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Vets volunteer at Volo Bog through government program

Veterans (from left) Mike Iwanicki George Wieszczyk John Fairgrieve work seed sorters Volo Bog Ingleside. | CHRIS CASHMAN/FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Veterans (from left) Mike Iwanicki, George Wieszczyk and John Fairgrieve work on seed sorters at Volo Bog in Ingleside. | CHRIS CASHMAN/FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps is a 2-year-old program at Volo Bog State Natural Area, 28478 W. Brandenburg Road, Ingleside. The program provides opportunities for veterans to continue serving their country by assisting with and developing projects to enhance our state parks and natural areas. For information on joining the Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps, call Stacy Iwanicki at (815) 344-1294 or email

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Updated: February 7, 2014 6:22AM

Three Army veterans who served in Vietnam are on a mission for bluebirds.

George Wieszczyk of Lake Villa, John Fairgrieve of Hawthorn Woods, and Mike Major of McHenry are members of the Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps at Volo Bog State Natural Area in Ingleside.

Last year, the volunteer veterans built 34 bluebird houses, and plan to build at least 30 more this year. A total of 100 bluebird houses will be built to replace 20-year-old birdhouses in Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry.

The Volo volunteers visited the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, where patients were able to assemble several bluebird houses.

“It was kind of a feel-good thing,” said Stacy Iwanicki, natural resources coordinator at Volo Bog. “It allowed (patients at the hospital) to contribute who otherwise couldn’t get out to participate.”

Other recent projects by the veterans have included a 14-foot-tall chimney swift tower; an osprey tower and Leopold benches are on the to-do list.

The Volo veterans were busy last Saturday building seed sorters in the garage behind the bog’s visitors center.

“Seed sorters are for processing seeds from native plants other volunteers have gathered over the course of the year,” Iwanicki said. “Seed sorters remove the chaff from the seeds so that you have more of a collection of pure live seed. It makes it easier to get a nice even spread for restoration projects.”

“It’s been great,” Major said of the volunteer program. “ I’ve been monitoring bluebirds, building bluebird houses, and helped with the (chimney) swift tower.”

Also volunteering last Saturday was Mike Iwanicki of Wonder Lake, a Navy veteran and superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of McHenry County.

Stacy Iwanicki, who coordinates Volo Bog volunteer projects, said the Volunteer Veterans Conservation Corps began in October 2011, and about eight veterans participated in the Saturday morning workshops in 2013.

“It’s mostly small projects, but sometimes, with like the chimney swift tower, we get ambitious and go for something big,” she said.

“The projects we’re able to do are determined by how many people we have. This year, I’m hoping to build it up a little more.”

“There’s lots to do, many different things, other than seeds and birds,” said Wieszczyk, who was a paratrooper in Vietnam. “We went out cutting weeds recently.

“There’s always something to do,” he said.

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