About

Members of the Friends Board

PRESIDENT AND COMMUNITY COORDINATOR
Joan Van Gorp

Friends of Neal Smith | Joan Van GorpJoan Van Gorp grew up on a farm a couple of miles from the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. She graduated from Prairie City High School and currently lives in Prairie City.  She has worked for various insurance and mortgage companies in Des Moines as a senior underwriter and supervisor and is currently a mortgage analyst for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.  Joan’s hobbies include gardening, photography, reading, DIY projects, and volunteering at church, in the community, and at the refuge.  Her initial involvement with Neal Smith NWR was as a volunteer fulfilling her Master Gardener community service hour requirements, but has expanded her involvement and has made many friends among the other volunteers and refuge staff.  Joan joined the Friends Board in 2007 and is President and Community Coordinator.  Joan’s goals as president include increasing the presence and visibility of the Friends and increasing the public’s awareness and involvement and not just the local community, but extend to the metro Des Moines area and across the state.

SECRETARY AND GOVERNMENTAL LIAISON
Sharon Tinker

Friends of Neal Smith | Sharon TinkerSharon Tinker  grew up on a farm north of Manchester in Delaware County in northeast Iowa.  She received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Iowa and worked for Exxon Mobil for 35 years.  She moved from Houston, Texas to Ankeny when she retired in 2015 to get back to four seasons and rural America.  She enjoys reading and volunteering.  Sharon joined the Friends Board in July 2016 and is currently the secretary and government liaison.  She planted 39 acres of pollinator habitat on her farm in northeast Iowa in 2015.

TREASURER
Stan Kuhn

Friends of Neal Smith | Stan KuhnStan Kuhn was born on a farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa and was in the U.S. Air Force for six years.  He received a B.A. in Business Education from the University of Northern Iowa and an MBA from Drake University.  Stan is a Certified Public Accountant and worked for the State of Iowa in various jobs for 37 years.  He was also a consultant and adjunct business professor at Upper Iowa University and Des Moines Area Community College for 17 years.  Stan’s proudest professional accomplishment is the Department of Natural Resources Land Acquisition & Management Bureau’s purchase of ~ 4000 acres of conservation lands each year from 1982 to 1999 from willing sellers at appraisal prices while he was with the DNR.  His hobbies include playing bridge, biking, and woodworking.  Stan joined the Friends Board in 2006 and is currently Treasurer.  Stan says, “Conservation of natural areas is very important!”

MEMBERSHIP
Stacy Nelson

Friends of Neal Smith | Stacy NelsonStacy Nelson grew up in Riverside, California and currently lives in Prairie City.  She is the Donor Services Manager at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and her hobbies include gardening and grandkids.  Stacy joined the Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Board in 2013.  She is currently the Membership Coordinator and has been secretary.  Stacy’s thoughts on Neal Smith NWR: “I’ve been watching the refuge grow and change for more than 25 years – 17 of which have been spent living just outside the borders.  NSNWR and all of Iowa’s wild parks and preserves provide a valuable space where humans can disconnect from the hectic swirls of day to day life and stop, breathe, wander and, ultimately, reconnect & find appreciation for the natural world.”

GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
Jim Johnson

Friends of Neal Smith | Jim JohnsonJim Johnson is originally from Madison, Wisconsin.  He received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from Iowa State University, an M.S. in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Public Health both from Michigan State University.  He has held positions in research and teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Old Dominion University, Des Moines University, and Drake University and has worked as a scientist at BioForce Nanosciences and Aspera Corp. in Ames.  He currently lives in Urbandale and enjoys fishing, hunting, birdwatching, and grandkids.  He has volunteered at Neal Smith NWR for many years and joined the Friends Board in 2016 as Grant writer.  Jim’s goal is a strong refuge with strong ties to the community.  He elaborates “Education of children and adults in environmental education and appreciation of all areas of biology associated with the land and its plant and animals is essential and needed to perpetuate our Refuge system.  The NSNWR does a wonderful job of this and with adequate volunteer and monetary support more can be done.”

NATURE STORE LIAISON
Daryl Howell

Friends of Neal Smith | Daryl HowellDaryl Howell grew up on a dairy farm south of Clarion in north central Iowa.  He received a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University.  He was a Peace Corp volunteer in Iran and a wildlife management advisor to the government of Iran after completing his Peace Corp service.  He worked as an environmental consultant in the Rocky Mountain region after returning to the U.S. and returned to Iowa in 1985 to take a job with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  His work with the DNR included endangered species, state preserves, and the Iowa natural areas inventory until his retirement in 2014.  He enjoys birding, reading, and volunteering for several natural resource organizations.  Daryl lives with his wife Gaye and their cat Jenny in Indianola.  Daryl joined the Friends Board in 2016 and is currently the Nature Store Liaison and is working with refuge staff to conduct biological surveys at the refuge.  He worked with other biologists to conduct baseline surveys for bat species during establishment of the original Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
Jonathan Yentis

Friends of Neal Smith | Jonathan YentisJonathan Yentis grew up in Arlington, Virginia and attended Delaware Valley College, where he received a B.S. in Agronomy in 1963.  He began working in the spice industry doing product development and quality inspection.  In 1989 Jonathan was working in Des Moines and volunteering at the Neal Smith NWR.  He helped with research and seed cleaning.  Jonathan served on the Friends Board for more than ten years as the membership coordinator.  He has rejoined the Friends Board and is working with biology and education.  Jonathan now lives in Clive.

REFUGE STAFF LIAISON
Scott Gilje

ADVISORY BOARD
Tom Prall-Past President
Mark Lyle-Past President
Sydney Algreen
Jane Kuhn

PUBLIC RELATIONS
Open

SOCIAL MEDIA/TECHNOLOGY
Open

VOLUNTEER COORDINATION
Open

 

P.O. Box 399
9981 Pacific St.
Prairie City, IA 50228
515-994-3400
Get Directions
The refuge roads and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

The Prairie Learning and Visitor Center is open year-round.
Regular Hours:
Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm and Sunday 12-5pm

Winter hours:
December 1-February 28
Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm; closed Sunday.

We are open on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day; we are closed on all other Federal holidays.