Volunteers of the Month

May 2011 Volunteers of the Month Alpha Phi Omega

 Our May volunteers of the month have taken “spring cleaning” to a whole new level, and fall and winter for that matter! The volunteers of the month are members of the Mizzou Beta Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a national co-ed service fraternity. The men and women of APO have spent several hours, rain or shine or ice and snow, helping to collect trash and debris from our local streets water ways over the past two years.

APO members are standout volunteers for their unconditional dedication. Stormwater Educator for Columbia Public Works, Mike Heimos, brags, “[APO] is a great group of young men and women, who show up no matter what the conditions. This past year they cleaned Rock Quarry Road twice with the Public Works Street Department, both times walking the full length of the road and picking up trash before it went into the Hinkson Creek in freezing rain and ice cold temperatures!” 

Volunteering has obvious benefits for our community, but it also has wonderful benefits for our volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar values and passion for helping others. APO recognizes that college is a time to meet others who may change their lives completely. Members focus their energy on volunteering but are encouraged to volunteer in groups to help foster lasting friendships.

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

April 2011 Volunteers of the Month Monica Frank and Telisa Anderson 

For those of us who have spent anytime living in Mid-Missouri, we know that claiming the weather is “inconsistent” can be a drastic understatement. While the unpredictable weather may hinder some of our daily activities and events, it has yet to faze our April Volunteer(s) of the Month! Come rain or shine you can find Monica Frank and Telisa Anderson volunteering two Saturdays a month for the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection program.

Whether they are welcoming citizens who are bringing materials to the event, passing out reference materials, or answering questions they are always smiling and a joy to be around.

“These enthusiastic ladies help increase overall awareness of Columbia’s recycling program and are appreciated for their friendliness and willingness to help!” says Volunteer Supervisor- Andrea Shelton.

Ready to help out whenever they are needed, these women have also stepped up to fill additional roles such as leading the 2010 Fall HHW Student Volunteers or serving as the recycling mascot, Mr. Bag-It at area events! Monica and Telisa are perfect examples of how dedicated volunteers can really make a difference in the city.

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

March 2011 Volunteer of the Month Janet Hammen        

One thing you might find in common with a lot of Columbia’s stand out volunteers is that once they start volunteering for the city they just can’t get enough! This is definitely the story for our March Volunteer of the Month, Janet Hammen, who has been volunteering for the City of Columbia for more than ten years. When asked what keeps her coming back, Janet says it’s all about the people, “The best part about volunteering for the City of Columbia is the people you get to meet and work with and the relationships you build over time.”

Janet has volunteered for Columbia in several capacities, one being her participation in the East Campus Neighborhood Association. Janet has spent countless hours assisting staff members in sifting through boxes of rental records and helping to digitalize the documents for future use.

There is no doubt that city employees appreciate Janet as much as she appreciates them. Office of Neighborhood Services Manager, Leigh Britt says, “We appreciate the work Janet has done to communicate with the City on issues important to her neighborhood as well as the many hours she is spending working in our office.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

February 2011 Volunteer of the Month Jim Schepers

While the New Year is in full swing it’s not too late to add the use of your time and talents as a volunteer to your resolutions list. Fair warning from our February Volunteer of the Month, Jim Schepers, though, “Once you start [volunteering], it becomes addicting”.

For Jim that addiction to volunteering began when he became a charter member of the Columbia Aquatic Restoration Project (C.A.R.P.). As a C.A.R.P. volunteer Jim assists in aquatic park management and maintenance for ponds, streams, lakes and rain gardens. When Jim learned of the new project several years ago he decided it was right down his alley. As an avid water foul hunter, Jim had preexisting interest in aquatic restoration, but enjoys C.A.R.P. because of the various new preservation techniques he has learned.

Jim’s passion and talents have certainly not gone unnoticed and he is not the only one benefiting from his volunteer experience. Jen Courtney, Horticulturist and supervisor for C.A.R.P. says, “Jim’s enthusiasm and humor add so much to the events. His hard work and fun nature keep everyone he works with excited about the work they are involved in. His efforts really are having a positive influence on water quality in the Columbia area.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

January 2011 Volunteer of the Month Dina Charlton

January’s Volunteer of the Month, Dina Charlton, like many of Columbia’s volunteers, doesn’t just stand out purely for the time she donates every month. Dina Charlton is being recognized this month because of the enthusiasm and passion she brings to her many positions with Special Olympics a Sports Coordinator, a Coach, a Chaperone, and an office volunteer.

Dina started her adventure as a Special Olympics volunteer at a single day event that introduced her to a wonderful opportunity to continue donating her talents and service for Columbia. “For me, I decided to try something I thought would interest me. I quickly realized I wasn’t satisfied with volunteering for just single day events and I wanted to pursue more opportunities to help out with Special Olympics,” Dina said. When asked about advice she would give future volunteers, Dina said you just have to keep trying things out until you find what you love.

Just as much as Dina loves volunteering, the athletes and volunteer coordinators love having her around. Dina’s supervisor Jody Cook says, “The athletes have blossomed and excelled under her guidance. The teacher in her is ever-present; everyone around her grows from her involvement and dedication. She brings life, fun and learning to all she touches.”

~Written by volunteer Brittany Perrin

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