These awards acknowledge two of our legacy volunteers and recipients who embody the spirit of our Wake Audubon mission.

Being an all-volunteer organization, Wake Audubon relies on members of our community to help us achieve our mission of conservation, education and advocacy. We’re immensely thankful for every volunteer who has helped us to host programs, educate others and champion our initiatives.

In late 2019 we established two awards in honor of two extraordinary volunteers who have selflessly served Wake Audubon and our community for decades.

Paulette Van De Zande was a Wake Audubon board member for more than 35 years who supported fundraising projects, sought in-kind financial contributions and nurtured a synergistic relationship with Raleigh Garden Club. For decades Paulette baked scrumptious desserts that delighted attendees of our free monthly community programs.

Wake Audubon honors deserving volunteers with the Paulette Van De Zande Volunteer Award.

2024 honoree: Larry Zoller

Larry is the 2024 Chair of the Wake Audubon Education and Outreach Committee and retired middle school teacher. He is extensively involved in leading bird walks, organizing and presenting nature-oriented talks, and representing Wake Audubon at various events. He loves sharing wildlife discoveries from his frequent international travels and participating in North Carolina Audubon’s Advocacy Day. Larry is a quiet champion for conservation at Hilltop Needmore Park in Fuquay-Varina. Thanks to his tireless photo documentation of park wildlife, residents were moved to vote down a development bond. His dedication, leadership, and passion for environmental stewardship serve as an inspiration to others, embodying the spirit of volunteerism.

2023 honoree: Alexia Maneschi

Alexia Maneschi is a long-time Wake Audubon volunteer and former board member. She plays an essential role in promoting native plants for birds by organizing our semi-annual native plant sales with sponsor Field to Cottage Nursery raising hundreds of dollars for the chapter each year. Alexia also leads our outreach tabling activities at plant festivals like Raulston Blooms and Cary Herb Fest. Alexia displays a spirit of volunteerism across the community. She serves on the NC Bluebird Society’s Board of Directors, volunteers with the Eno River Association, and received Raleigh’s Fred Fletcher Outstanding Project Volunteer Award.

2022 honoree: Erla Beegle

Erla Beegle has been a devoted volunteer with Wake Audubon for over 10 years. She has selflessly shared more than 1,000 hours of her time leading bird walks, working on conservation projects, tabling, and organizing our calendar and Meetup group. Engaging within and beyond Wake Audubon, she builds community around birds by sharing her unflagging enthusiasm, mentoring fledgling birders, and inviting everyone into the group. She has also contributed countless hours to science by recording daily eBird checklists and recording NC Bird Atlas data across the state.


2021 honoree: Keith Jensen

Keith Jensen embodies a spirit of fellowship with others. As a Research Technician at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Keith works alongside many organizations and gets to connect people with birds through a host of outreach programs. He has also been instrumental in raising community awareness of declining species like the Chimney Swift and Brown-headed Nuthatch. Learn more about Keith’s contributions in our latest blog.


John Connors served as a Wake Audubon board member for more than 40 years and had led numerous conservation initiatives including our annual Christmas bird count, maintenance of woodcock courtship grounds, monitoring of our chimney swift roost tower at Prairie Ridge eco-station and planting milkweed for monarchs among many more. John has inspired both children and adults with his educational programs and prized storytelling that instill knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of nature.

Wake Audubon honors deserving volunteer educators with the John Connors Conservation and Environmental Education Award.

2024 honoree: Colleen Bockhahn

Colleen is an educator and leader in conservation. At Lake Crabtree and White Deer Parks she has supervised many community youth programs including nature walks and Scouts badge achievement. Colleen educated the public on the management of invasive plants while serving on the NC Invasive Plant Council. As a conservation leader, she steered policy for the Town of Cary and Wake County Park and has served on the boards of the Carolina Bird Club and Wake Audubon Society. In fact, for two years, Colleen was our very own Chapter President! Her adeptness in crafting job descriptions and onboarding materials has streamlined volunteer roles within Wake Audubon, enhancing our efficiency and effectiveness. 

2023 honoree: Mary Frazer

Mary Frazer has served in a variety of conservation, education, and leadership roles with Wake Audubon. She has been pivotal to multiple bird survey efforts by coordinating the chapter’s annual winter and spring Climate Watch bird surveys, spending the pre-dawn hours during migration conducting Lights Out bird surveys, and monitoring Chimney Swift roosts in the fall. As an educator, Mary has given multiple programs to our group and created the new opportunity to share the importance of Lights Out with stargazers at Astronomy Days. Mary is also a former Wake Audubon board member and Secretary.


2022 honoree: Courtney Rousseau

Courtney Rousseau is the President of the NC Purple Martin Society. She has unselfishly cared for a Purple Martin colony at the University Club for over 15 years and has advised and helped Wake Audubon install Purple Martin houses at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, and Yates Mill County Park. A respected educator, she has trained folks from Wake Audubon, the NC Museum of Natural Science, and park staff to monitor these and other colonies, protect them from predators, and maintain their homes. Her public engagement and passion fuels the fascination that so many people have for these birds.


2021 honoree: Marti Kane

Marti Kane has dedicated her life to conservation and environmental education. After retiring as the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park Director, Marti has channeled her endless energy into rescuing raptors, caring for Bluebirds, and educating others about our chapter and how to take care of birds. Learn more about Marti’s contributions in our latest blog.


Curious about volunteering and making an impact like Paulette and John? We’d love to have you!

See the conservation initiatives and community events we lead and support. Please join us in any that are of interest to you. Reach our volunteer coordinator to receive our periodic volunteer newsletter. You’ll find events in need of volunteers posted to our calendar as well.