December 2012 Volunteer of the Month – Wes Sherman

Sometimes a hobby turns into a great volunteer opportunity. This happened to Wes Sherman, who for the past several years has volunteered at the Columbia/Boone County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC provides support during public health emergencies, non-emergency events, and various Columbia/Boone County activities. To help the MRC communicate with each other and with emergency response groups, Ham and VHF radios are used. 

Ham radios piqued Wes’s interest when his older brother came home from WW II with an amateur radio instruction booklet. Time passed; Wes taught engineering at Mizzou, started an investigation business, and testified as an expert witness at trials. Retirement began to loom, and Wes remembered his interest in Ham radios. He obtained his license and was hooked. The City of Columbia asked him to teach a class and then to help with their emergency response equipment. 

For MRC, Wes, whose call sign is WB0SE, solves Ham and VHF radio problems, participates in monthly tests with the state department, performs physical maintenance, helps update and choose new equipment, and teaches classes in operating and maintaining the equipment.

With his infectious laugh, Wes says that he “doesn’t really think of it as volunteering.  It’s a hobby that is a combination of being both useful and fun.  He is fortunate,” he says, “to be able to something he really enjoys.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

November 2012 Volunteers of the Month CERT Leadership Team

Columbia citizens can have peace of mind knowing that the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is ready to assist with local disasters and emergencies. CERT, a national program through FEMA, is comprised of volunteers trained to respond to threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds. 

Coordinating and managing the Columbia CERT program and the team of community volunteers is The CERT Leadership Team, a dedicated group of volunteers.  Maria Cox, Barbara Ball, Bob Young, Laura Naiper, Cindy Parshall, Bob Jett, and Ingrid Moertel each serve hundreds of hours every year coordinating training, maintaining equipment, conducting leadership meetings, dealing with issues, and scheduling volunteers for events.  All but one, have been leading CERT since its inception. “They are the heartbeat of the CERT program and invaluable because of the services they provide our community,” Lt. Brian Davison, Assistant Fire Marshal who oversees CERT, explains about the leadership team.

“If an emergency happens, these would be the first people we would call,” Davison adds.  “They are a vital supplement to emergency responders.” Trained to provide emergency medical care, search and rescue, triage, wellness checks, and basic firefighting skills, CERT volunteers serve at many Columbia events, such as First Night, Roots and Blues, Art in the Park, and football games.

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

October 2012 Volunteer of the Month – Taybor Parker

 When Taybor Parker saw kids wearing Blue Thunder uniforms and cars sporting Blue Thunder signs, his curiosity was sparked. Blue Thunder is a Parks and Recreation competitive track club that serves Columbia area youth 7 to 17. A senior at Mizzou majoring in Biology, 21 year old Taybor had been on the track team at his Joplin high school. He had also volunteered for three summers at the Southwest Missouri Running Camp near Joplin.

With a background in running, Taybor wanted to give back to the community and make an impact on kids. Volunteering to help, Taybor spent the next four months as the 11 and up distance coach for Blue Thunder. Three of his team members became regional champions, and several qualified nationally. “The kids totally loved Taybor,” Camren Cross, a Parks and Recreation staff member who worked with Taybor said. “An excellent quiet leader by example, Taybor had a great impact on the kids. Most of us coaches are far from them in age, so for them to see a younger man step in and do a great job was a big plus and a good example.”

Taybor enjoyed the opportunity to work with Columbia’s youth and would like to volunteer again. “Those kids taught me more than I taught them,” Taybor said. “They have an upbeat attitude and you get excited working with them.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

September 2012 Volunteers of the Month JobPoint

 JobPoint is a not for profit employment center and community development corporation. They specialize in preparing individuals, who are having difficulty obtaining or maintaining employment, to enter the workforce by providing career planning and job placement assistance.  Not only is JobPoint helping many of its participants gain economic independence, but the participants are making a difference in the community through their volunteer work.

Some of the wonderful volunteer work JobPoint participants have done for the City of Columbia since 2003 includes cleaning up watersheds and creeks, improving and restoring rain gardens at fire stations, planting trees, removing brush, improving water quality at Cosmo park, spreading mulch, picking up trash, and building retention basins. They also volunteer with many other local organizations.

