Congratulations to DUC’s National Volunteers of the Year

Champions for conservation tie for the title.

Each of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to contribute. This is the essence of volunteer service. For 79 years, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) volunteers have lived by this creed, using their collective passion and power to unite our communities and our country in support of conservation.

Like all things in life, there are special people who find it in themselves to do just a little bit more. Give just a little bit more. Inspire others by leading, sharing and stepping up when it matters most.

Liz Kozakowski and Candace Franke are standout examples. Both have been named DUC’s National Volunteers of the Year.

The award is typically presented to one individual whose profile stands out as “above and beyond.” This year, we were again reminded how hard the selection process is when all of our volunteers shine so bright. After two attempts at tie breaks, it was clear that both women deserved the honour.

Please join me in congratulating Liz, Candace and all of DUC’s outstanding volunteers.

Jim Couch
President, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Read about all the provincial nominees for National Volunteer of the Year.

Liz Kozakowski
Thompson Committee, Manitoba

Top ticket seller, donation gatherer, conservation booster, Liz Kozakowski also puts the “fun” in fundraising.

“Liz encourages and motivates her committee to do their best by setting a hardworking example and using gentle persuasion to ensure a fun atmosphere,” says Brad Porath, manager of events and volunteer relations (MEVR) in Manitoba.

Her approach is working.

Jim Williams, 2015 Volunteer of the Year for Manitoba; Liz Kozakowski, 2016 Volunteer of the Year for Manitoba; Jim Anton,Manitoba Provincial Volunteer Council Chairman
Left to Right: Jim Williams, 2015 Volunteer of the Year for Manitoba; Liz Kozakowski,; Jim Anton,Manitoba Provincial Volunteer Council Chairman.©DUC

“Our events provide such joy and entertainment to our attendees, when they leave at the end of the evening they are already asking for tickets for the next year’s event,” says Kozakowski.

A DUC volunteer for 28 years, KozakowskI’s served the past 26 years as chair of the Thompson Committee. Her other roles have included ticket chair, northern district chair for the Manitoba Volunteer Provincial Council and sealed bid auction co-ordinator.

Kozakowski’s committee achieved the most event income for Manitoba in 2016. She takes pride in keeping expenses down so there is more money for DUC. Part of her secret is planning and preparing the event’s meal with her fellow volunteers.

She’s resourceful in other ways, too. When the Thompson DUC event conflicted with another local event Kozakowski developed a promotional campaign that included an article in the local paper to highlight the DUC fundraiser.

Motivated to share her passion for conservation, Kozakowski invited DUC biologists to present at the event to reinforce the value in supporting DUC’s mission. She’s arranged signage to identify DUC projects in and around Thompson. She’s co-ordinated education sessions with her local chamber of commerce. And she’s travelled hundreds of kilometres to attend volunteer workshop meetings as a member of DUC’s leadership group.

For Kozakowski, the natural benefits from conservation make all the effort worth it.

“It is very gratifying to be a volunteer, knowing all the work that DUC does to conserve wildlife and wetlands. Ideally I would like to see everyone learn and accept the importance of the conservation of all lands and wildlife, so that all Canadians can continue to enjoy this beautiful country we live in.”

Candace Franke
Saskatoon Ladies Committee, Saskatchewan

“When you see the end result of what DUC does, it’s not hard to be a part of that,” says Candace Franke. “You can drive around and see the projects and what has been done. You realize you’re part of something bigger.”

Franke has been a DUC volunteer for 21 years, serving the past 17 years on the Saskatoon Ladies Committee, 15 of these as committee chair. She also served on the Saskatoon Social Event Committee and the Saskatoon Sponsor Event Committee.

Candace Franke, DUC's Volunteer of the Year for Saskatchewan
Candace Franke, DUC’s Volunteer of the Year for Saskatchewan. ©DUC

“Candace bleeds green,” says Keith Mackintosh, DUC’s provincial manager of events and volunteer relations for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. “She’s a leader who’s willing to do anything that will benefit DUC. Her passion for the cause is second to none.”

Franke joined the DUC board of directors on the membership and revenue committee in 2009, serving for several years. Among her volunteer accomplishments, Franke has been top ticket seller, gift in-kind and cash donation gatherer. Last year, she secured two bronze sponsors and $5,000 sponsorship.

She’s channeled her passion for conservation despite her lymphoma diagnosis several years ago. “It was really a difficult process. I struggled to put all my energy into continuing on, because it was the one thing that really mattered to me.”

“Candace keeps things balanced and moving forward,” says Mackintosh. “Her continued commitment to the Ladies Committee through personal and family health issues is a true inspiration for all volunteers.”

Franke believes dedication makes a good volunteer, and she plans to continue setting this example.

“I know I can`t save the world, but I think my story and my commitment and my passion could certainly impact other people. Not just because I’m female, but I`m a Canadian that cares for the land and water that we have and the conservation of it. And that does matter when an average Canadian starts thinking about our children’s children. How we look at the world today has to include the future.”

Join DUC’s Volunteer Family

Have fun, connect with your community and support conservation. DUC’s volunteer family includes nearly 5,900 Canadian volunteers who put their passion into action at fundraising events, on project sites or through educational programs.

Learn more