Tribute to Long-Time Landings Volunteer Caryl Warner
Not all real-life superheroes wear capes, but they almost always have huge hearts and a passion for helping others. This is definitely the case with long-time Landings resident and volunteer Caryl Warner.
If you don’t know Warner personally, chances are you have benefited from one or more of his volunteer efforts while living in The Landings. Warner is perhaps best known for his work with the Bottle Brigade (a group dedicated to keeping the island beautiful by picking up trash); Neighbors Helping Neighbors; Skidaway Audubon; a member of Coastal Conservation Association Skidaway Chapter (CCA); a Main Gate Volunteer; and a Block Captain to help with Landings Association votes.
Recognized in 2009 as The Landings Association’s Volunteer of the Year, Warner shared at that time that it is a great feeling to help others as often as possible.
“When my wife, Carol, and I moved here on a full-time basis in 2002, I looked around and saw lots of capable, talented people, and I remember saying to myself, ‘What can I do to make this a better place?’”
After that brief conversation with himself, Warner wasted no time getting involved. He immediately joined Neighbors Helping Neighbors, formerly known as Resident Resources, and the rest is history. One affiliation led to another, until several meetings a week became the norm for Warner.
“Some guys call me St. Caryl,” Warner laughed. “I’m not trying to be a good guy; I just like this kind of thing. It is good to see improvement and to be a part of that improvement.”
Regardless of why Warner decided to embark on such a huge volunteer lifestyle, those who have worked alongside him certainly are glad that he did. Chair of Neighbors Helping Neighbors Lynn Gensamer said Warner is a detailed person who has high standards, and these skills have greatly benefited Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
“Caryl has been here a long time, and he loves the Landings community,” she said. “He’s seen it through a lot, and he loves it. He is a model for anyone who wants to know what it takes to be a volunteer. All you have to do is look at his life and see what he has done here in many different ways. You don’t have to have just one cause that you are devoted to. If you care about people and you have specific skills, you put those together. You find time, and you just care about people; and he does.”
Don McCulloch, a former co-chair of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, agrees with Gensamer that Warner is a shining example of someone who cares and is willing to go above and beyond to serve others.
“When Caryl and I were co-chairs of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, we often disagreed,” McCulloch said. “He was more aggressive, wanting to satisfy every call for help. I was more cautious, worried about setting precedents that we could not satisfy for all callers. But we always managed to compromise and agreed that together we made a great team. In the process, we became good friends.”
There is no denying that people are important to Warner. However, he also loves the environment, which drew him to Skidaway Audubon and the Bottle Brigade. Those who worked with him said there was never a task too small for Warner. He was just as happy picking up trash from the streets and cart paths as he was giving a formal presentation.
“Caryl and his wife, Carol, have been the backbone of the Bottle Brigade for more than 15 years,” said Skidaway Audubon President Dawn Cordo. “By preventing litter from washing into our waters, they have made our environment safer and healthier for aquatic life and have enriched all of our lives with a more beautiful, well-cared-for community. Their service to our organization and our community has been absolutely exemplary.”
Lisa Olson, who worked alongside Warner on The Landings Association’s R-3 Committee (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), agrees with Cardo that Warner’s service to the community is exemplary.
“I first met Caryl Warner when I was on the R-3 Committee,” Olson said. “He was always an active contributor on that committee, and I gradually began to realize what history and knowledge he has of this community. Being relatively new myself at that point, I valued that. I love his smile when he is teasing, or somebody says something funny…his eyes get all crinkly.”
Olson added that not only did Warner provide great contributions at the R-3 meetings, but when the committee decided to try staffing the Recycling Center on McWhorter Drive (to keep contaminates out of the big bins), he regularly did his shifts, even when the heat and sun were pretty close to unbearable.
“When the decision was made to close the Center, the group convened there on the last day to toast each other with snacks and beverages,” she said. “There was a plate of chilled shrimp, and I remember Caryl saying, ‘I shouldn’t have these, but I will’, as he reached for one. It made us all laugh. I didn’t know until recently that he was a founder of the Bottle Brigade, which has grown to include many volunteers and makes such a difference in keeping this island so beautiful. I find that kind of ongoing dedication (even in light of repeatable tasks and having to sometimes deal with others being inconsiderate) very remarkable and commendable.”
Landings Association General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Shari Haldeman said there are not enough words to thank Warner for all he has done for The Landings. She fondly recalls many meetings with him where he shared ideas and suggestions for improving specific focus areas within the community, from reducing littering to increasing the reach of Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
“Caryl is the epitome of dedication and living a life of service,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have had the benefit of his wisdom and keen insight over the years, which has helped us to strengthen certain areas of the community and completely overhaul and rebuild for the better other areas. Although he is cutting back on some of his tasks as he looks toward a second retirement, I know that he will continue being there for this community that he loves and that genuinely loves him back.”