Richard Jones isn’t much for recognition or accolades, he just loves volunteering at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford.
Jones, 74, of Medford, was awarded a New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Awards Medal in a virtual presentation Feb. 20.
“So honored and just so happy and privileged to help at Woodford Cedar Run,” said Jones of receiving the award.
Jones’ medal came in the BD Animal Welfare category that recognizes individuals whose exemplary volunteer service involving or on behalf of animals has a positive impact on health and well-being in their community.
”I am so proud of Richard and grateful that he is being recognized with this honor,” said Mike O’Malley, executive director of the refuge. ”I have worked side-by-side with Richard for many years and have witnessed his passion firsthand. He has mentored countless volunteers here at Cedar Run and educated so many folks about the importance of protecting and preserving native wildlife. His impact on Cedar Run and New Jersey’s native wildlife are truly beyond measure.”
Jones is one of more than 200 volunteers at the 171-acre non-profit wildlife refuge, wildlife rehabilitation hospital and nature center on the edge of the New Jersey Pinelands.
“Richard volunteers in a number of capacities,” said O’Malley. ”He volunteers in the Wildlife Hospital, working hands-on with the injured and/or orphaned wild animals that we treat. He also trains non-releasable wildlife - like Rambler - for educational programs. One of his favorite duties is educating children and adults alike about protecting our native wildlife!”
Jones has lived in Medford Township for 26 years with his wife, Pam, and they have been married for 54 years. The couple has two daughters and six grandchildren.
“I started volunteering at Cedar Run in 2014,” said Jones, who retired in 2010 after 45 years working for Computer Sciences Corporation primarily developing weapon system software for the U.S. Navy. “I am there almost every day, training raptors, caring for residents and helping in the rehabilitation hospital, averaging around 14 hours a week.”
“Richard is not the longest tenured (volunteer), as we have a few volunteers that have been with us for over 25 years. However, he consistently volunteers for the most amount of time,” O’Malley pointed out.
When asked what drives him to volunteerism, Jones commented:
“From the time it started working in the rehabilitation hospital I realized the important connection that we have with nature, our wildlife and the Pinelands ecosystem. It enabled my wife and I to realize the passion that we feel for wildlife welfare. We are all in this world together and caring for each other is vital to our existence.”
Pam, a former elementary school teacher and church nursery school teacher/director, also volunteers at Cedar Run with her husband.
“Pam and I share our time in the rehabilitation hospital and also caring for the outside residents, about eight to10 hours a week,” said Jones. “I’m there other days with my raptor training, additionally about one to two hours most days.”
The Jones came to find out about the refuge when they brought in a patient themselves years ago.
“We brought an orphaned baby squirrel to the rehab hospital one spring day and later that year we attended one of the education programs with our grandson,” Richard recalled. “We didn’t have any background in caring for wildlife and thought helping in any way we can in the rehabilitation hospital would be a great way to start and learn.”
What does Jones find most rewarding about volunteering at Cedar Run?
“When we can release an orphaned or injured animal back into the wild where they belong and we have given them a second chance at life,” he said.
Understandably, Jones had a tough time putting a total number on the amount of animals released back into the wild since he started volunteering at the refuge seven years ago.
“Oh my, we have personally released many squirrels, opossums, bunnies, raccoons, raptors, gulls, songbirds and other wildlife,” he said. “A rough guess would be around 50 to 60 a year. I guess releasing a raptor like a red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl is the most spectacular. They are all very special, releasing them back in the wild where they belong, it’s very rewarding. There are thousands of orphaned and injured animals released every year by the staff and volunteers Cedar Run.”