Honoring Our Volunteers
Our Volunteers are the backbone of our organization- they help us with numerous events, especially our annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival. We are so grateful to have wonderful, dedicated volunteers that help us out year after year. THANK YOU to all our volunteers!
We wanted to honor our volunteers and all the work they do. Here are some of our volunteers and what they have to say about volunteering with CCCC and cranes.
I am passionate about our natural environment- If asked I would label myself a plant obsessive, bird enthusiast and nature adorer. In my work, I find great reward in connecting people to the natural environment through the creation of meaningful exterior environments. I believe that quality environmental design is the harmony of many contributing variables. In my free time, I enjoy contributing to organizations that encourage excitement about nature and conservation in the local community. My hobbies include bird watching, gardening, hiking, skiing, swimming, paddling, biking and photography.
What I love most about Greater Sandhill Cranes is the way they communicate with each other in flight, during their elaborate courtship rituals, and while feeding in the fields. Their loud reverberating calls can be heard all across the Yampa Valley in the spring, summer and fall each year. I’m so grateful to CCCC for their creative and successful outreach efforts, making it easy for people to learn about these iconic ancient birds. My experience volunteering for CCCC has been above all, fun, and always educational.
Shortly after moving to steamboat in 2012 – I heard the call of a greater sandhill crane. Cranes launched me into my wildlife photography career so they are near and dear to my heart. It wasn’t long before I met Nancy Merrill and became a volunteer for the Yampa Valley Crane Festival. Crane scouting, teaching a photograph workshop and participating in anyway I could! In 2015 I was offered a board position w CCCC. Honored and excited I immediately said yes. Conservation and education is a very important part of the fabric of my being. I fill my soul working w all the fantastic volunteers and of course, our iconic Great Sandhill Cranes of the Yampa Valley.
I have been coming to the Yampa Valley to visit and ski with my daughter since she moved here in 2011. Seeing she’d fallen victim to the Yampa Valley curse, my wife and I decided to move to Steamboat Springs full-time in 2017. An avid birder since I was a young man, I first learned about the Yampa Valley Crane Festival while living in Pennsylvania through an article in Living Bird magazine. When we moved here, I joined the Yampa Valley Birding Club, became a volunteer for CCCC and the crane festival, and helped film and create many of the videos for the festival when it went virtual in 2020. I officially joined the CCCC board in October 2020. I am fascinated by cranes – their elegance, beauty, and drama. I love that they mate for life, dance and call to each other, and paint their feathers.
Volunteer and Board President
I am the co-founder of Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. (CCCC) and have served as president of the CCCC board for the last 10 years. Cranes are my passion! I am fortunate to live in the middle of the breeding and staging area of the Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Yampa Valley. Last spring I had the amazing experience of watching a crane pair hatch out and raise two adorable crane chicks on my property. I have been privileged to work with the greatest group of volunteers ever. My goal is to continue to increase “crane consciousness” and to foster protection of cranes and their habitat in Northwest Colorado. My favorite crane activity is to take people out to see the cranes as they dance and feed in the fields around Hayden. I plan to keep working on behalf of cranes for as long as I am able to do so.
During the pandemic I was asked to choreograph for the 4th of July Crane Dancers and the rest is history. I have been a dancer and choreographer for years and it is a fun venture to now choreograph for them. I first saw cranes years ago when I went to pick up my mother at the airport in Hayden. There was a whole flock in a field close by and we were trying to figure out what these giant birds were. Now I see cranes all the time since they have decided the Yampa Valley is an ideal place to feed and raise their young. I grew up with a love of birds from my mother and grandmother so it’s only natural that the cranes would capture my heart. They are a magnificent bird to see. I am so glad the Crane Coalition was created to protect them and I am honored to be a part of this wonderful organization that works so hard to do so.
I have been a volunteer with the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition since its inception. Some of my main roles over the years include crane scouting and viewing assistant for the festival; determining festival bird walk sites and assisting with bird walks; and leading pontoon boat cruises at Steamboat Lake. I love the elegant beauty of cranes and their family structure. The parents take such good care of their precious chicks!
I was a RN and a hospital chaplain in my career life and retired in 2000. I am a wife, mother, and grandmom now.
My best friend growing up in the country near Houston was my horse Smokey.
I love the mountainous outdoors and wildlife.
Cranes touch my heart with their beauty, resilience, and footprints in history.
My name is Dona Steele, I’m a local artist who got involved the first year via our ‘Queen Craniac’ Nancy Merrill. She recruited me to design our street banner and paint the CCCC logo on our mailbox, now I’m hooked! I volunteer for any art-related crane ventures such as; creating yardart cranes for auction, decorating the CCCC Christmas tree for the Tread, designing our mascot ‘Sandy’, creating crane hats and costumes for the 4thof July parades, designed our t-shirts, etc. I love Cranes!
