Parks laud top volunteer

Catherine Gase was awarded the Dolly Garlo Volunteer Award in March by the Seneca County Park District, but work at Mercy Community Nature Preserve is only one of her volunteer efforts.

Gase received the award for her work in creating Mercy nature preserve on a tract of woodland on Mercy Tiffin Hospital property. She serves as chairman of the preserve committee for the park district.

“If it’s something you love, I enjoy volunteering,” Gase said. “It’s not work. I love it.”

A full-time emergency room nurse at the hospital for 35 years, Gase said she often spent time with her children in nature as they were growing up.

“I was so excited when they decided to develop the woods because that just had my name stamped all over it,” she said.

She and other hospital personnel, along with preserve neighbors, became a group of volunteers to clear trails, build bridges and make the woods into a nature area that can be enjoyed by everyone.

And since the grand opening a year ago, she said there have been lots of visitors.

“It’s in a good location on the edge of town,” she said. “It allows people to feel secure and yet commune with nature. I love it there.

The award included $100 from Dolly Garlo of Key West, Fla., one of the family members who originally donated the land on SR 19 south of Bloomville that has become Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve.

Gase donated the money to a newly-formed endowment fund the park board created through Tiffin Charitable Trust to receive donations from people who wish to donate or bequeath money to the park district.

“Why I decided to sponsor the award is because volunteers are quite literally the backbone of the park district,” Garlo said. “Personally, I am so grateful for all the wonderful people who have shown up year after year, throughout the seasons, to make the Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve what is has become … and what it continues to evolve into.”

Another of Gase’s volunteer jobs for the past 14 years has been to help manage the FISH food pantry in Tiffin.

When there aren’t food drives, it’s her job to buy food with donated funds to keep it stocked as needed. About 40-50 households are supplied each month by FISH.

Through her church, St. Joseph, Gase volunteers with the RCIA team, which stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, an education program that prepares people to convert to the Catholic faith.

She said she became involved in the program after she began as a participant.

“I sponsored three people through that recently and just really got a lot out of it,” she said.

She also volunteers with the Cursillo retreat program.

“I’ve served on different teams over the past few years,” she said.

In past years, she served on Calvert school board from 2008-12, and she and her husband, John Gase, volunteered for school-related activities such as working in concession stands and selling tickets at athletic events.