Someone to Know: Volunteer Kathy Isoda

What is your volunteer position? And why did you choose this volunteer opportunity?
My primary volunteer position is a St James Farm volunteer; however, I’m an aquatic invasive species (AIS) monitor and a fungi monitor too. I also enjoy assisting with special projects and events when I’m available. In 2008, I read a newspaper article looking for volunteers for a private estate turned forest preserve. This was the first time in my life that a new forest preserve was being established. The equestrian background of St James Farm is what got the Isoda family members to become volunteers, especially my niece, Amanda, who has been riding horses since she was 10.

Tell me about your volunteer responsibilities with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
As a St. James Farm volunteer, I’m an interpreter who gives covered wagon tours and explains the McCormick family history as dairy farmers in the 1920s to 1940s and how they held equestrian events from the 1980s to late 1990s. Then the property was sold to the District as a living estate and opened to the public in 2008. As an AIS monitor, I walk the shorelines at St. James Farm and Blackwell, checking for zebra mussels and educating the public about the importance of cleaning their equipment and picking up litter. At those same locations, I look for fungi and record the different species found in the preserves. Last year, St. James Farm ranked the second highest in diversity out of 11 observed preserves district-wide.

Why do you enjoy volunteering for the Forest Preserve District?
I enjoy meeting all the wonderful volunteers, greeting the public and encouraging them to enjoy the forest preserves.

What lasting effect do you think your efforts will have on the District?
I hope I have encouraged people of all ages to become volunteers and/or financial supporters of the forest preserve so that the clean open spaces can be enjoyed for many generations to come. Also, I hope I have encouraged them to appreciate all that the District has to offer for free.

Tell us about a tool you use regularly in your volunteer work with the District.
Can I consider my brain as a tool? I have to remember a lot of facts about the history of St. James Farm and be able to speak about them quickly during the covered wagon ride and the ever-changing route during construction times. Also, you need to be prepared to answer questions on the fly.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever had to deal with while volunteering for the District?
The wildest thing I had to deal with at St. James Farm was having a deer and her two fawns steal the attention away on one of my tours. All the people — including several children — stopped and stared. We paused the tour so everyone could get a good look and watch them for a little while.

What would you like DuPage County residents and forest preserve visitors to know about our natural areas, resources or the site where you volunteer?
Families looking for great staycations can visit St. James Farm for Family Field Day on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and Danada Equestrian Center’s Fall Festival on the 2nd Sunday of October. Both are free to enjoy and provide great entertainment; there are some small fees for some activities.

What is your favorite preserve or site?
Of course, I’d have to say St. James Farm because I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary as a volunteer this year with several other volunteers that I met during our initial training back in 2008.

Share some suggestions for great places to visit in the DuPage forest preserves.
St. James Farm, Danada and Willowbrook.

How do you use DuPage forest preserves?
I use the forest preserves to relax, enjoy the fresh air and get rid of all the stress I get from working full time in the IT profession.

What is your favorite forest preserve animal, bird or insect? Why?
The deer and her two fawns. Even though they stole the show during my tour, it’s just something I never saw growing up in the city of Chicago since I didn’t live near a forest preserve.

What inspires you in nature?
To enjoy the fresh air, listen to the sounds and look at what’s all around you.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned about nature?
I’ve learned you can’t take it for granted and you shouldn’t abuse it. Try to leave it cleaner than you found it.

What’s your favorite season in DuPage forest preserves?
My favorite season is summer because I like to see people and dogs enjoying the forest preserves. Wintertime everyone rushes around and stays indoors a lot to avoid the cold. Summer brings longer days and everyone stays outdoors a lot more.

To date, what has been the best (or most interesting) part of your volunteer work at the Forest Preserve District?

The best part of my volunteer work is being part of a new forest preserve opening up to the public and seeing the transformations taking place over the last 10 years. It’s still hard to believe that there are people just finding out about St. James Farm! I’m so glad when they tell me that they are visiting for the first time because I know they’ll keep coming back.

What are your personal interests? Do you have any nature-related hobbies?
My personal interests are being a community contributor and making pet therapy visits with my dog to a nursing home, senior assisted living facilities and to DuPage PADS homeless families sheltered at a local church on Thursday nights.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering for the Forest Preserve District?
When I’m not volunteering for the forest preserve, I volunteer for the Naperville Area Humane Society. That’s where our 2 dogs were adopted from and both dogs have been in the pet therapy program for the past 7 years. I also participate in adoption events and help out at the shelter, including fundraising events.