Lisa and Paul Williams
Lisa moved to the valley in 1969 and Paul arrived in 1975. Lisa was born into a birdwatching family, so she doesn’t know any better! Paul discovered that he enjoyed the hobby after attending several Yampa Valley Birding Club walks and overnight trips with the group. Since then he has become a seasoned birder and a loyal SOB (spouse/sherpa of birder) who will always carry the spotting scope. Lisa and Paul enjoy sharing their love of birds and the outdoors with both new and longtime birders. Paul is always ready with the scope and armed with enough patience to wait out a hidden bird or to help someone who’s having trouble getting on the target.
Morning Light Photography
I enjoy volunteering for CCCC because I am an admirer of not only Sandhill Cranes, but also of the important work that CCCC does to educate, inspire, and most importantly – protect this wonderful bird and the habitat it needs to thrive.
Volunteer and Emeritus Board Member
I am the co-founder of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. and developer of our website, coloradocranes.org. The first time I saw a Greater Sandhill Crane walking through a wooded patch I had to ask the other birders what it was. I remember exclaiming “it looks prehistoric”. Since then I have learned that they are and, needless to say, I have been smitten! I have enjoyed teaching 3rd graders and community groups about cranes and their habitat and love the reaction I see when people see and hear cranes for the first time. I hope we humans can learn something about survival from this ancient species that would rather dance than fight.
Terry and Sharon Jost
We have lived in the Hayden area since 2002 and noticed the Greater Sandhill cranes that summer. We weren’t aware of what kind of birds they were for a couple of years. We then became volunteers for the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition in about 2013 when we gave ranch tours, during the festival, featuring our team of horses pulling a hay wagon and talking about cranes and agriculture. We also enjoy hosting crane viewing during the festival. Our ranch is 260 acres of alfalfa and grass hay, which we harvest every summer. The Greater Sandhill cranes visit our fields in the early spring and late summer, before and after nesting. Sharon became a director of CCCC in early 2017 and Terry continued to volunteer, after retiring from banking in 2015. Our volunteer service has given us a greater appreciation of the cranes, as we do enjoy watching them and observing their habits.
Jennie Lay is the adult programs coordinator at the Bud Werner Library. When CCCC came to her with the idea of a Crane Festival celebrating these gigantic ancient birds in the Yampa Valley, she could hardly resist the call of the Sandhill. The library has been home base for the festival since its inception, and it has been helping spearhead the community crane education and conservation efforts ever since. On a personal note, Jennie has become a bona fide craniac over all these years working alongside CCCC – and she even made the journey to Nebraska to witness the spring migration last year.
My reasons for volunteering: I joined CCCC in February of 2020 at the invitation of a friend. At first I just saw it as a way to meet interesting new people but I quickly realized how amazing cranes are! I learned a lot from the video CCCC made for 3rd graders! A year later, I’m still a novice birder. In the process of learning about cranes, I’ve met a dedicated group of fun, creative people over Zoom – I can’t wait to get to know them in person!
Janet Panebaker is a retired educator, who came to the Crane community and a passion for cranes as local birders mobilized to help the state of Colorado protect our Yampa Valley Cranes. She joined the Yampa Valley Crane Festival in 2013 and enjoys promoting the cranes through working with kids of all ages and participating in crane dancing and parades. Janet is always celebrating and watching for cranes, especially in the Upper Yampa Valley, where she lives.
I ♥️ the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. Now volunteering for my 9th Crane Festival, I have helped out with a variety of tasks – from Crane Cookie Coordinator to Coloring Contest Captain to educational programming and more. It is a great group of people to work with and a satisfying endeavor to protect our Yampa Valley Cranes. I can honestly say I am a fully fledged Craniac.
Lexi Stine is the Adult Program Director for Yampatika a local environmental non-profit established in 1992. Yampatika has been a close partnership with the CCCC and teaches about Sandhill Cranes any chance we get on Naturalist programs. As an Arizona native, her first interest in cranes came from reading, ” “Marshland Elegy,” in The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Once she moved to the Yampa Valley she finally heard the calls and saw the dances of cranes a deeper passion was ignited. She is very excited and blessed to help the CCCC through her job.
I have always loved nature and animals but stumbled into birding after moving to Steamboat Springs in 2012 and tagging along with the Yampa Valley Birding Club. This was initially a way to learn about the birds in Routt County and meet people, but turned into much more. Many of the birders I met were active in CCCC so I started volunteering with CCCC as time allowed. Starting in 2017 we were able to spend more time in Steamboat so there was more time to devote to CCCC, including being a crane dancer in the 4th of July parade, decorating crane cookies, being a shuttle docent, helping out at the Carpenter Ranch picnic, and hosting bird walks. In 2019 I joined the Board and the last few years have presented interesting challenges such as our all-virtual festival in the year of covid and Sandhill Crane nest camera project in 2021. I am honored to serve with this outstanding organization and the other dedicated volunteers who make the magic happen.
Sandhill Crane Mascot
Sandy joined the CCCC team in 2017 and loves helping CCCC to educate kids and adults about cranes. Sandy loves hugs and giving high-fives. She is full of excitement and loves to dance!