The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 28, 2020 1:00 am

Volunteer spotlight

Couple keep eye on birds at preserve

JESSICA GARVIN | The Journal Gazette

Ed and Cynthia Powers are a birdwatching dream team. The married couple, 82 and 81 respectively, believe preserving habitat is crucial to the health of a city's environment and overall climate. Their profile follows:

Daytime occupation: Ed is retired from a small engineering consulting firm, Harden Industries in Fort Wayne, which no longer exists, and Cynthia is retired from a Lutheran Hospital laboratory.

City of birth: Ed hails from Portland and Cynthia from Waterville, Maine

Current hometown: They live in rural Allen County

Family: A son, Dan, a musician and composer, living in Terre Haute, and a daughter, Marian, a zookeeper at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. Marian has twins Forest and Marina.

Volunteer position/organization:

Ed: Maintain bird list at Eagle Marsh, other volunteer activities for Little River Wetlands Project; board member and membership chair for Fox Island Alliance; membership chair, field trip planning chair for Stockbridge Audubon Society; co-teach the bird class for Indiana Master Naturalists with Cynthia

Cynthia: Current president of Stockbridge Audubon society; started in 2015 the Southwest Allen Christmas Bird Count, which includes Eagle Marsh.

Time volunteering with the organization:

Ed: Little River Wetlands Project, 2006 to present; Fox Island Alliance, mid-1970s to present; Stockbridge, 1972 to present; Indiana Master Naturalists, 2010 to present

Cynthia: Fox Island trail guiding from probably the 1970s. We have been doing Project FeederWatch from Fox Island as well as home.

Why did you first get involved with the organization?

Ed: With each organization, I became involved because of my concern for the environment. With Little River Wetlands Project, I was excited by the prospect of a considerable wetland, Eagle Marsh, right on the edge of a city.

Do you have a favorite memory from volunteering?

Ed: We have set up our spotting scope at several festivals (Monarch, Earth Day, etc.) and trained it on an eagle nest or a great egret. It's gratifying to see children, as well as adults, see something they never noticed before and maybe gain some appreciation for nature.

What is the biggest personal benefit you receive from volunteering?

Ed: It keeps me in touch with people who share my values about the environment.

What has surprised you the most about volunteering with the organization?

Ed: The extent to which people devote time and money to the preservation of Little River Wetland Project properties.

Cynthia: It's so amazing that as recently as 2005, Eagle Marsh was still trying to be a cornfield.

What do you find most challenging?

Ed: Keeping track of bird sightings at Eagle Marsh; managing membership matters for two organizations.

Cynthia: Trying to interest more people in birds. I think what the world needs is more birdwatchers. After all, if they don't even know what a cardinal is, how are they going to vote to preserve habitat?

What is your strongest belief/personal philosophy about the cause?

Ed: I am very concerned about climate change. One thing I can do to combat it is to involve myself in environmental issues.

What is the best advice you would give someone interested in volunteering or working for your cause?

Ed: Throw yourself into it. Even with the coronavirus pandemic and economic woes, the environment is the most important long-term issue of our time.

What are your hopes for and how do you see the organization/cause changing in the next five years?

Ed: I think Little River Wetlands Project is in good hands. I hope it will continue to expand programs and acquire more properties to protect.

What are your hobbies/something people might not know about you outside of your volunteering?

Ed: I enjoy woodworking and we both have been fortunate to travel to all 50 states and the 10 provinces of Canada.

Cynthia: Ed has 74 bird T-shirts and I am not far behind.

Nominated by: Maraiah Russell, preserves and programs steward for Little River Wetlands Project

Reason for nomination: “Cynthia and Ed Powers have shared their passion for birdwatching with our community from the very beginning of our Eagle Marsh preserve 15 years ago. They introduce guests at our annual Earth Day Fort Wayne festival to the wonder of seeing a bald eagle or blue heron nest up close with their spotting scope, lead bird-watching hikes, keep a species list of birds seen here (now up to 248), and much more. They are dedicated advocates for the protection of natural areas, and vital members of our volunteer family at Little River Wetlands Project.”

Organizations that wish to highlight an individual for the Volunteer Spotlight feature can contact Jessica Garvin at 260-461-8364 or email

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