December 2010 Volunteer of the Month Farah Nieuwenhuizen

 The City of Columbia is lucky to have so many dedicated, hardworking staff members, but recognizes that it is the abundance of volunteers that make so many things possible here in Columbia. Our December Volunteer of the Month, Farah Nieuwenhuizen, is the perfect example of a community volunteer who is really making a difference for her community and neighborhood.

Farah has been volunteering for the City of Columbia for six years and has spent countless hours working to improve the safety and image of the Rothwell Heights neighborhood. As President of the Neighborhood Association, for many years Farah has recruited several Rothwell Heights residents and led efforts to clean up litter around the 24 block area once a week. She also organizes volunteers to care for the BAHA’I Faith Adopt-A-Spot Beautification bed located on Broadfield near HyVee.

Whether serving her neighborhood or planting flowers at the Adopt-A-Spot Farah enjoys volunteering for the city because she can see the results immediately and it brings people together for a cause. “I love to see that the streets are cleaned and that people are happy with our neighborhood. When we all get together to volunteer it unifies the neighborhood and volunteers,” Farah says.

~Submitted by volunteer Brittany Perrin

November 2010 Volunteer of the Month The Scavone Family


While many volunteers agree that the most important part of volunteering is helping out the organization, it’s often mentioned the most rewarding part is the personal satisfaction that comes along with making a difference in the community. For our November Volunteer(s) of the Month, this satisfaction was something they wanted their whole family to experience.

Ed and Gina Scavone encouraged their children to learn the importance of service at a young age by volunteering for the City of Columbia Youth in Action program. Since then, their family has spent numerous hours volunteering and encouraging others to do so as well. Through their work recruiting gentlemen from Boy Scout Troop 708 to help out with the Tree Keepers Program, and volunteering as a family for STAT (Street Tree Assessment Team) through the Department of Public works, the Scavones have truly made volunteering a family affair.

We are not only thankful for the years of service the Scavone family has dedicated, but also for the ability to share their passion for service with many other members of the community. For Gina Scavone, “Volunteering for Columbia has been a wonderful experience for my family, the city projects are always so organized and every opportunity has been a great learning experience.”

Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

October 2010 Volunteer of the Month Sonrisa Wood

 There really is a place in Columbia, MO for everyone, even a big city girl like Parks and Recreation volunteer, Sonrisa Wood. Sonrisa came to Columbia from Los Angeles and brought her heart for volunteering and her expertise working with children with her.

Like so many of our volunteers, Sonrisa’s ventures began with an email to Columbia’s Volunteer Programs offering up her service but she was surprised to find an opportunity to help out with something she was already so passionate about. Since December Sonrisa has been working with the L’il Lady Bulldogs Dance & Cheer Group through the Parks and Recreation Department. When she found out they needed help with the team, she was pleasantly surprised. “When I got an email saying they needed someone to head up the dance and cheer team I was really excited to help out, I taught cheer and gymnastics for five years in LA for Parks and Recreation and I knew this was right up my alley”, Sonrisa said.

Parks and Recreation Volunteer Supervisor Camren Cross said, “Sonrisa is an excellent all-around volunteer, as are so many of my volunteers, but Sonrisa is one who goes above and beyond by doing so much more than just showing up for events to help out.” Among many things, Sonrisa has spent time seeking out events for her group to perform at and helping design t-shirts for the team to wear.

Sonrisa’s service has gone beyond her involvement with the L’il Bulldogs. She enjoyed her time spent volunteering so much that she also stepped up to fill a Child Care Assistant position for the city as soon as she saw they needed a volunteer.

Sonrisa’s passion for serving and her attitude has made a positive impact on the city of Columbia and the youth she has been able to work with. Camren says that Sonrisa has really been a mentor to the young women she works with and has helped them get involved and stay involved with a program that can really impact their lives for the better.

Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

September 2010 Volunteer of the Month Brenda Peculis

 When Brenda Peculis was new to Columbia, volunteering was a way to meet new people and integrate herself into the community.  And when she wanted to learn more about rain gardens and frog ponds, she took city-sponsored classes and took her volunteer work in a new direction.  Brenda says that volunteering has given her a chance to give back to the community, and learn a lot along the way.

Brenda began by volunteering for the First Night New Year’s Eve celebration for several years, until family events took her out of town for the holiday.  She then took part in the first Columbia Aquatic Restoration Project (CARP) class, sponsored by the City Parks and Recreation Department, which teaches lake and pond ecology.  Since 2007, Brenda has donated time with CARP for shoreline maintenance, and created rain gardens and addressed run-off issues. 

Building on that experience, Brenda began volunteering with the Parks and Recreation Department’s TreeKeeper’s program, for which she assists in planting new trees and tree maintenance in various City parks.  As a TreeKeeper, Brenda was selected to be part of the City’s Street Tree Assessment Team (STAT).  The STAT members, who are supervised by the Public Works Department, monitor the new trees planted in their neighborhoods.

Brenda guesses that her volunteer work totals about eight to twelve hours a month.  Her total record of services is almost 140 hours of donated time.  But she says that it is time well spent:  “I’m so grateful to the people who have helped organize the volunteers, especially those who are no longer with the City.  They have made such good use of our time, and really provided the information we needed in such a helpful and cohesive manner.” 

