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Jan Atwood, Unsung Hero Award

Unsung Hero Award
Jan Atwood
Nominated by Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy

Unsung Hero Award - Presented to a special volunteer who motivates others to give, commits time and energy without compensation and offers organizations and fundraising staff their talent for strategy, relationship enhancement, and the successful solicitation of donations. An individual who demonstrates exceptional commitment in our community who may not otherwise gain recognition.

“Whenever there is a call for help, Jan is there, with a shovel in hand, a ‘can-do’ attitude and a  BIG smile. Her impact on our community cannot be understated.”
-Suzanne Etgen, Executive Director, Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy

“If you need something done in a pinch, and with great enthusiasm, there is no better person to have on your side than Jan Atwood,” said Denise Swol Executive Director, Arundel Rivers Federation (ARF). “A tireless advocate for ARF, the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA), and for local environmental issues, Jan is truly an unsung hero.”

When Jan joined WSA in 2016, she quickly became a key volunteer, mentor, leader, major donor, and board member for several local environmental non-profits, said nominator Suzanne Etgen, Executive Director, Anne Arundel County WSA. “Her impact on our community cannot be understated,” she said. 

As a Master Watershed Steward since 2017, Jan has given almost 500 hours to plant trees, maintain projects, and mentor new Watershed Stewards. She leads a collective of stewards who assist residents to reduce pollution and has trained dozens of volunteers to plan and execute over 44 projects. Jan has planted 63 native trees and shrubs and engaged 250 neighbors in environmental action. As a WSA Board member, Jan serves as a “Donor Ambassador” and “Class Captain,” deepening relationships with donors and WSA alums by inviting them to events, communicating about WSA activities, soliciting donations, and sending thanks.

“Whenever there is a call for help, Jan is there, with a shovel in hand, a ‘can-do’ attitude, and a  BIG smile,” said Etgen.  

In addition to her work with WSA, her work with ARF is also important. When the Federation had a last-minute opportunity to seek grant funding for a large environmental restoration project in her Heritage Harbor community, Jan recruited fellow Watershed Stewards and garnered the community and management support needed they could move forward within a matter of days. “Jan’s incredible energy and ability to mobilize her community makes her an unsung hero to non-profits like ours,” said Swol.

Jan serves many other organizations including Annapolis Green, a local environmental nonprofit, and Unity Gardens, a county non-profit organization that supports the building of community partnerships through its grassroots grants program for conservation landscaping.  “Jan is an outstanding volunteer, low key and unassuming in her demeanor, but very generous with her time, talent, and knowledge to accomplish the goals of the many local environmental organizations,” said Pat Mitchell, Board President Unity Gardens. 

In addition to other volunteer organizations, Jan, an Army veteran, is also deeply committed to the welfare of fellow Army veterans. Last year, when a veteran with no local family fell gravely ill,  Jan became her caretaker  –  transporting her to doctor’s appointments, serving as her healthcare advocate in the hospital, hosting out-of-town family,  and coordinating her care team.  “Jan remained at her friend’s side until she passed away over a year later,” said Etgen. “She saw a need, and filled it, admirably and selflessly.”

Watch the full video below.