Penn State Spur Collectors club promotes conservation, community

Trae Hawkins
November 20, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the first collegiate chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, known as NWTF, the Penn State Spur Collectors club aims to provide opportunities for student hunters to make friends and to enjoy the outdoors, while supporting the national nonprofit’s mission of conservation of the wild turkey.

Established in 2012, the NWTF Spur Collectors is one of the newer clubs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Together, members host fundraisers and engage in service programs that promote conservation.

Susan James, the staff adviser to the club, said that members are required to complete 10 hours of community service. Along with helping other chapters of the federation, the club participates in the “Thanksgiving Basket Drive,” which is held by the Penn State Council of LionHearts. Participants collect baskets of donations, and the Spur Collectors club delivers the baskets to food banks, churches, pregnancy resource centers and schools.

Perhaps the biggest fundraiser for the Spur Collectors is the annual spring banquet, which includes a meal, raffle tickets and games. The highlight of the event is a live auction featuring a local auctioneer. Clothing, furniture, jewelry and artwork are just some of the items up for bid.

This past year, more than 150 people attended the banquet, held at Lambert Hall in Bellefonte. By the end of the night, the club raised $14,000, which was donated to the NWTF to aid with the preservation of natural habitats.

Every year, club members attend the federation’s convention, which takes place in Nashville, Tennessee. There, they join a national conversation about the federation and its fundraising and conservation efforts.

“We go down as a collegiate chapter to represent the young, up-and-coming generation of conservationists,” said club secretary Sara Benzio, who is majoring in animal science and minoring in wildlife and fisheries science.

Benzio noted that she found out about the club during the annual Student Involvement Fair hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences. Growing up, Benzio enjoyed outdoor activities, and she is passionate about conservation efforts, so she knew the club was perfect for her.

“There are a lot of great opportunities, and you get to make lots of great friends who share the same interests as you,” she said, adding that one of her favorite things about the club is the fun, nature-based camaraderie.

Erika Algard, a meteorology major and president of the club, said, “We’re just a group of people who like to be outside and do things outdoors.” She explained that one of the club’s primary goals is to introduce people to the outdoors and to grow a sense of fellowship among members.

To accomplish this, the club participates in many outdoor activities, such as fishing in various locations around Centre County, hiking Mount Nittany and observing elk herds in Benezette, which is known as the “Elk Capital of Pennsylvania.”

The NWTF Spur Collectors club also is focused on providing memorable experiences for those in the community. Algard said her favorite memory of helping others occurred during “Jake’s Day,” a club event held every spring and named after the wild jake, which is a young male turkey. The club partners with the Centre County Youth Service Bureau to organize an array of activities aimed at giving underprivileged youth a day of play.

The event takes place at Robbins Paradise Ranch in Julian. Up to 30 youth between the ages of 6 and 16 take part in activities such as fishing, archery and crafts. The youth are educated on the different types of turkeys, their locations and so forth. In addition, food and prizes are offered.

Algard recalls a little girl hitting her first bull's-eye at one of the archery stations and being overcome with joy. “It made me realize that, wow, I actually made an impact on her life — this is something she’ll remember.” James also mentioned how special it is to see the kids who attend every year grow up before their eyes.

What started out as a small club in the College of Agricultural Sciences has turned into something that makes a real difference for the community. With the help of the kindhearted and hard-working students who make up its membership, the club hopes to continue to enact positive change for decades to come.

To connect with the Penn State Spur Collectors club, visit its webpage or follow it on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Spur Collectors Jake's Day

    The Penn State Spur Collectors club partners with the Centre County Youth Service Bureau to organize activities aimed at giving youth a day of play during “Jake’s Day.” 

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 20, 2019