by Darcy Thomas

Gail Cleveland

Perhaps it is not as appropriate to call Gail Cleveland Volunteer of the Year, as it would be to call her “Volunteer of Many, Many Years”. Gail taught at Whitefish High School and has contributed many volunteer hours to the Whitefish Theatre Company as artist, booking agent, supporter, actor and director. Gail and her husband Bruce Tannehill, live in Whitefish.

Both before and after her retirement from teaching, Gail has found time to volunteer countless hours for Flathead Audubon Society (FAS). “Gail has been our behind the scenes advisor/coach/cheerleader for many years,” says board member Kay Mitchell. Over those many years Gail and Bruce have led birding field trips to their favorite spots around Whitefish. In addition, they have been enthusiastic participants in many FAS Birdathons, securing large numbers of pledges each year, then turning those pledges into significant donations to FAS by observing high numbers of species on Birdathon day. Gail and Bruce were part of the FAS birding team that for several years did point counts for the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, when the refuge was first established and was trying to document what species could be found there. Gail wrote her first Bird of the Month article for the Pileated Post in 2003 and contributed a total of 17 articles over the next 17 years. She volunteered for the first Owen Sowerwine work day in 2002, and has helped on work days ever since – pulling weeds, controlling buckthorn, maintaining trails and assisting with the five-year plots. She and Bruce built the first stairway to Owen Sowerwine at the Greenridge Drive entrance.

Gail has provided crucial guidance and assistance to FAS efforts to secure funding for chapter projects. For a number of years, Gail contributed her time and considerable grant writing skills to the FAS Grants Committee, reviewing and editing grant applications. She introduced Flathead Audubon to the Whitefish Community Foundation’s Great Fish Community Challenge and has been FAS Fund Advisor during the Great Fish campaign. In this capacity, she represents FAS at Great Fish meetings, kickoffs and celebrations. She also tracks our Great Fish Community Challenge donations on a daily basis and writes thank you notes to our donors (within 48 hours of donation!). Gail’s work on behalf of FAS with Whitefish Community Foundation and the Great Fish Community Challenge has helped put FAS on a firm financial foundation.  

Gail’s volunteer skills have benefitted Montana Audubon as well as Flathead Audubon. She was co-chair of the FAS Desert Auction Committee for two of the Montana Audubon State Bird Festivals that FAS co-sponsored and organized in Kalispell. The Dessert Auction is a big festival fundraiser with proceeds shared by Montana Audubon and the sponsoring chapter. Both years, Gail’s work as co-chair raised significant funds for both Montana Audubon and FAS. 

Gail and Bruce have travelled around the world birdwatching and recording bird songs. Each winter they reside in Arizona for a few months, where they continue to lead field trips and tours at Patagonia Lake State Park.