Volunteers of the Month

Ed Kaiser – January 2021 Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer Columbia celebrates 25 years of connecting residents to service opportunities in local government in 2021.  Throughout the year, we will highlight the efforts of long-time volunteers.

After an attempt to get into the Air Force, Ed Kaiser subconsciously found himself being a volunteer officer in the Columbia Police Reserves. The reserves were a diverse force of 40 dedicated volunteers serving their community.

Through the Police Reserves, Ed met a battalion chief with the Columbia Fire Department who requested Ed accompany him on an inspection tour for his company to look for hazardous materials. Ed realized storage and disposal of hazardous materials was an issue that needed a solution immediately.

After being made aware of extremely harmful hazardous materials in local buildings, it dawned on him the possible hazardous materials in homes. This concern led him to pen a letter to the City of Columbia. With his “Ivory tower” experience as he explained (thanks to his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Purdue University) Ed made it a priority to teach firefighters about hazardous materials.  Ed then developed a program for residents to dispose of their hazardous materials in cooperation with the City’s Solid Waste Utility. Household Hazardous Waste collection, developed by Ed, accepts your materials every 1st & 3rd Saturday mornings, April through November, at the Grissum Building, 1313 Lakeview Avenue.

In approaching the 25th anniversary of Volunteer Columbia, Ed responded: “To thine own self be true…”. Ed and his wife, Judy, have visited all seven continents. Congratulations to Ed Kaiser on this honor and thanks for your impact as a volunteer!

Written by volunteer Maggie Brown

December 2020 Volunteer of the Month – Garrett Wright

We are pleased to announce Garrett Wright as the December Volunteer of the Month. Garrett is from Columbia and graduated from the University of Missouri. He began volunteering with the Special OlympicGarrett Wright, December Volunteer of the Months in 2017. Over the past few years, he’s coached golf, basketball, and tennis.

Garrett started volunteering with the Special Olympics with his best friend Tyler in 2017.  They have been friends since they were two-years-old and do most things together. They have even recruited more

 of their friends to volunteer for the Special Olympics! Garrett talked about a memory when he coached two basketball teams with Tyler. One of their teams won state, and it was a blast coaching the athletes.

This past year, Garrett volunteered during the golf and tennis season. He competed in the Unified Partners category with Duke Simmons, and they placed 2nd in the area tournament. Garrett is excited to start coaching bowling, and mentioned that Duke has been proving himself to be a “phenomenal bowler and has scores that are better than mine.”

Garrett enjoys volunteering with the Special Olympics because he can volunteer and build relationships in the community. He likes that the Special Olympics isn’t a one-time volunteer event. Garrett encourages any one to volunteer with the Special Olympics.

November 2020 Volunteer of the Month – Travis Swearengin

Travis Swearengin is honored as the City of Columbia’s November Volunteer of the Month for his work with the Douglass baseball program, a non-competitive league for kids 5-10 years old.  Travis serves thTravis Swearengin, November 2020 Volunteer of the Monthe program in several roles: board member, coach and baseball camp leader.

Travis started volunteering with Douglass baseball four or five years ago after connecting with Camren Cross, Community Recreation Supervisor.  With over 15 years of baseball coaching experience, Travis was interested in using his skills with Columbia Parks & Recreation.

Ca-Sandra Gunn, the staff coordinator for Douglass baseball shared, “Travis is a huge asset to Douglas baseball. He is always willing to lead clinics and is always trying to go the extra mile to help the players learn the basic skills of baseball. He has so much patience and is always willing to help!”

“Athletics and baseball especially have always been an escape from whatever life stress is currently troubling me. My participation at Douglass still does some of that for me, but more so, it’s the idea that I may be helping to provide a much-needed break for a child,” Travis said.

Travis, originally from Houston, Missouri, also keeps busy with his landscaping business, T & T Escapes. Thank you, Travis, for sharing time with the City of Columbia! 

October 2020 Volunteer of the Month – Kelsey Tang

Kelsey Tang, October 2020 Volunteer of the MonthWe are pleased to honor Ziya “Kelsey” Tang as the October Volunteer of the Month. Kelsey is an international student from Hangzhou, China majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri. Kelsey quickly got involved with volunteering after arriving in Columbia. Kelsey saw volunteering as a way to give back to those in the community who were helping her assimilate to a new culture.

Whether Kelsey is educating the public about waste reduction as a trained Recycling Ambassador, helping with a Parks and Recreation event, Household Hazardous Waste collection or a litter event she finds great value in her service. “I feel involved in Columbia because of volunteering.  I think the best way to get involved in a community is to help others.” Kelsey feels when people are volunteering together “… we are united even when we haven’t know each other before.” The best part of volunteering for Kelsey is the good energy she receives from working with others to contribute to the community.

In China, most volunteers are high school and college aged volunteering earning credits for service. Kelsey has enjoyed volunteering here in Columbia where there is more community involvement and a diverse age range of volunteers.

Kelsey misses her beautiful home city of Hangzhou, but is grateful for all the volunteer opportunities that have made her feel a part Columbia.

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

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

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.