What do you want others to know about you?
I want others to know that I’m actually shy, so volunteering has helped me talk with strangers more easily. I guess it can be considered my free therapy sessions, LOL.

What three words best describe you?
Loyal, friendly and supportive.

Someone to Know: Volunteer Kathy Isoda

Kathy Isoda has been a volunteer at St. James Farm in Warrenville since it opened to the public. But she doesn't stop there.

Someone to Know: Willowbrook Volunteer Vanessa Galt

Meet Vanessa Galt, an animal care volunteer at the District's Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

Someone to Know: Volunteer Bob Young

Bob Young combines his love for nature and the water with volunteering for the District.

Someone to Know: Kline Creek Farm Volunteer Linda Frey

Linda Frey is a domestic arts interpreter for Kline Creek Farm, where she gets to bring history to life for visitors.

Someone to Know: Keith McClow

Keith McClow brings history to life as heritage education manager for the District.

Someone to Know: Dan Hebreard

District ranger loves sharing his passion for nature with visitors.

Someone to Know: Wayne Zaininger

As site manager for Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton and St. James Farm in Warrenville, Zaininger's work is centered on horses and the people who care for them.

Someone to Know: District Ecologist Dan Thompson

District ecologist has the perfect job to feed his love of nature and wildlife.

Someone to Know: Fullersburg Woods Volunteer Joan Schultheis

Retired teacher taps her love of nature at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center.

Someone to Know: Wayne Hill

Wayne Hill gets to step back in time in his role as heritage interpreter at Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm in West Chicago.

Someone to Know: Mark Dyer

Mayslake Community Outreach Specialist Mark Dyer wears many hats while helping ensure the numerous nature and cultural programs run smoothly at the Oak Brook estate.

Someone to Know: Austin Kopp

Golf Services Supervisor Austin Kopp makes sure every trip to the District's three golf course is on par with customer's expectations.

Someone to Know: Leigh Korreck

Willowbrook naturalist Leigh Korreck loves being able to connect people to nature and help them learn how to live in harmony with native wildlife in DuPage County.

Someone to Know: Dennis Buck

How would you like stepping back into a different century every day at work? That's what Kline Creek Farm heritage interpreter Dennis Buck does each day.

Someone to Know: Kim Riehm

From taking calls to reserving a picnic shelter to answering questions about forest preserves, no two days are alike for Visitors Services staff assistant Kim Riehm. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Someone to Know: Cindy Hedges

Cindy Hedges is all about connecting people to nature in her role as stewardship program coordinator. She also oversees the District's volunteer monitoring programs and the Native Plant Nursery at Blackwell Forest Preserve.

Someone to Know: Kendra Strubhart

As Mayslake's heritage interpreter, Kendra Strubhart is responsible for programming at the historic Oak Brook mansion.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Chris Aquino

When he's not teaching cinema studies at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, he's helping folks hone their photography skills at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Fred Drury

Award-winning photographer Fred Drury brings his 50-plus years of photography expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Hank Erdmann

Hank Erdmann specializes in nature photography, especially in the midwest. His primary areas of interest include midwestern prairies and hardwood forests.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Will Clay

Will Clay's photography has been published in nine books and numerous natioanl publications, and now he brings his photographic expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Eric Poggenburg

No two days are alike for ranger Eric Poggenburg, who enjoys connecting to nature even on his days off.

Someone to Know: Dr. Jennifer Nevis

Willowbrook staff veterinarian fuels her passion for animals and mentoring.

Someone to Know: Nikki Dahlin

District naturalist Nikki Dahlin's love of bugs may have started by accident, but it's been fueled by passion.

Someone to Know: David Sima

Senior ranger David Sima leads programs that teach skills for enjoying the great outdoors.

Someone to Know: Stephanie Touzalin

Wildlife enthusiast and artist Stephanie Touzalin is a naturalist at Willowbrook.

Someone to Know: Ron Skleney

Naturalist Ron Skleney loves birds and heads up our raptor program at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

Someone to Know: Natural Resources and Grounds Management Crews

Our crews manage invasive and nonnative vegetation over the coldest months of the year.

Someone to Know: Chris Gingrich

Get to know Education Outreach Specialist Chris Gingrich.

Someone to Know: Marty Jandura

Ranger Marty Jandura is an avid fisherman and offers up some fishing tips.

Someone to Know

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