Volunteers of the Month

September Volunteer of the Month – Linus Johnson

Linus Johnson
Linus Johnson, September Volunteer of the Month

Linus Johnson is the Volunteer of the Month for September. Linus was a very active participant in the City’s Youth in Action program over the summer, completing twenty-two hours of service in the span of just two months. He is 14 years old and will be starting 9th grade at Hickman High School this fall. Although this was his first time volunteering with Youth in Action, he is not new to serving his community. Linus has completed projects through his school to better Columbia. 

Linus’s favorite project is invasive species removal, and he was very disappointed when this event was cancelled earlier in the summer. However, he got his chance to wrangle thick and dense honeysuckle when the event was rescheduled. Halfway through the project, though, a storm rolled in and heavy rain soaked Linus and his fellow volunteers. While he was sad to have his favorite event cut short, it is sure to be an invasive species removal that he won’t soon forget.

Werthen Gass, the 2020 Youth in Action Intern, said, “Linus was a regular volunteer with Youth in Action and always showed up ready to serve. Although he is a man of few words, Linus’s dedication to Columbia and strong work ethic spoke volumes”. Thank you, Linus, for being an outstanding volunteer.

August Volunteer of the Month – Kelly Mason

Kelly Mason
Kelly with students at Mill Creek Elementary who learned about proper recycling.

Kelly Mason believes that everyone has the ability to contribute to their community, “they just need to find something they are passionate about.“  Kelly is passionate about the environment and sustainability, and has shared these passions as a volunteer Recycling Ambassador.  For her efforts, Kelly is recognized as our August Volunteer of the Month.

Kelly committed to make others aware of waste reduction techniques. In her role as a Recycling Ambassador, Kelly carved out her own niche educating elementary students about recycling. She provides the students with a “Recycling Starter Kit” including a certificate qualifying them to teach others. Kelly’s favorite thing about being a Recycling Ambassador is hearing from the students about who THEY are going to teach about recycling.

In her role as a rental property manager, Kelly shared her knowledge of recycling with other members of the Columbia Apartment Association so recycling efforts could improve at rental properties throughout the City.

Kelly believes that since the reward for recycling (saving the earth) and the repercussions for not (damaging the environment) aren’t immediate, it is hard for people understand the importance of their actions. Kelly hopes that by teaching a younger generation the why, what and how of recycling they will have the confidence to pass that knowledge onto others. 

To Kelly, the greatest thing about volunteering helping your community, while being the best version of yourself. “If we all strived for that version, imagine what we could do.”

Volunteer of the Month for July – Lea Langdon

Lea Langdon - July Volunteer of the Month

Lea Langdon is the July Volunteer of the Month. Lea has a passion for the environment and believes that all citizens have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. Lea began here service with the City of Columbia in 2015 as a Recycling Ambassador. Lea takes any opportunities that arise to promote waste reduction and proper recycling, but her real niche is with native landscapes education.

In 2017 Lea began passing her extensive knowledge of native landscapes to the public through the  COMO Wild Yards Program. According to Community Conservationist, Danielle Fox, “Lea is an excellent gardening mentor because she gently teaches others about the natural systems that native plants create and how to best manage them in a garden setting.” It can be crushing to explain to someone that a beloved plant actually hurts the environment. Lea’s gentle nature breaks this news to people easily giving them time to process and understand how non-native plants cause damage to our native environments. Lea also serves through other organization such as the Wild Ones, MO Native Plant Society and CPS outdoor classrooms to educate the community about native landscaping.

Lea loves working with youth and has instilled a passion for gardening in many children whether that is through pulling weeds, planting natives, composting, or killing bush honeysuckle with them. The evidence of Lea’s passions and dedication can be found all around Columbia in many demonstration gardens, at public parks, school ground and residential homes.

If you would like to know more about Columbia’s Volunteer Programs, call 573-874-7499 or visit volunteer@como.govcreate new email for information.

Volunteer of the Month for June – Lisa E. A. Meyer

Lisa E. A. Meyer is June’s Volunteer of the Month for Columbia.  Her nominator Jody Cook describes her as a “litter pickup guru.”  Not only has Lisa done an amazing job cleaning up roadways and neighborhoods, she has also been a volunteer supervisor for group litter events. Lisa, like any good “guru,” has developed a great rationale for her community service.     

Lisa has called Columbia home for 15 years.  As a Real Estate agent Lisa knows, homebuyers want clean neighborhoods and streets.  This is how she explains spending her free time picking up litter: (volunteering and community service) is “a part of ownership, responsibility, and gratitude.  I live in a great country and city – I want to do my part to help take care of it,” she says. 

Lisa and her husband Jim often collect 25 bags of trash between them.  In two years Lisa alone has picked up a whopping 157 bags of trash,  and she still has time for volunteering with many other organizations in Columbia.  

Thank you, Lisa, for your service and hard work.  You’re an inspiration and a genuine guru for litter cleanup.  “It’s not my trash but it’s my city!” she adds in conclusion.       

If you would like to know more about Columbia’s Volunteer Programs, call 573-874-7499 or visit volunteer@como.govcreate new email for information.

