August 2013 – Marv & Laura Wells

When Marv and Laura Wells began walking their dog several times a day, they noticed that a large amount of trash littered their road. “It hit us,” Marv says, “that there was no reason for us to be living on a trashy street. If it was going to be clean, we would need to do it.” In 2007, they contacted the City of Columbia and joined the Adopt-the-Spot Litter Control Program.

They clean both sides of the road on Stewart, between Garth and Providence. With a liquor store, three fast food restaurants, several fraternities and numerous rentals in the vicinity, they often fill a blue recycling bag and a large black garbage bag.

While the Wells have volunteered to clean their adopted spot four times a year, they go above and beyond and often clean several times a month. During football season they clean weekly.

They also volunteer for the Bike, Walk & Wheel Week, Cleanup Columbia, Heritage Festival, and Show Me State Games. Laura volunteers with Boone County Council on Aging where she weekly helps a person shop, pay bills, and do other tasks.

While picking up trash is not grandiose, Marv says, it does make a difference in the city and people do notice. Occasionally, pedestrians, bikers, and people in cars will stop and thank them for cleaning the roadside. “It spurs us on,” says Laura.

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

July 2013 – Joshua & Tara Green

Joshua and Tara Green, who met on a missions trip, were both raised in families that helped those around them. “My parents never turned anyone away who needed help,” Joshua explains. “You share what you have.” This spirit of helping the community and contributing back to those around them is what they are passing on to their two boys, Carter and Micah, 5 and 2. Volunteers for the City of Columbia since they moved here in 2005, Joshua and Tara volunteer individually, together, and with the boys. “We are trying to instill a sense of community in the boys, help them not be so egocentric, and see that the world is bigger than themselves,” Joshua informs.

Their volunteer work includes: Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Columbia Festival of the Arts, Heritage Festival, Cleanup Columbia, Family Fun Nights, Show Me State Games, and church mission and volunteer work.

Joshua, a teacher at CORE, got his students volunteering. Together they care for an Adopt A Spot at Nifong and Bethel, cleanup Cosmo-Bethel Park, and help twice a week at the Food Pantry. “They take pride in contributing to their community and making a positive impact,” Joshia says of his students.

“People say I don’t want to give up my weekends or time off, but volunteering usually takes an hour or two,” Tara says. “It’s showing up and filling a need.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

June 2013 – Mary Plakorus

Serving as a Park Patrol for the City of Columbia since 2004, Mary Plakorus blends two of her loves — being outdoors and helping others. She answers questions, reports suspicious activity, monitors parks and trails, and serves as an ambassador for other park users. If you attend city sponsored activities in the parks, such as Polar Bear Plunge, soccer at Cosmo Park, Family Fun Fests, or Art in the Park, you may see her in her bright yellow vest that says “Park Patrol” busy directing traffic, answering questions, and helping in any way possible.

“As a Park Patrol volunteer, Mary keeps an extra set of eyes on our parks and trails to keep them safe and in good repair,” Leigh Britt, Neighborhood Services Manager, explains.

Mary’s favorite parks are Stephens and the MKT. “I love being outdoors and being with others,” she says. “Being a volunteer is a giant adventure. There is a surprise around every corner. If you are having a bad day, go volunteer. You’ll meet a lot of happy people and a few who are having a worse day than yourself. There is a satisfaction that comes from helping others.” So why does she volunteer? Mary says she spends too much time in the parks not to.

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

May 2013 – Terri Watts

 Terri Watts was raised in a family where they consistently helped others and did service projects, so it was only natural she would assist with the Special Olympics in college. When a friend had a child with special needs, Terri became even more involved.

For the past 19 years, Terri Watts has been volunteering with the Special Olympics Sports Program through Columbia Parks and Recreation. A large group of volunteers comprise the backbone of this program, serving and assisting the 272 active athletes.

Of the nine sports offered, Terri volunteers for eight. Evenings find her coaching softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and bowling. She also lends a hand with swimming, track and field, golf, and the Summer Show Me Games. Playing as a tennis partner with a Special Olympic athlete, she also has court time.

“She truly loves being a part of their lives,” Jody Cook, Columbia Parks and Recreation Specialist of Special Olympic Sports says of Terri’s dedication. “She knows the athletes well. She understands each individual’s idiosyncrasy and gifts, assisting them to perform to their maximum capacity.”
While Terri inspires her athletes, she admits they also inspire her. “It is exciting to see them do things they didn’t know they could do, reach goals they didn’t know they could achieve. To watch them open up and blossom.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

April 2013 – Belinda Thompson

Belinda Thompson has compassion for Columbia’s underprivileged youth and identifies with surviving a hard childhood. This is one of the reasons she is passionate about volunteering at the Youth Journalisim Project, helping youth publish the bi-monthly newspaper Speak Up Be Heard. “All these kids in the class have family problems and financial issues; for them to have a place they can express themselves and be heard is important,” Belinda says.

