MN Volunteer Spotlight Archive


Andrew Onken - Northeast Region

Andrew grew up in Inver Grove Heights and started hunting early on at the age of 12. Fall hunting trips with his dad to Nobles County fueled Andrew’s love of the outdoors and conservation. Nearly every trip was spent hunting public land which have since become DU projects (Bloom WPA). Throughout high school, Andrew spent many a weekend laying out in the duck blind in the Mississippi River backwaters near the Hastings, MN area chasing mallards and bluebills. Throughout his youth, Andrew became an active hunter ultimately driving him to become the conservationist he is today by joining DU as a volunteer in 2009.

While hunting the Duck Factory, attending the University of North Dakota, and pursuing his Master’s Degree in Engineering, Andrew helped to start up the UND Chapter of DU. Andrew chaired the committee for 2 years and upon graduating moved back to Inver Grove Heights where he continued to support DU by restarting the South Metro Chapter and becoming a Zone Chairman. He has since moved to Duluth, MN where Andrew has continued to provide leadership and support to his Alma Mater University of Minnesota Duluth Chapter. Additionally, Andrew has aided in the revival of the St. Louis Bay and Cloquet events as well as created several second events and a DU presence within the Northland.


Andrew continues to work with several chapters within the Northeast Region as well as collaborate with volunteers and staff throughout the state. Since his days as a college chapter chair, he has since been promoted within DU to Zone Chair and now currently holds Regional Vice Chair in the Northeast. He is continually working to grow DU and seek new innovative ways to engage communities and promote conservation and DU’s mission.


Tom Cole - Southeast Region

Tom Cole has been a DU volunteer for over 14 years with the Steele County DU chapter. Not only is a Tom a key part of the Steele County chapters success (Steele County received the national silver award this year), but Tom is willing to travel and do anything it takes to make other DU events in Minnesota successful. Tom’s peers say whenever they ask Tom to do something it always gets done and done on time. He is easy to talk to and helpful and has a great positive attitude. Its people like Tom that make DU’s fundraising efforts so successful. In 2015, Tom became a Zone Chairman for the southern region working with other chapter volunteers and his Regional Director on additional events. In his role as zone chair, he helped restart the Owatonna Sponsor event. Tom also realizes the importance that DU life sponsors have to delivering our conservation mission in Minnesota and on the breeding grounds and this is a big reason why he became a life sponsor of Ducks Unlimited.

You will rarely find Tom at DU events without his better half Sandy who is also a big asset for Ducks Unlimited fundraising events. Tom is the project manager at a family run business in Owatonna: Coles Electric Inc. Tom spends his spare time hunting deer, waterfowl and upland and enjoys the preparation that each brings throughout the year. When you see Tom and Sandy at the next DU event, be sure to thank them for all they do for the ducks!






Mark Jenzen - South Region

Mark Jenzen lives in Minnesota Lake, in southern Minnesota. He was a science teacher in the Minnesota Lake and Maple River schools district for his entire career, starting in 1975. Shortly after finding good hunting in the area and making new hunting friends, then RD, Bill Allen, contacted several of the group about starting a DU chapter there. “Our first meetings were in a buddy’s basement and we held our first event in 1980, being very happy we had 70 attendees,” Mark says. They selected Lost Marsh as the chapter name as there was an ongoing legal battle about the draining of a marsh in the area, which has become a MN WMA now. “To date this a bit, we actually bought and moved round bales onto the ice of area wetlands to provide Canada geese nesting spots. Times change.”

Mark served on the committee as a chair, secretary, now co-treasurer and all the jobs a small chapter requires, and says that he enjoys the changing challenges each year brings. They have been sold out as an event for many of the last years, growing to 250, and just held their 35th annual event. “I have had the great joy of helping many of the RDs doing whatever I could. District chairs, zone help, giving young regional science fair participants DU recognition, building hundreds of wood duck houses with area youth, teaching Minnesota Firearms Safety for 20+ years, trying to pass on all the joy waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited has given my family and myself,” Mark says. “Recently I met several great young Gustavus Adolphus College students at the state event and was lucky to have made new friends and helped them by mc’ing their events. It was wonderful fun.”

