By FRED KRONER
Organizations are bigger than any of its individuals, but the various persons are what enable the impact of service organizations to be so great.
The Upper Sangamon River Conservancy (USRC) is no exception.
On Saturday, the organization will honor two if its long-time volunteers, Chuck Berschinski and Alan Weith.
“They have been fantastic volunteers,” said former USRC president Scott Hays, now the organization’s secretary. “They have taken the lead on a number of projects.
“It’s great to have people bring that spirit and positive can-do attitude.”
One prerequisite to serve, Hays added is, “a willingness to get your hands dirty and feet wet, and they are both excellent.”
Saturday’s presentation will take place at noon at the Izaak Walton Cabin, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, and is part of the 2018 USRC Annual Showcase.
Berschinski’s involvement started by accident.
His wife (Cathy) was a member of the Town and Country Women’s Club and that group was entering a float in the Riverfest Parade.
Chuck Berschinski volunteered to drive the float.
“We were in the staging area and I came across people with cardboard canoes, like hula-skirt kayaks,” he said. “It was the USRC doing their advertising.”
One of the members (Jon Hanson) invited Berschinski to a meeting.
A self-described biologist, Berschinski has also served as scoutmaster and worked as a naturalist. The USRC was a perfect fit for his interests.
Soon he became active in various projects.
“I led the Adopt-a-Highway program for five years (turning it over to Joe Niernberger), but I’m still out there,” Berschinski said.
Discarded trash is one of his pet peeves.
“The USRC is responsible for a 2-mile stretch of Rt. 47, starting at the interchange with I-74 and extending north two miles.
“We go out four times a year and hundreds of the 50-gallon bags have been filled,” Berschinski said.”It’s shocking people are so oblivious.
“I don’t know what they think happens to this stuff.”
If he had a wish list, Berschinski knows exactly what he would place at the top.
“We need signs, ‘Sangamon River Watershed, fines for littering and dumping,’ “ he said, noting that the runoff goes directly into the river.
“The river is the crown for our town. Everything revolves around the river.”
Hays agrees that it’s a shame volunteers must spend time on trash detail.
“That’s a thing we shouldn’t have to do,” Hays said, “but it’s doing good things for everybody, nature and the planet.
“It’s for the betterment of everyone.”
Since the USRC was formed in 2009, Berschinski said the river cleanup has resulted in “over six tons,” of debris and trash being collected from the Sangamon.
Hays said it is difficult to gauge the extent of contributions of both Berschinski and Weith because of the scope and frequency of their efforts.
“Chuck and Alan both have been involved with our annual mussel surveys (two per year) and Riverwatch invertebrate monitoring (to test for water health), our nest-box project to restore species to the riparian corridors along the river’s edge forests and lands (wood duck and bluebird boxes construction and placement),” Hays said. “Chuck founded and did all the initial applications and legwork to establish our “Adopt-a-Highway” program on Illinois 47 north of Mahomet.
“Both were involved in our coordination, grounds cleanup, maintenance and restoration efforts of the historic Hazen Bridge over the Sangamon on CR 2600 north of Mahomet. This included replacing many of the rather massive bridge decking timbers.”
Berschinski, who worked more than 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry, said Weith’s efforts were always invaluable.
“Alan is an extremely exacting person,” Berschinski said. “He built and had the plans for the equipment for the wood duck and bluebird nesting boxes.
“He was instrumental with the Hazen Bridge, making sure everything was done correctly. He’s a mellow guy to work with.”
Weith is not only detail-oriented, but also conscientious in seeing projects through to their completion.
“Alan did much of the updates to modernize our home-made canoe-hauling trailer,” Hays added.
“Alan and Chuck designed and built a very nice eight-canoe canoe rack for the USRC.
“Alan has been instrumental in selling ducks (and continues to be) for our duck race. Both helped tremendously in securing prizes from local Mahomet businesses.”
Hays said it is impossible to understate the magnitude of the two men’s contributions.
“The USRC appreciates what they’ve done and how important it is to protect a resource (the Sangamon River) for the Village of Mahomet,” he said.
As for the recognition, it is something neither Berschinski nor Weith — a former college professor — sought.
“People don’t do stuff to receive anything,” Berschinski said. “To receive an award is a thank you. It lets you know you were appreciated.”
Berschinski said the only tribute he needs is to see projects he started remain relevant.
“It’s rewarding to see the stuff you did continued,” he said.
As for Berschinski, though he has seven grandchildren to spend time with, he’s not ready to stop his volunteer efforts.
“I’ve done the Earth Day cleanup for 48 straight years,” he said. “I want to get to 50.
“It bugs me seeing this litter.”