Leslie Burgess is Top Tourism Volunteer in Collier County

Art fund-raiser for boardwalk repairs earns longtime Boardwalk Naturalist the 2019 Paradise Coast Volunteer Tourism Star award

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Volunteer Leslie Burgess has been named the top tourism volunteer in Collier County for 2019, winning the Paradise Coast Convention & Visitor Bureau Volunteer Star award.  

The award was presented at the Paradise Coast Convention and Visitor Bureau Tourism Star awards on Friday, September, 27, 2019, at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.  Leslie, who earlier in the day left with her husband Tom to visit her daughter in California, asked longtime Volunteer Boardwalk Naturalists Judy Johansen and Phil Nye to accept the award in her absence. 

Leslie is the second Corkscrew volunteer to win the award in as many years. Last year, Boardwalk Naturalist Jack Wheeler was honored
Roswitha Zeindlhofer-Marold, Retail and Sales Manager at Corkscrew, was nominated in the Attraction Service Star category, which was won by Jenny Christy, Office Manager at Pure Florida. 
Ninety people were nominated for Tourism Star awards in 11 different categories. One category, Hotel Service Star, had 37 different nominees. The presentations were made by Paradise Coast Convention and Visitor Bureau Executive Director Jack Wert. The bureau promotes tourism to Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades.

Leslie Burgess Nomination

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is consistently one of Collier County’s top tourism attractions, and Corkscrew’s historic boardwalk is the heart and soul of what draws 100,000 visitors annually. 
Leslie Burgess, who volunteers at Corkscrew every Wednesday as a Boardwalk Naturalist, is keenly aware of the boardwalk’s role in tourism. So after Hurricane Irma knocked out whole sections of the boardwalk and shut it down completely, Leslie came up with a creative way to pay for boardwalk repairs that continue to this day.  (The boardwalk reopened within weeks of the hurricane but some areas are still being repaired.)
Leslie, an artist, asked Corkscrew management if she could paint pictures of birds and other swamp creatures on small pieces of broken boardwalk and then offer them to the Nature Store where visitors could have them in exchange for a donation.  Her artwork raised more than $8,000 in donations for boardwalk repairs. Her boardwalk paintings sold out.
She was given the Sanctuary’s Special Services Award at Corkscrew’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in March 2019.
Leslie’s creativeness captured the attention of Southwest Florida. She was on the front page of the Naples Daily News, and featured in the Fort Myers News-Press and Florida Weekly.  NBC2News’ Sean Martinelli featured Leslie in his “Story2Share” segment.  
Leslie’s above-and-beyond efforts don’t stop there. She designs the small round pins with animal images that adorn the hats of Corkscrew’s boardwalk naturalists – those colorful pins have inspired many interesting conversations with visitors.  She designed and made the green tree frog costume that serves as Corkscrew’s mascot at After Hours and Family Fun Day events.  She frequently holds baby alligators and snakes for young children to touch at those events.
Plus Leslie has put in almost 6,000 hours as a boardwalk naturalist since becoming a Corkscrew volunteer in 1998.  Every Wednesday Leslie is on the boardwalk answering visitors’ questions and pointing out the sights and sounds of the swamp. Through her dedication, Leslie has proved to be a true ambassador for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Audubon’s vital mission. 

Roswitha Zeindlhofer-Marold Nomination

There’s no doubt that walking through the ancient bald cypress forest on the famous boardwalk at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is what has attracted 100,000 visitors a year from around the world for more than six decades.  But Florida can get hot, especially in the summer, and even Corkscrew’s nature-loving visitors appreciate a break indoors. 
Roswitha Zeindlhofer-Marold, the Retail and Sales Manager at Corkscrew, goes above and beyond to provide that cool relief and a warm welcome to Corkscrew guests in the Blair Audubon Visitor Center, where she runs the Nature Store, Gallery Café and Admissions Desk. 
Roswitha personally trains each member of her staff about the importance of guests-first customer service. Everyone in the Nature Store has the knowledge and confidence to serve as a personal shopper whenever customers want their help and expertise. Roswitha is a strong believer in fair trade practices, so her staff is well aware of where products are from, how they are made, where the money goes. To a non-profit organization like Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, that matters.
Similarly, she is dedicated to finding new and exciting merchandise that conveys Audubon’s mission “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems for the benefit of humanity and the Earth’s biological diversity.” In Southwest Florida, that matters. 
The Nature Store is considered one of the best at Southwest Florida attractions and non-profits. 
Roswitha has made sure the Visitor Center is a leader in going green. For example: 
  • Water bottles are made of 54 percent paper and 28 percent plant-based material
  • Shopping bags are made of 80 percent recycled plastic from water bottles
Roswitha makes it a goal to be a great neighbor to the community. She partners with Taste of Immokalee, the program that gives Immokalee and Naples students a taste of real-world business and is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty in their communities. Taste of Immokalee items are available at Corkscrew, and its students are often at Corkscrew events offering samples to guests.
The Gallery Café displays the works of local artists and photographers. Roswitha goes to art shows and events in search of artists whose work complements Corkscrew’s setting and mission. The café, which offers diners stunning views of the art and outdoors, was included in the Naples Daily News article “Hidden restaurants in Naples – and where to find them.”
Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary relies on attracting lots of visitors to raise the money needed to continue its conservation mission. Roswitha is dedicated to making sure those visitors enjoy the experience to the fullest, return often – and spread the word.
Naples Daily News story about the awards

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