“The joy and wonder of waterfowl have enriched my life beyond words, but who to better care for them than Ducks Unlimited? With my friends and now my family involved and greatly enjoying the total DU mission, I can only hope many more sportsmen and women join the fight to save our beloved sport.


Ruth Hoefs - Southeast Region

"I farm," DU volunteer and Heritage Sponsor Ruth Hoefs states proudly.  "I own 350 acres and farm with two others; together we plant 1,200 acres. We have a mix of crops – corn, soybeans, peas, wheat and hay – in an area south of the Twin Cities. We have a mixed herd of beef cattle, brood cows and even some sheep."

Ruth enjoys wildlife almost as much as farming. Her farm is near the Minnesota River, which is a significant migration corridor for waterfowl. "There is a time and place for cropland and a time and place for potholes," she says. "Too many potholes are being lost. There is a natural balance and when we change it too much there will be less for the future."

Fifteen years ago, Ruth was invited to a DU banquet by a friend. "They were looking for people to volunteer, so I did," Ruth says. "I've enjoyed making many, many friends. I serve as a regional vice-chair in southwest Minnesota, and I'm very proud to be a volunteer."

Ruth is pleased to see others support waterfowl conservation as well.

"There is a family close by that did a DU restoration project on their property," she says. "It is fun to see the projects which are used by all sorts of animals. Fifty years from now I'd like to see more wetlands restored to their natural condition. Many help combat climate change naturally. They were meant to be here, so we need to conserve and restore them."


Todd Berghuis - North Region

Todd was born in Prinsburg, MN and started duck hunting when his family moved to Alexandria. He grew up duck hunting around there, on many different water bodies between Alex and Fergus Falls. “It was a great area to grow up in as a duck hunter, as there was lots of habitat and the birds, at least to me, seemed unending. I was able to get a morning hunt in before I was off to school and was known for coming to school in camo and facepaint.” Todd was also able to hunt the famous Delta Marsh in Manitoba at a lodge his father partially owned. “The sheer number of birds, meeting people who loved ducks like the great Jimmy Robinson, and being treated as one of the “men” cemented my love for waterfowl and the places they live. I had many great experiences there including leaving our boat and walking into the landing at the Delta due to a storm with high winds and waves, watching what I consider to be one of the most beautiful ducks, late season canvasbacks, work the decoys and bagging a silver bull can, and seeing “tornadoes of geese” settling into the famous marsh with my Dad all played a part in the love I have for this sport.”

It’s easy to see that these experiences fueled Todd’s passion for preserving and expanding wetlands and waterfowl habitat. Along with being a Ducks Unlimited member since his teens, Todd became a DU volunteer 8 years ago. “The experience I have had as a DU volunteer has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding I have had. I have meet great people, heard great stories, and I see the results from the dollars DU raises. I once had a Pheasants Forever chapter chair tell me that DU does as much for pheasants as PF does. This is really saying something for the impact the funds we raise has on all wildlife. It’s extremely important to me to continue DU’s efforts and have more success stories as I have a son who loves this sport as much as I do”. Todd has been the chair of the Paul Bunyan chapter for the last 4 years. At the time he took this role, the chapter had lost its chair and was experiencing a significant downturn in attendance. Over the years he has been the chair, the chapter has seen resurgence in their growth, so much so that they have been a top 25 chapter for the last two years and will likely be there again this year. Their annual banquet now attracts over 300 attendees and has been sold out for the last two years. It has become one of Brainerd’s must attend events.

Todd currently lives near Brainerd with his wife Candy and their just retired black lab, Molly. They have two children, both of whom help out with the Brainerd dinner banquet.


Greg and Paul Erickson, Garrison Chapter

Greg Erickson first got involved with DU in 1985 when he went to the Garrison DU banquet. At the time it was called Spirit Island Chapter. Erickson has been to every Garrison Banquet since, except two that he missed for hunting trips.