These volunteer opportunities expose participants to new skills, alternative ideas, and create a sense of pride. Volunteering allows JobPoint participants the “opportunity to give back to the community in which they live,” Gary Taylor, Director of Youthbuild at JobPoint explains. “It helps to build self-esteem through a sense of accomplishment and it allows our students to see how they really can make a difference in their own community. Many of our students are filled with so much pride whenever they complete a project in the community.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

August 2012 Volunteer of the Month Joy Rushing

 Joy Rushing retired early from a job she enjoyed so she would have more time to volunteer. This petite lady with an infectious smile has a big enthusiasm for volunteering.
After moving to Columbia, Joy noticed an ad for the Columbia Hospitality Corps and started greeting and talking to visitors at the Lake of the Woods Visitors Center. She then joined Columbia Aquatic Restoration Project because she wanted to learn about caring for wetlands. Joy also serves on the City of Columbia’s Personnel Advisory Board that assists the Human Resources Department and reviews policies and appeals.

Through the years, serving the homeless and abused has been her passion. She used to prosecute domestic violence cases in municipal court, but now she volunteers at the Mid-Missouri Assistance League and Altrusa to help women and children, and at church helping the homeless. She is a committee member looking for a new day center for the Columbia Interfaith Resource Center to better help the homeless.

Volunteering at KOPN, Joy changes pace with a ragtime show, Sundays 5-7am, and a country show, Mondays 3-5pm.
Joy encourages people to volunteer. “Try different things until you find a good fit,” she advises. “The beauty of volunteering is you can say, ‘This doesn’t work for me,’ and try something new. With so many volunteering opportunities, everyone can find something they enjoy.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

July 2012 Volunteer of the Month Sarah Lang

Have you ever noticed areas in the city that are in need of fixing up, and you say to yourself, “someone should really do something about that?”  Well, July’s Volunteer of the Month, Sarah Lang, did something about it. 

A lifelong resident of Columbia, Sarah has lived in the Fairview area for 18 years.   Back in 2004, Sarah and some neighbors had discussions with the City about ways to slow traffic nearby.   As a result, 2 new Adopt-A-Spot beds were built along Rollins Road but neglected. Weeds were popping up everywhere along the beds.  Sarah noticed and took the initiative right then and there, and for 8 years she and her family, with occasional plant donations and weeding help from neighbors, have made a project of making their neighborhood more beautiful. Since they live on a dead-end, few people get to see their yard.  Sarah says being able to beautify her neighborhood and provide enjoyment for many has been rewarding. 

Sarah’s hard work and dedication to beautifying the neighborhood has paid dividends. One neighbor noticed and wrote a letter to the City in 2007, commending her for her work on the beds.  The mayor then wrote a letter of thanks to Sarah for her service to our city.  When a volunteer’s efforts are so visible like Sarah’s, it encourages others in the community to do the same.

~Written by volunteer James Krewson

June 2012 Volunteer of the Month Pam Springsteel

There is great value in the warmth of a friendly smile when you visit someplace new. Oftentimes that smile can influence your whole outlook on a new location. Volunteers like Pam Springsteel, our June Volunteer of the Month, know how to welcome visitors to Columbia with a friendly smile and helpful information.

Pam has been a loyal member of the Columbia Hospitality Corps since 2005.   She volunteers at the Lake of the Woods Visitor Center greeting visitors and answering questions about this wonderful city. Pam is an expert on what to eat, where to shop, and what not to miss when visiting here. It is easy to see how much Pam cares about Columbia, as she has spent so much time giving back to it  — nearly 1250 hours worth and counting!

When not at the Visitor’s Center you can find Pam donating time to other Columbia organizations, five days a week! Pam is a member of the League of Women Voters and serves on the Civil Liberties Committee, she also serves at the Museum of Art and Archeology and on various committees at her local church.

Pam goes well beyond the one-shift-per-month service recommendation at the Visitor Center by coming in like clockwork for weekly shifts. She says, with a smile, “I look forward to it every week!”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

May 2012 Volunteers of the Month Missouri Master Naturalists

 This May our volunteer of the month award goes to a special group of people who are making a difference in Columbia and all over the state of Missouri, the Missouri Master Naturalists. The program is a community-based program sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri Extension. They focus on providing natural resource education and volunteer service opportunities for adults.

One of the areas in Columbia the Missouri Master Naturalists spend time maintaining and educating people about is the Capen Park area close to downtown Columbia. Capen Park provides the community a beautiful park full of plants native to our region, recreational trails, and a study garden. Volunteers enjoy their time and efforts because they learn so much about the native plants and enjoy educating others as well. Two active volunteers in the Capen Park project are Julie Youmans and Louise Flenner. Louise says of her experience, “Seeing nature in a new way and being able to pass that information along to other people and share a new perspective on how to see the natural beauty that’s out there in Missouri is the most fulfilling part of my volunteer experience.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

April 2012 Volunteer of the Month Marco Tapia

  At some point, we can all benefit from stepping back, and looking at the big picture. When we do that, we can see the world in a different light, and rearrange our priorities. For our April Volunteer of the Month- Marco Tapia, serving as host of the CAT-TV program:Making A Differencehas blessed him with the ability to “see the big picture” and recognize what matters most to him.

