News Stories

Mother-Daughter Duo Win USACE National Volunteer Award

USACE, Mobile District
Published Feb. 9, 2022
Mother-Daughter Duo Win USACE National Volunteer Award

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District Commander Col. Jeremy Chapman shakes hands with 90 year old Wynona Brakeman while her daughter Brenda Grano looks on at the Volunteer Village Warehouse at Allatoona Lake, Ga., on July 20, 2022. Brakeman and Grano recently received the 2021 USACE National Volunteer Award for the recycling program they built at Allatoona Lake. (USACE photo by Chuck Walker)

MOBILE, Ala. – Brenda Grano and her mother Wynona (Nony) Brakeman, who is 90 years old, prove that you are never too old to do something to help your community.

Volunteers at Allatoona Lake, Ga., since 2016, Grano and Brakeman were selected as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recipients of the 2021 National Volunteer Award.

The award, which is co-sponsored by the Corps Foundation, is in recognition of the extraordinary service provided by volunteers. The award distinguishes individuals, couples and families who give their skills, talents, and time beyond the normal call of duty and whose service to USACE has resulted in the significant enhancement of, to one or more of the USACE business lines.

“My first thoughts were about others who had worked to help create the program,” Grano said of receiving the award. “Totally surprised and excited to know that USACE has placed such an importance and emphasis on this program.”

Grano and Brakeman have built a recycling program that is second to none. Since Grano took lead of the program in 2016, it has flourished from a few bins in a handful of areas to 43 bins in 20 areas around the lake. They also started recycling efforts at the Allatoona Operations Project Management Office, the Allatoona Powerhouse and a recycle dumpster and trailer at two busy campgrounds.

In the time that they have been in charge they have recycled 2,009 pounds of plastic, 459 pounds of aluminum and 2,170 pounds of cardboard and paper.

Chris Purvis, Lead Ranger at Allatoona Lake, said he admires the dedication and passion of Grano and Brakeman.

“I’m extremely proud of our volunteer program and the work they accomplish,” Purvis said. “I cannot say enough about the work ethic of both Nony and Brenda and the recycling program that they have built. It is not often that you find volunteers with such passion for a program, they truly are making a difference.”

Grano and Brakeman were selected for the award because of their dedicated service to the natural resource, recreation, and environmental stewardship programs at Allatoona Lake. They have donated over 4,800 hours of volunteer service over a four-year period.

They have served a variety of roles as volunteers, but the recycling program they have built is what stands out.

Grano said she hopes her, and her mom’s program can be a model for other parks.

“This is a great opportunity to make an important contribution to the environment by helping to maintain the cleanliness of the park and supporting the wildlife,” Grano said. “We hope what has been accomplished here can be a model for other projects around the nation to build their own recycling programs.”

Their efforts in growing the recycling program have led to new partnerships, volunteer programs, and has garnered praise from the visiting public.

Grano says she is glad she and her mom can be a positive influence on the younger generation.

“My six-year-old grandson is involved in a recycling program now at school and my mother is 90 years old,” Grano said. “It just goes to show, you are never too young or old to start a recycling program.”