Greg, his brother Paul, their wives Michelle and Therese, and a few other dedicated volunteers took over the Garrison committee 10 years ago. Garrison went from having one membership event to having three events including the membership dinner, sponsor dinner and one of the first DU ice-fishing contests ever held. The Garrison Chapter is currently the top fund-raising chapter in the state, and one of the top 100 in the nation. In 2007, this chapter was in the top 33 in the nation. That is an amazing accomplishment considering Garrison, Minn., is a town of 235 people!


Doug Cardwell, Southwest MN

Doug Cardwell got involved with DU many years ago because he wanted to fill the skies and make sure the future hunters, such as his own kids, can enjoy waterfowl hunting like he has. He has served as a Greenwing chair, Area Chair, and currently serves as a Zone Chair for southwest Minnesota. Doug helps our environment as much as he can by being involved in several different organizations working to help our environment. "I will tell you DU is one of the best organizations I have ever dealt with. If you have the passion like I do, join your local chapter today. It's a great feeling to fill the skies with ducks. Like the old saying goes, fill the hall fill the skies. Plus, by joining DU you meet new people all the time."


Greg Dzieweczynski, Metro Area District Chair

"Greg Dzieweczynski, also known as "Greg D," "Ski" and "Greg Alphabet," has been privileged to be part of a rich outdoors, hunting, fishing and conservation heritage. His first duck hunt, at the age of 11, was with his father. "The pure enjoyment and the awe of seeing birds in flight was amazing," said Dzieweczynski. This level of appreciation and passion is even stronger today. "Ski" has been an active member and volunteer in DU for 20+ years. He has served as a committee member, area chair, zone chair and district chair. The personal reward he receives from his involvement in the organization is the great people, a family of folks he has been fortunate enough to call friends. His most gratifying accomplishments as a member of the DU team have been: creating the waterfowling tradition with his brother for his sons; being a team member on a number of chapters that were successful in achieving their "Top Flight" status; and obtaining a donation of land valued by the DNR at over $450,000 that was enrolled in a conservation easement. "We need to ensure a legacy of wetland and waterfowl for future generations. We accomplish this conservation goal through our commitment of time and resources in preserving and protecting this heritage. No organization is in a better position or works harder than DU to preserve the habitat for the ducks and the sport for all of us."


Steve Schreiner, Southeast MN

Steve Schreiner got started with DU in about 1998 when some friends asked him to come out and help. He was instantly hooked. Schreiner appreciates and agrees with the things DU stands for, including promoting conservation and maintaining habitats. He has been a committee member for his local chapter for all 10 years, has co-chaired at least six sponsor banquets and has served as treasurer for the past four years. Schreiner enjoys being involved with DU and encourages others to join so they can feel the same sense of pride regarding wildlife and their natural environment.


Curt Schuft, Central Minnesota Zone Chair

Curt Schuft first got involved with DU in his twenties. Schuft described himself as "a typical off-again-on-again member who occasionally attended a local banquet." One day a friend contacted him about joining the local DU committee with him. Schuft was a little skeptical as he thought this was something of a closed group that one must be invited to join. He agreed to go to the meeting six years ago and has been a member ever since. Schuft and his family have a long history of hunting waterfowl. Schuft is currently the zone chairman in the central region of Minnesota, operating under the guidance of Regional Director Terry Kostinec. He has held the zone chair position for the last two years and has thoroughly enjoyed working with the Hutchinson, Glencoe and Atwater chapters.

"Meeting new people and aiding them in running successful events of their own has been very rewarding. As any DU committee member knows, recruiting new members - especially committee members - is the sustaining function of our organization. Recruiting can be a daunting task, but, as members of DU, we must remember our goals. Encouraging others to join us is extremely important. Our organization is one that is open to others who share our commitment to waterfowl and their habitat. Joining is not some secret or just for the chosen few."

Schuft encourages anyone interested in joining to call or email and find out about where you might spend some time with new friends making a difference in today's environment. "Joining a committee requires only a small commitment of your time, but may be one of the most fun and fulfilling things you do. I know, because that is how it happened for me. My time spent working on behalf of the ducks is anything but work. It means joining my peers in giving something back to the outdoors and continuing a tradition for others, which I so dearly enjoy. Thanks to all of you who have chosen to do the same."


