Potrykus named sanctuary volunteer of the year

ALPENA – The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary honored its 2012 Volunteer of the Year, Ashley Potrykus, with an award and a luncheon on Wednesday at the sanctuary building. Potrykus has been volunteering at the sanctuary for over two years and has worked her way up the ladder from working on exhibits, to the office, and now the artifact lab.

“I always asked about working in the lab, I love it here,” she said. “The artifacts are fascinating and I thought it was a cool operation … my dream has always been biology.”

Potrykus started volunteering through community mental health at the sanctuary and she continues to make a difference with all of her volunteer hours. Her parents, Verne and Claire Potrykus, have supported her from the beginning and heard many stories from Ashley about her volunteer hours at the sanctuary building.

“Ashley is a very valuable, very much appreciated part of our team,” fellow volunteer Chuck Wiesen said. “There are only 13 sanctuaries worldwide and only one volunteer of the year in each sanctuary. This is a big honor for her.”

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has over 3,000 volunteer hours per year and choosing a single person from those hours is a hard task.

“We’re very proud to have a strong core volunteer group here,” Media and Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said. “Ashley is so enthusiastic, dedicated, and positive so she stands out amidst our volunteers.”

Potrykus received a plaque for her dedication and will have her name put on the Volunteer of the Year plaque at the entrance to the sanctuary offices. She joins the few honored individuals who have gone above and beyond to volunteer their time at the sanctuary.

“What else could you give that’s more important than your time.” Deputy Superintendent Russ Green said.

Potrykus said she plans on continuing to volunteer at the sanctuary and in the lab because she loves the work, and would love to one day work under the water.

“It’s a different world, and it is just amazing,” she said.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.