Written by volunteer Bob Murphy.

Volunteer of the Month for May – John Mier

On the many trails that wind through Columbia, Adopt-A-Trail is not your usual litter control or cleanup volunteer program, and John Mier is not your typical volunteer.  He is a heavyweight champion in the battle to takedown the invasive, non-native, bush honeysuckle that has overgrown our forests and trails.

Initially Adopt-A-Trail volunteers participate in training to learn proper tree care, trail maintenance, and the identification of invasive species in Missouri, and how to remove them.  They are then assigned a quarter-mile section of trail in the city to care for.  Since 2017 John has logged over 91 hours of hard work and sweat, but he doesn’t mind because he says it’s a great way to relieve stress.  He jokingly calls the honeysuckle removal “bushwhacking,” but the results are obvious.  The trail opens up and looks much nicer, and clearing the honeysuckle allows for native plants to begin to grow back.

“It’s all about helping,” John says.  He’s been volunteering in some capacity for decades.  “You meet new people, learn new things, and in most roles, you know you are helping.”  John also spends time volunteering at the St. Louis Zoo.  

Thanks John for your energy, fortitude, and desire to help.  If you also like helping and want to learn more about volunteering for the City’s Adopt-A-Trail program, please contact volunteer@como.govcreate new email or call 573-874-7499.

Written by volunteer Bob Murphy.

 

Volunteer of the Month for April-Lydia Stephens

When Lydia Stephens attended the Missouri Leadership Seminar at the University of Central Missouri in 2019 she fell in love with helping others and making a positive change in her community. “I promised myself once I returned home I would get more involved, and joining Volunteer Columbia was the perfect opportunity.” When Lydia first saw Teens in Action on the Volunteer Columbia Instagram page she instantly knew it was something she wanted to be a part of. “I believe any student lead organization created to benefit their community is a perfect opportunity to develop your character and experience the real world.”

Lydia’s biggest challenge is finding time to volunteer. Between school and work Volunteer of the Month for April-Lydia StephensLydia’s schedule fills up quickly. Lydia is also involved with the National Honor Society and FCCLA; two organizations through her school. “Most of my volunteering consists of working with Teens in Action and The Food Bank, as well as other opportunities I find on the monthly Volunteer Columbia email.”

Lydia says, “To anyone thinking of getting involved with volunteer work, just do it. It can seem really daunting and awkward at first but taking that first step and showing up will do a world of a difference for not only others but for yourself.”

Thank you to Lydia for demonstrating the power of Teens in Action. If you know or have a teen that would like to volunteer contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.govcreate new email.

Volunteer of the Month for March-Valerie Owen

On her drive home Valerie Owen always noticed the flower bed in the Clark Ln. and Ballenger roundabout. As a professional gardener she would admire the space and think of ways to improve the landscape.

In February 2019, Valerie got the opportunity to adopt the bed and do just that. Valerie says since she has taken over the spot “people really do notice, less trash is thrown out, and there are less signs littering the roadway!” With all of the hard work that Valerie has put into her spot, what she enjoys the most is “seeing people who drive by and stop to comment on how they really appreciate my bed. It is work but it’s relaxing to me at the end of my day.”

Volunteer of the Month for March-Valerie Owen

Maintaining a bed that large comes with its challenges, but Valerie has taken on those challenges with perseverance and determination. Valerie says her greatest obstacle was tackling the bindweed that had taken over the entire bed last summer. Around that same time she also had her biggest and prettiest pots stolen before she got the chance to get them planted in the ground, but Valerie didn’t let that stop her. She simply adjusted her planting plan and did not allow those setbacks to derail her from her goals.

Thank you Valerie for leading by example and not giving up when the going got tough. If you are interested in becoming an adopter please contact 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.govcreate new email.

 

Volunteer of the Month for February-Columba Jimenez

From left to right: HHW Supervisor Jason Clayton & Columba Jimenez

Columba Jimenez has been committed to serving her community for years. She is a familiar face at many of City of Columbia events and also volunteers at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri and her church.

Columba has participated in monthly Litter Team cleanups for seven years and many Household Hazardous Waste Collections (HHW) the past four years.  Columba goes above and beyond at HHW by making authentic burritos to share with fellow volunteers and the Solid Waste Utility staff. She is instrumental in supporting a team atmosphere that keeps other volunteers coming back.

If there isn’t an opportunity scheduled, Columba and her son will pick up litter in an area of need. She loves to take a walk and see no trash along the streets and trails.

Columba works full time as a nurse and has a son who is heavily involved in Special Olympic Sports. In spite of a packed schedule, Columba carves out time to serve her community.

What Columba likes best about volunteering is,” meeting new people, discovering new places and trails, and being a good role model for her son. “ If you are interested in similar experiences, visit our website at www.como.gov, contact Volunteer Programs at 573-874-7499 or email volunteer@como.govcreate new email.