Tony Paul, Perham Chapter

It was about 12 years ago that Tony Paul's dad got tickets for the Perham banquet for Tony and his wife. They have been going to the event ever since. Paul's father is a chairman and district chairman for the Leavenworth and Atchison chapters in Kansas. So it was in Tony's genes to get involved with Ducks Unlimited. Paul got involved with the banquet committee about four years ago and became a co-chairman of the Perham Chapter last year. Currently, he is the treasurer/co-chairman of the Perham Chapter. Being involved with DU has been very rewarding. Earlier this summer, he was invited out to central North Dakota for a weekend to help look for nests. It was a blast (see photo). "Ducks Unlimited is much more than just ducks! Wetlands benefit all kinds of plants and wildlife, and with being out in North Dakota and seeing all the native prairies, you realize how many different species of plants and animals are involved with restoration projects. Being involved with DU is a fun experience and I would encourage anyone that is interested to call and get involved."


Terry Ethen, Northeast MN

Terry Ethen has been an active DU volunteer for 30 years. He has served as the treasurer for his local chapter since 1978; sponsor dinner chairman since 1983; zone chairman since the mid 80's and currently serves as a district chair. Terry enjoys the opportunity DU has given him to meet and know some very interesting people both from the local chapters with which he is personally involved up to the state level volunteers. "The people you meet don't have to be hunters but they all share a deep appreciation for the outdoors and what it means to us. Your involvement can be as much work as you want to make it. You will get more enjoyment and satisfaction from volunteering than what you put in. You don't have to be a hunter to be involved with DU, all you have to do is want the world to be a little better than the way you found it."


Joe Schlagel, Southwest Minnesota District Chair

Coming from a family of avid hunters I originally became interested in Ducks Unlimited about 8 years ago because of its mission to help protect the wetlands which in turn could ensure that I could continue to hunt for years to come.  Since that time I have served as a committee member, area chairman, zone chairman, and am currently the southwest area district chairman.  I have also been active with the State Convention committee for four years currently serving as the state convention prize chairman as well as the state convention chair elect.   In addition to my volunteer positions, my wife and I are also members of the Feather Society.  Since getting involved with Ducks Unlimited I have met a lot of new people and made friends that will last a lifetime.  I strongly encourage anyone to get involved with Ducks Unlimited.  It is a lot of fun for everyone, not just duck hunters.  You are out for a cause to help save all types of hunting, not just waterfowl.


Jeff Olson, Wantonwan County Minnesota Area Chair

I’ve enjoyed waterfowl hunting since I was in high school and been a member of DU since 2001. My friends and I would go out every weekend during the hunting season. In 2006 I received a post card stating DU was interested in re-starting a chapter in Watonwan County. I went to the meeting and started the planning process. We didn't have much time but set a goal to top flight our first year. We achieved our goal and had 100 people in attendance. We were off to a great start. I immediately started planning for the next banquet. In 2007 we increased our membership, dollars raised, and came very close to top flight again. For 2008 we are having a  Waterfowler Hunters' Party in January and have some great things planned for our banquet in August. I've been the Area Chairman for Watonwan County since 2006. I would tell people that it doesn't involve that much time and effort to volunteer for DU. I moved away from the Watonwan County area and currently live about an hour away. I could be a part of my local chapter, but I feel an obligation to the members that come to the events in Watonwan County. I enjoy seeing the people at the events and talking to them, getting to know the new people, and seeing the joy on their faces when they win prizes. We've tried to make our events family-friendly and encourage people to bring their spouse and kids along. I love to see the Greenwings at the events. Each year we've increased our Greenwing membership which is a great accomplishment. Without our youth our hunting traditions will cease.  My wife serves as a committee member with me and is a Hunt and Home advisor.  While I am thrilled to be receiving this recognition, I know that nothing gets done without the support and cooperation of all the other volunteers.