Making A Difference really brings me back to what is more important than anything else, at least in my world, which is giving back to others. I have been so blessed to be able to interact with people who are dedicated to giving back, and they do it for nothing. It is just phenomenal,” Marco says.

Making A Difference is a show dedicated to highlighting volunteers and volunteer opportunities. City of Columbia volunteer coordinators boast about Marco’s ability to make guests feel right at home.

Marco has served as the host for the local cable access TV show for almost two years. Add that to the multiple volunteer positions he has held over the last 31 years, and it is clear that Marco values giving back to Columbia. Marco proclaims very passionately, “Serving others is what life is all about; it doesn’t get any better than that.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

March 2012 Volunteers of the Month The Muslim Student Union (MSU) at Rock Bridge High School

For some, finding a volunteer opportunity on your own can be very intimidating. Thankfully volunteering for the City of Columbia isn’t that way; there are many opportunities for groups and organizations to be involved. Our March Volunteers of the Month award goes to a group just like that. The Muslim Student Union (MSU) at Rock Bridge High School found an opportunity to make a big difference by getting all members involved!

Members of the MSU dedicate their time to Columbia, taking advantage of several volunteer opportunities. Mike Heimos of the Public Works Environmental Services and Stormwater Management Division identified the MSU members as outstanding volunteers who really made a difference with their service.

“The Muslim Student Union sets a great example for other citizens, other students in particular, for doing good works in the community. They make a visible impact with their work removing trash from area streams, and their other service helps citizens in need,” Heimos said.

Adam Mefrakis, President of the MSU, said volunteering has a positive impact on their members as well, “This was a great learning experience that we would like to repeat in other parts of Columbia and Boone County. We learned a lot, we got wet, cleaned, and most of all had fun at the same time.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

February 2012 Volunteer of the Month Clay Elledge

 For many City of Columbia volunteers, their service is a way of “paying it forward” for a kind gesture someone paid to them. This is the case for our February volunteer of the month, Clay Elledge, the Coordinator of Computer Services at Moberly Area Community College. Clay was approached by a colleague and asked if he would be interested in supervising a student for Columbia’s Career Awareness Related Experience (C.A.R.E) program.  He jumped at the opportunity.

The C.A.R.E. program was created to help Columbia youth develop basic skills while working in a professional environment and learning a good work ethic for future career opportunities. As a C.A.R.E. supervisor, Clay has spent time mentoring and instructing his C.A.R.E. trainee while helping to expand his trainee’s technical aptitude within the IT field.

Clay said volunteering for the C.A.R.E. program was an easy decision, as he was grateful for the guidance he received when getting into the IT field. “I was in an electronics program in college, a dying field at the time. I had good professors who took me under their wing and showed me that the building blocks of electronics could take me far in the IT world.” Clay says he enjoys the opportunity to help another young person, “I know this field is not easy to get in to, I just really wanted to help someone else learn the ropes and show them what a job in IT would be like. I enjoy seeing how my student has grown and improved.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

January 2012 Volunteer of the Month Brittany Perrin


It is no surprise that our January spotlight volunteer, Brittany Perrin, is the usual author of these Volunteer of the Month articles.  Since moving to Columbia in 2005, she has found numerous ways to share her talents and passion for volunteering with our city.

Employed for two years at Mizzou’s Center for Leadership Development and Community Involvement, Brittany has planned student volunteer opportunities and advised student groups.  The experience showed her that “a lot of people are kind of overwhelmed or intimidated by volunteering, but it’s so easy if you find something that you already love.”  There is nothing “selfish,” Brittany knows, about volunteering where you can use your talents and explore your interests.

Currently pursuing a Masters in Public Affairs in Emergency Management at Mizzou, Brittany has volunteered at our local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) since last February.  The Boone County/ Columbia MRC organizes medical professionals and citizens to deliver crucial public health services during a crisis.  Helping to increase the MRC’s activities in our city while utilizing her flair for coordinating, getting others involved, and writing, Brittany organized and expanded the MRC’s volunteer force, updated its volunteer manual and database, coordinated its monthly meetings, and professionalized its informational pamphlets.

~Written by volunteer Jeremy Cahill