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Robert Krafft Named TBNMS’ Volunteer of the Year

For a nonprofit organization like the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, volunteer work is crucial to their operations.

They held a celebration of their volunteers on Tuesday, and Robert Krafft, who has volunteered with the Sanctuary for nearly 20 years, was named the 2023 Volunteer of the Year.

“This is such an amazing place for our community that I’m always very happy to come down and give my time to help greet the passengers off the cruise ship, or whatever, Halloween, music festival, film festival, whatever they’re doing,” said Krafft. “I just want to make sure – this is such value to our community, I want to make sure we do all we can to make it thrive.”

The Marine Sanctuary wanted to make sure the work Krafft has done over the years has not gone unnoticed.

“Bob’s dedication and passion, when you talk to him, you can just see how much he cares about it, how much he cares about the community, what the Sanctuary can do to the community,” said Superintendent of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Jeff Gray. “He’s also willing to put his back into it and do the work that needs to be done. He’s always the first to volunteer, just incredible dedication to the sanctuary.”

The Sanctuary is incredibly important to Krafft, and he wants to do everything he can to keep it in a positive light.

“I was recently in a meeting in Lansing and someone said, ‘You’re from Alpena?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘We heard you have a great Marine Sanctuary up there. Have you ever been to it?’ I said, ‘Yes I have, and you should too.’ He said, ‘Yeah, we want to get up there,'” said Krafft.

For Krafft to dedicate nearly 20 years of his life to the sanctuary shows the kind of relationship he has with the people of Alpena and to the other volunteers at the maritime center.

“We do a lot of things throughout the year, but none of it would be possible without these volunteers,” said Gray. “They really back us up and sometimes are the frontline staff when those 20 Viking cruise ships came last year, 400 passengers, 300 crew members getting off, we had this team of volunteers that could help welcome them and show them the best of what the sanctuary and Alpena had to offer.”

Krafft was one of 15 people nationally to be named Volunteer of the Year.