SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — From maintenance and patrolling the beach during sea turtle nesting season to educating visitors, John Spreen is always ready and happy to lend a helping hand wherever is needed.

This fall, Spreen became the first recipient of Sea Turtle Inc.’s new Ambassador Program for dedicating more than 300 volunteer hours this year.

“It really is a neat thing because we’re the only ones who wear that special colored shirt that says ambassador on it,” Spreen said. “When another volunteer sees it and asks how that happened, it instills, hopefully, the desire to do more and achieve that level of status.”

Spreen’s passion for volunteering at Sea Turtle Inc, has led him to dedicate nearly 500 hours of volunteer work this year.

“I love volunteering,” Spreen said. “It’s a great thing to do.”

From the employees to getting to talk to visitors about sea turtles, Spreen enjoys everything about volunteering at Sea Turtle Inc.

“The employees are fantastic and the management is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s a very good atmosphere to work in.”

For Spreen, being able to educate visitors, especially about the impact trash and plastic makes for sea turtles is another aspect of volunteering that he enjoys.

Wherever he’s volunteering that day, visitors are likely to see one of his educational tools hanging nearby.

“I have a chef’s apron that I have hung all sorts of examples of turtle-eaten trash whether it’s a SunnyD bottle, an easy mac and cheese or whatever, I have the whole apron pinned full of these turtle-eaten plastic,” Spreen said. “We know it was bitten by turtles because they make a distinct diamond shaped hole or a notch out of something like a shoe.”

Spreen says it is extremely effective and eye-opening, especially for kids, because they look at it and then the parents join in to talk to them about trash.

“It’s those little minds that are our future so we have to get them indoctrinated properly on trash disposal and recycling,” Spreen said.

Spreen has been a volunteer of Sea Turtle Inc. since fall of 2018.

For Spreen, it’s extremely gratifying when someone tells me how much they enjoyed the information he imparted to them.

“A lot of people are just passing by, but then there are a lot of people who are just totally enamored and hooked on that whole concept of sea turtle conservation and what we’re doing,” he said. “It gets you excited when that happens so you spend a tremendous amount of time with those people and they go away with a whole new knowledge of sea turtles, the endangered species, why they’re endangered and all the various factors that go into that.”

For information about becoming a volunteer, visit