman’s Classic as she loves the opportunity to network with parents and introduce youth to the world of hunting.
NDA Event of the Year
The River City Branch of Virginia received the NDA Event of the Year award for their annual Wheelin Sportsmen Hunt. This December hunt is organized for anyone who is disabled and needs assistance getting afield. Over the years the branch has hosted people who have been affected from birth, injured during an accident, including a tree stand victim, as well as men and women from the armed forces injured during combat.
This event is perhaps the core value of the River City Branch, whose goal in forming was to give back to the community through the outdoors. This hunt has been going on for close to 15 years and usually averages around 20 hunters. The hunters arrive in the morning to a hot breakfast, then a morning hunt, followed by lunch and an afternoon hunt. The focus of this event is just showing the participants a fun day outdoors and a fun way to fellowship with new friends. It has been a blessing to all who have been involved over the years.