This free class, offered through Parks and Recreation, meets at the Armory. Currently about 18-25 youth from 1st through 12th grade participate on Thursdays from 4-6pm. Five or six youth have regular features. Youth write using paper and pencil, saving their work in portfolios. “They are developing communication, social, and academic skills while having fun,” Belinda adds.

Belinda, who is currently getting a graduate degree in teaching and runs an elder business, volunteers because it is important and makes a difference.

Camren Cross, Recreation Supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department says that Belinda’s work empowers the kids. “She’s got the kids writing, looking forward to it, and she’s getting issues out for the community.” Seeing their work in publication gives them a taste of success. “This will hopefully happen in other areas of their life as well,” Camren adds, “driving them to want bigger successes in the future.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

March 2013 – Columbia Insurance Group

Perhaps you’ve noticed some of the bright spots along Columbia’s roads that are bursting with colorful plants during the growing season; tulips waving their vivid hues, roses with multiple blooms, bushes with dainty green leaves. These colorful garden spots, located at intersections, roundabouts and medians, are usually one of the City’s Adopt-a Spots, where businesses, organizations, and families donate of their time and resources to create a little oasis of color in the commute of others.

When Paris Road and Whitegate/Heriford were widened about ten years ago, Columbia Insurance Group adopted the two triangular beds at the intersection. Because one of their core values is being a good corporate citizen, they wanted “to try and make a bright spot in people’s commutes,” says Judy Donnell, Director of General Services at Columbia Insurance Group. “Flowers make me happy, so I think it starts people’s day off well and brightens Paris road up a bit.”

If your family, business, or organization would like to help beautify Columbia’s streets by partnering with the city to maintain a small roadside area, Adopt-a Spots are available and are listed online at www.como.gov. And if there is a specific roadside bed that makes you smile, leave comments for the adopter on the above web site.

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

February 2013 Volunteers of the Month Columbia Golf Foundation 

With junior golf dying across the nation, John Westin, president of the Columbia Golf Foundation, came up with the idea to offer free golf camps to introduce youth to the sport. For the past three summers, Columbia Golf Foundation has organized and offered these golf camps through Columbia Parks and Recreation at L.A. Nickell Golf Course. To teach the basic skills needed to play golf, camps run one day a week for four weeks and serve Columbia area kids ages 8-17.

“It’s fun to see youth on the course and pass the love of golf on,” Andrew Baier, who works for the city golf courses and teaches at the camps comments. “90% of the campers have never been on a golf course or held a club. Through learning the game of golf youth learn etiquette, honesty through scoring, and get plenty of exercise.” They also have fun. Returning youth to the golf camps is normal.

Through the Columbia Golf Foundation, over 100 youth each summer are introduced to golf in a fun and interactive format. The foundation is also key in helping fund Columbia area high school golf teams at Rockbridge, Tolton, and Hickman.

Because of the Columbia Golf Foundation, numerous youth have been introduced to the game of golf who otherwise would not have had access to the game.

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson

January 2013 Volunteer of the Month – Bob Bailey 

A former chemistry teacher, Bob Bailey knew some of his self-worth came from helping others and doing something that mattered. When he retired, he looked into volunteering. For over four years, Bob has been keeping Columbia’s trees healthy as a TreeKeeper and keeping Columbia’s trails clean and safe as a Park Patroller.

Park Patrol volunteers are extra eyes and ears on the trail. They help with situations, pass information along, and monitor the trails.

Bob admits he chose volunteer opportunities that mirrored his pre-retirement interests: TreeKeepers for his enjoyment of gardening and the environment, and Park Patrol for his joy of biking. Formerly, as Coordinator of the Environmental Club at Rockbridge, Bob participated in highway cleanups and planted trees around the school. Now he participates in Cleanup Columbia and TreeKeepers. He and his wife have cycled across the US. Now he bikes Columbia’s trails as a Park Patrol.

“It allows me to do two things at once,” Bob says of volunteering. “You feel like you are part of a larger group. At the end of the day you feel better about yourself because you’ve done something for others.”

~Written by volunteer Theresa Nelson