Matt King, Hermantown Arrowhead Area Chair

I first became involved with Ducks Unlimited at a recruitment meeting that Regional Director Dick Birch held in January of 07. At this meeting I volunteered to be the chairman of a new Hermantown Arrowhead chapter. I volunteered to become a Ducks Unlimited Volunteer was because I'm an avid hunter and many of the wetlands in our nation are being bought and developed into something other than wetlands.  We held our first banquet in September 07, where we were able to draw a crowd of over 200 people to help raise money towards wetlands for the Ducks. I would encourage people to get involved with Ducks Unlimited to help save the habitat for wildlife. Along with saving habitat you may also make some new friendships as I know I have.


Nate Bergeland, Eden Prairie Area Chair

I've been a sponsor or a member of DU since 1992.  From an early age, each one of my children has become a Greenwing Legacy member.  In 2007, I became the Chairmen of the Eden Prairie Ducks Unlimited Chapter.  I have worked with DU to identify ways to preserve our farm habitat and the water quality of our shallow lake in western MN.  In 2008, I became a Gold Sponsor.

The Eden Prairie chapter has a great legacy since 1983 with Ducks Unlimited.  Unfortunately, the chapter was starting to show either a lack of leadership or committee enthusiasm to the extent that there almost wasn't a banquet in 2006.  When they asked for a volunteer to run the committee, I felt it was my calling to accept a position in an area where I was deeply passionate.  

Ducks are a wonderful by-product of all the work that DU exhibits.  Preserving our critical habitat has an incredible impact on all wildlife from the invertebrates to waterfowl to large mammals.  I have always had a passion for the outdoors, witnessing the complexity of nature, and enjoying God's living creatures.  Ducks Unlimited provides the opportunity for me to "give forward" by providing my resources and talents so that future generations can enjoy the sanctity of the wild or the teetering bluebill missiles decoying into a windswept pattern.

Fortunately, we have a great DU committee in the Eden Prairie Chapter.  We have two rules: 1) Have fun! and 2) Do what you can.  Without our great team, we certainly wouldn't have had the great success we had at our 2007 banquet.

I would encourage those of you who are members, become involved with DU!  Every committee can use additional help in some capacity.  Volunteer with your time and your pocketbook.  Consider a land gift or approaching your company about matching donations.  If you work for the local, state or federal government, become a champion for DU within that organization.  Buy a Greenwing Legacy membership for your child or grandchild.  Many DU members could easily become Sponsors and many Sponsors could easily become Gold sponsors. So, set it up, challenge yourself, volunteer.


Dale Lusti, Minnesota State Convention Chair

I attended my first DU event in Buffalo, during the spring of 1990 as a result of my neighbor asking me if I would like to attend.  Previously I had not volunteered because I thought that I had no skills to offer, such as working in the marsh, restoring habitat, etc. I volunteered because I finally realized that the local chapter is a fund raising arm for DU and that I do not need to be directly involved in the physical restoration work.

I have served as the treasurer and area chair of my local chapter, zone chair, district chair and I am in my 2nd year as the MN DU Convention Chair.  I provided assistance with the Treasurer function to 4 other chapters and have started two new chapters; each of which has earned "Top Flight" status.

Although I am not a hard-core water-fowler, I have been excited by the vision of wildlife in the air (particularly ducks and geese) since I was a little kid on the farm.  My senses still get piqued to the faintest quack or honk in the air.

Since my involvement with DU, I have visited waters that have not been restored, and have noticed their dirt and lack of organisms in the water that wildlife like to feed upon, and can see why there are no waterfowl on those waters.  I have also visited waters that DU restored and noticed the cleaner food producing waters that do hold waterfowl.  I have also witnessed the great successes of nesting waterfowl in the North Dakota Prairie, where upwards of 100 nesting pairs of ducks per acre reside in the spring.  DU does the physical work based upon scientific methods, with dollars that we supply.

To an effective DU volunteer you simply need to have the desire to want to make a difference for the ducks, clean water, and future generations.  No matter your skill level or amount of time available, you can (and will) make a difference volunteering with your local committee.  I did, still do, and couldn't be happier with my DU involvement.

As a result of my involvement with DU, my wife (Julie) and daughter (Liz) are both actively involved with DU both on the local and state level.  My son (Rich) and his family are all active on the Greenwing level.