 

Volunteer of the Month for January-Jasmina McNutt

When Recreation Leader, Mary Dewey, noticed Jasmina McNutt knitting while waiting for her children as they participated in various activities at the Armory, she approached her about starting a program to teach crochet and knitting, and Jasmina says, “The rest is history”.Jasmina McNutt

 Jasmina has always found crochet and knitting to be both soothing and comforting. Jasmina says it takes about an hour to learn the basics, but “you can spend the rest of your life mastering it”. The only challenge Jasmina has faced is getting the word out about the program. Currently there are several participants, but she would like to see the program grow to include more students. When Jasmina isn’t teaching you can find her helping out in other ways, either watching children before class or helping set up for special events.

Not only does Jasmina volunteer at the Armory, but she also volunteers with the Islamic Center of Central Missouri’s youth program. When asked why service to her community is important to her, Jasmina offers a quote by Herman Melville to explain her motivation; “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

We appreciate Jasmina’s sharing of her time and talents! If you have an idea for a new program or want to learn how you can get involved as a volunteer contact us at 874-7499 or volunteer@CoMo.govcreate new email.

 

 

Volunteer of the Month for December-Tom Amolsch

Tom Amolsch has been volunteering with the City of Columbia as a Park Patroller since 2013, logging over 600 volunteer hours with the City. Tom has combined his love for the outdoors with his affinity for service. As a Park Patroller, Tom logs close to 100 hours a year. He provides an extra set of eyes and ears along our trails and in our parks to help keep trail users safe, and assists them with any questions they may have.

Volunteer Programs Specialist Jody Cook says, “Tom’s service to the community isn’t restricted 

From left to right: Tom’s grandson Vincent & Tom

to Park Patrol. Tom often helps with litter events and can be counted on for special projects, whether that is distributing door hangers or helping with special events.” Even with Park Patrol, litter cleanups and the occasional special project, Tom continues to share even more of his time by recently becoming an Adopt-A-Trail volunteer; adopting a ¼ mile section of the MKT trail; adding to his long list of service projects. Tom’s commitment to our community is truly admirable.

Congratulations Tom and thank you for dedicating so much of your time caring for our parks, streets and trails in Columbia. To learn how you can get involved as a volunteer, contact us at 573-874-7499 or volunteer@como.govcreate new email.

Volunteer of the Month for November-Gloria Schwartz

For a long time Gloria Schwartz had wanted to coach the Special Olympics, but she thought she didn’t have time.  Finally, three years ago, a friend coaxed her into helping at a practice.  Then, she not only found the time, but a very rewarding career in coaching.  

Far left: Gloria Schwartz

Gloria has been involved with competitive sports all of her life.  And she wanted to help persons with intellectual disabilities experience some of the same excitement, opportunities, and lessons she knew sports could provide.  That’s why she volunteers and is now their softball and basketball coach.  Gloria tells us it was the “best decision I’ve ever made.”

Jessica Sida, Recreation Specialist for the Special Olympics, says that Gloria’s style of coaching is “nothing short of admirable.”  She provides the athletes with a safe and fun space to experience emotional growth and build relational skills with teammates and others; things they can take home and use in other parts of their lives. Gloria “is always bringing out the positives in all our athletes and helping them realize those positives,” she adds.  

Thank you, Gloria, for your dedication and passion.  Gloria would like to add that if you have any interest in helping with the Special Olympics, don’t hesitate.  “You will make a difference in someone’s life and at the same time, it’ll change yours.”  .   

For information on volunteering for the Special Olympics, call 573-874-7312 or email Jessica.Sida@CoMo.govcreate new email.  For other volunteer opportunities in the City of Columbia contact 573-874-7499 or volunteer@CoMo.govcreate new email.  

Written by volunteer Bob Murphy  

 

Volunteer of the Month for October-Snowy Li

When classes end in the spring, many students find ways to earn money.  Others just want a little rest and relaxation.  But some students in Columbia spend their summers volunteering for the City. Snowy Li is certainly one of them.  Snowy participated in the Youth in Action program the two previous summers, but aged out of the program this year, so she organized Teens in Action for older youth in July.     

From left to right: (Snowy Li, Gloria Nishimwe, Genney Zheng, Mayor Brian Treece, Martha Nishimwe, Jenny Yoo)

Teens in Action began with a bang.  In just two months, 23 teens accumulated over 217 volunteer hours across ten events such as a stream cleanup at the Al Gustin Golf Course and a block party at Indian Hills.

Volunteer Programs Specialist, Sabrina Lambrecht, says Snowy is “dedicated, dependable, and extremely driven.”  Motivating other young people to join and attend projects can be challenging.  On the other hand, what is easy for Snowy is motivating herself.  “I have always loved the environment, animals, and taking care of others.  I find it very fulfilling,” she admits.  Snowy also participates in the City’s TreeKeeper and CARP programs.

Congratulations, Snowy!  And thank you for your service to Columbia.  It’s your work and dedication that inspires other youth to get involved.  Teens in Action will continue to participate in activities throughout the year.  Any young person grades 10-12 is welcome to join the program. If you would like more information on volunteering for the City, call 874-7499 or visit Volunteer@CoMo.govcreate new email.  

Written by volunteer Bob Murphy