Nebraska Major Sponsors Tom and Lisa Smith enjoy discussing conservation, spending time outdoors, and sharing quality wine with friends around the country. For Tom and Lisa, Ducks Unlimited is a natural fit to combine all three of their passions. As Diamond Heritage Sponsors supporting DU’s mission, they have an interest in getting more people educated, excited, and engaged in the organization’s sustainable approach to conservation.
They enjoy celebrating the diversity of our outdoor heritage, from hunting the Platte River in their home state to fishing for trout in Montana. They also love sipping California wines. “People all across this country enjoy sharing a glass of great wine and reminiscing about life’s adventures and the day’s experiences,” Tom says. “There is something about being in the outdoors, a full-bodied wine, and a campfire that brings people together.”
In 2019, Tom and Lisa volunteered to host an Evening of Conservation event at their home. Working with Terry Kostinec, DU’s director of development for Nebraska, they hosted 25 of their friends. Some were already involved as DU supporters, and all were concerned about the environment. Tom and Lisa provided food as well as wine from their favorite California vineyards. DU Manager of Conservation Programs John Denton and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Deputy Director Tim McCoy provided an overview of multiple topics affecting the prairie landscape.
“I was impressed with the questions and interaction that came from the ladies in the room,” Lisa says. “Conservation is not a topic we often talk about when gathered with friends. The Evening of Conservation event provided the right setting for all of us to engage and discuss topics that will be impacting future generations.”
With the country experiencing life-altering changes from the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for a subsequent Evening of Conservation were temporarily delayed—that is, until Terry proposed a virtual wine-tasting event. Tom and Lisa contacted their friends in California and soon developed a list of wineries eager to work with DU to conduct virtual events.
Two virtual wine-tasting events were scheduled with the Chappellet and Alpha Omega wineries. Prior to each event, wines were shipped to the homes of DU supporters, many of whom invited friends to join them. The owners of each winery discussed the histories of their vineyards while guests were enjoying the wines, and DU staff provided conservation updates. Seventy people from six states participated in the virtual events.
“I knew my wife enjoyed the outdoors, but it wasn’t until we helped host these events that I understood how informed and concerned she is about issues facing our landscapes,” Tom says. “We enjoyed the opportunity to engage our friends and like-minded people to explore the issues and discover how to engage in wetlands conservation.”