Russ Lowell and Eric Podolsky of the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse were presented with ALF Len Hadley Volunteer Awards during the American Lighthouse Foundation’s annual Gala, which was held at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 1, 2022.
Russ Lowell – 2019
The Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) are very pleased to honor Russ Lowell as our 2019 Volunteer of the Year. Russ and his wife, Terry, began their Wood Island service in 1979, twenty–four years before there was a FOWIL. They served at Wood Island for two of Russ’s Coast Guard years as a keeper and returned years later to join FOWIL, where he soon became a regular Lightrunner captain.
The choice of Russ was obvious to all of us that summer. We were down to only two captains and confronted the possibility of having to cancel Saturday tours completely, and be unable to run several special tours during the summer as well. Russ readily volunteered to pick up the Saturday tour in addition to his normal Thursday tour—and even offered to run the special tours, asking only that we give him a day’s notice.
He did his tours with an upbeat and welcoming attitude, regaling the guests with his and Terry’s personal encounters during their Coast Guard days with the antics of the island’s resident ghosts, to the point of even knowing their names. It was a special treat at the end of our visitors’ trips. His work commitment and performance were extraordinary and, for that, FOWIL is most grateful.
Post script…2021 was an abbreviated season due to a COVID-driven late start and the loss of yet another captain. The pared–down season we did have was because one man made it possible, again doing his regular tour and several special tours. And he agreed to train a new captain and then served as the crew for him after he took the helm. Accordingly, we deemed it appropriate to confer the unique distinction of an “Oak Leaf Cluster” on his 2019 award for extraordinary 2021 service. The American Lighthouse Foundation and the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse are very pleased to honor Russ Lowell with a 2022 Len Hadley Volunteer Award!
Eric Podolsky – 2021
Eric Podolsky joined the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse volunteer corps in 2021 and dove right in! During the summer, he served as a docent for FOWIL tours, as a boat crew member and as a regular participant in the weekly “Woodchuck” grounds keeping crews.
One of FOWIL’s signature accomplishments during 2021 was an August Island Clean-up in which 44 volunteers from FOWIL, Maine Audubon and Tom’s of Maine removed thirty cubic yards of trash from the island. In this effort, Eric used his career experience in emergency planning and preparedness to create an organizational chart for the volunteers using his expertise with the Incident Command structure and system, a national standard for incident first responders. Eric served as Safety Officer for the event and all participants completed the project without incident or injury.
Based on Eric’s enthusiastic participation in so many of the activities of the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse during 2021, and for his exceptional contribution to the success of our Island Clean-up, the American Lighthouse Foundation and the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse are very pleased to honor Eric Podolsky with a 2022 Len Hadley Volunteer Award!