Brenda is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Written by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

August 2010 Volunteer of the Month Progressive Missionary Baptist Church

 For those that volunteer, the call to service may be civic, or it may be a desire to find a meaningful hobby.  For the members of the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, their volunteer work for the City of Columbia is part of the church’s mission.

The activities that the Church performs for the City are just a small piece of its ongoing efforts to serve the community.  In addition to a soup kitchen, annual clothing drive and boxed lunches for the needy, the Church focuses on beautifying the neighborhood and city at large.

Since 2001, a core group of about six Church members have participated in the Adopt-A-Spot Litter Control Program. Member Essie Redmon says it was around that time that her congregation started taking notice of the broken windows and trash around the church.  They decided that they could take small steps to improve the quality and safety of the community.

The Church also added an Adopt-A-Spot Beautification bed on the nearby corner of Banks and Dean.  They have participated in this program since 2008.  In addition, the Church participates in the annual Cleanup Columbia and it recently hosted the “Unite for Healthy Neighborhoods” conference, which focused on physical activity and locally grown foods especially in central Columbia.

For Redmon, the motivation for volunteering is simple:  “For us, volunteering is about giving back for those who are in need.”

 – Submitted by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

July 2010 Volunteer of the Month Patrick Kane

 For most people, a walk in the park is just that – a relaxing opportunity to reconnect with nature.    But for City of Columbia Park Patrol volunteers like Patrick Kane, time spent in the City’s parks and trails is time on the job, too.

The Columbia Park Patrol program, managed by the City’s Volunteer Programs, is designed to keep the city’s parks and trails safer and in top condition.  Volunteers are trained in city ordinances, emergency contact information and basic communication skills.  They then act as ambassadors to the other users, and report any maintenance issues with the parks or trails back to the City after each volunteer session.

Kane was already taking a daily hike around the area that became the Bear Creek Trail when he learned about the Park Patrol program.  “I thought, this is the job for me . . . I’ve been doing this for years, and why not be of some service to the people using the trails while I’m out there.”

Although the minimum commitment is four hours per month from April to October, Kane has volunteered far beyond that:  he has logged more than 2,300 hours since 2003.  Kane says that he is motivated by a desire to serve the community:  “It’s important to me to meet people’s needs and help create a safe place where we can enjoy our parks.” 

Leigh Britt, Manager of Neighborhood Services, says that he takes his job as the “extra eyes and ears” of the City seriously.  “Patrick has been a dedicated Park Patrol volunteer for the last eight years.  We appreciate his consistent commitment to keeping our trails and parks safe and in good repair.”

 – Submitted by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

June 2010 Volunteer of the Month Boone Landing


To say the residents of Boone Landing Retirement Center have stayed active in Columbia’s community life is an understatement.  Since 2004, a group of about ten residents has been volunteering their time to the City, in addition to a wide array of the other local organizations to which they donate their time and raise funds.

Led by Boone Landing staffer Jamie McDonald, the residents have annually worked at events such as the Adopt-A-Spot Beautification Program, the Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza, the Santa Hotline and Cleanup Columbia. The City estimates that the dollar value of Boone Landing’s service through 2009 would be more than $2,670. 

The Boone Landing residents also give their time to a very long list of other fundraisers and projects, which include the Columbia Humane Society, the Central Missouri Food Bank, American Red Cross Blood Center, Habitat for Humanity and the Columbia Public Library.

Debra Hardin with the City’s Volunteer Programs notes, “it’s apparent the folks at Boone Landing have plenty of initiative and energy to stay active and essential in making our community a better place to live.”

 – Submitted by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

May 2010 Volunteer of the Month Tracye Harmon


It should come to no surprise that as budgets grow tighter, volunteers become even more valuable.  And that’s why the Columbia Police Department is especially lucky to have volunteer Tracye Harmon on its team.

Harmon has donated time to the Police Department since 2006, when she attended the Citizen’s Academy as a way to utilize her criminal justice degree.  Since that time, she has worked at a number of events, such as the Polar Bear Plunge, Roots, the Blues and BBQ Festival and the Show-Me Games.  She also drives the McGruff Crime Dog electric car at schools, which the kids “think is a blast.”  And Harmon files intelligence bulletins, which the Department can then share with other law enforcement agencies.

Harmon’s supervisor, Officer Jessie Haden, says that Harmon recently took on a greater role in overseeing the volunteer program, along with two other volunteers.  Officer Haden says that Harmon has shown considerable commitment:  “She is really helping to keep our program vital and vibrant, and without dedicated volunteers like her, the community might not have Columbia Police Volunteers at all.”

But Harmon says that the experience, especially meeting people across the City, is a joy.  Adds Harmon, “I’ve lived in the area my entire life, but didn’t know all of the things the Department was doing in the community.  I feel very lucky to be part of it, and to be able to get a better sense of what they do.” And while the City and Police Department thank Harmon for her service, she would like to return the favor:  “I would like to thank the officers for their hard work, and let them know that I love what I’m doing!”

 – Submitted by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

April 2010 Volunteer of the Month Sean Spence

City of Columbia volunteer Sean Spence says his involvement with the Adapted Community Recreation Program at Paquin Towers initially stemmed from fears about the Program’s 2009 budget:  “I attended a meeting about a reduction in funding for the Adapted Community Recreation Program, and I realized the need to get the community more involved in supporting those efforts.”

From that recognition grew a funding effort, known as CARE@Paquin, made up of more than 150 volunteers and donors.  Over the last thirteen months, this small non-profit organization has raised $11,000; it donated $5,000 of that money to the City for the Adapted Community Recreation Program, and invested $5,000 for the program’s long-term benefit. The Adapted Community Recreation Program, part of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, provides low income Columbians with disabilities a variety of classes, activities and trips.  Spence says that CARE@Paquin is on track to donate at least $5,000 again this year, due in no small part to the strong partnerships that have formed throughout the city.  Says Spence, “I’d like to think I played a small role in helping the community at large recognize this program.”

Spence says that volunteering in Columbia provides him the opportunity to participate in activities that touch a diverse range of people.  “Volunteering for the City affects all of us, rich or poor, black or white, down-town and around town.  It’s a great way of making an impact on everybody.”

Spence also coordinates the volunteer efforts of the Columbia Rotary Club in its participation in the children’s Punt Pass & Kick event, which he has done for the last four years.  And Spence is co-planning with Margaret Hickem a community-wide tribute dinner for Mayor Darwin Hindman to take place March 27, 2010.

 – Submitted by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

March 2010 Volunteer of the Month Steve Callis

 For volunteer Steve Callis, being green really is easy.  Not only does he teach Columbians how to compost and address yard waste in classes in the spring and fall, he integrates those methods in his workplace and home.

Callis has been volunteering with the City of Columbia Public Works Volunteer Program for four years.  His classes emphasize the benefits of backyard composting and best practices for disposal of kitchen and backyard waste. 

With public awareness in sustainability growing, there has been increased interest in the composting classes.  Callis says, “People taking the classes range from the hard-core gardeners to those who just want to do something else with their yard waste other than sending it to a land fill.”

Callis gets tremendous satisfaction passing on the specialized experience that he has:  “It’s great to be able to give back; I really enjoy sharing my knowledge about composting, which is a narrow field, but I feel it does some good in sharing that knowledge.”  Callis’ supervisor, Andrea Shelton, agrees.  One of the classes’ benefits, she says, is that it shows average families, with average budget concerns, that they can still impact the environment.

Callis also volunteers with, Toys for Tots and the Marine Corps League.

Article by volunteer Sarah G. Madden

February 2010 Volunteer of the Month Carolyn Oates

The City of Columbia offers an incredible variety of opportunities for volunteer work – the only difficulty may be choosing where to give one’s time.

Just ask Carolyn Oates, a Columbia resident since 1963.  Oates is currently involved in Columbia’s First Night celebration, the Mayor’s Challenge:  Bike, Walk and Wheel Week, Adopt-A-Spot Beautification and was recently named to the Mayor’s Council for Physical Fitness and Health.

Oates says that her enjoyment of the First Night festivities initially drew her to volunteering nine years ago.  Since then, she has served on the First Night Board and as Board President, coordinated venues and been responsible for logistics and supplies.

Her passion for biking lead to her involvement in the Mayor’s Bike, Walk and Wheel Week, which is an annual event emphasizing active transportation.  Oates has been part of the Week since 2003 and has served on the planning committee. 

As a Master Gardener, Oates has spearheaded an effort to partner Master Gardeners with volunteers in the Adopt-A-Spot program to provide mentoring and educational support.  She also coordinated the adoption of a bed at Broadway and Old 63 with her employer, Missouri Cancer Associates. Oates says, “Columbia is such a great place to live – it offers so many educational and cultural opportunities.  I feel blessed to live here.”

Article written by volunteer Sarah Madden

January 2010 Volunteer of the Month Herman Traudes

In Herman Traudes’ native country of Holland, volunteering is an essential element of civic life:  “Everybody is involved in something.  It builds and maintains a community and a sense of ‘ownership’ and responsibility.”

So it seemed only natural that when Traudes learned of the City of Columbia TreeKeepers Program in the monthly City Source newsletter, he would become involved.  Over the last four years, Traudes has donated more than 60 hours of his time to the program.

TreeKeepers volunteers help plant trees, mulch, fertilize and prune.  They are also fight brush overgrowth and remove exotic species that crop up in parks and along nature trails. 

Traudes said his time commitment is about ten Saturday mornings per year, but he welcomes that opportunity.  TreeKeepers “immediately appealed to me because of the training you receive and the expert management of the program.  The combination of being outdoors, getting expert guidance and experiencing the effects of good landscaping inspires.”

Chad Herwald, Traudes supervisor in the program, said that his enthusiasm for his work shows.  “Herman is very knowledgeable about the process our staff goes through for each individual project . . . and he is always willing to educate and instruct our newer TreeKeepers.”

Written by volunteer Sarah G. Madden