COLUMBIA — Columbia residents honored Cindy Mustard, retiring executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, with an open house on Thursday.
A line snaked around the center’s cubicles, each person waiting to talk to Mustard, who has worked as executive director of the center for 20 years.
The event lasted from 4 to 5:30 p.m. More than 50 people, including city manager Mike Matthes and City Councilman Fred Schmidt, passed through the center's tight quarters.
Mustard said she received so many flowers she had to spread them around the center so it didn’t look like a funeral.
“I think this is pretty special,” Mustard said. “These ladies know how to throw a party.”
Barbara Hodges, executive director of the nonprofit True North, said she has known Mustard for more than 20 years.
“(Cindy) has impacted me as a role model to emulate,” Hodges said. “She never slows down, and she’s everywhere in the community and always with a smile on her face.”
Guests signed a framed poster, which quickly became covered with commemorative notes for Mustard. "You’re an inspiration!" one said. "You set a high bar and do it with class & caring," another said.
“I can’t believe she’s retiring,” said Scout Merry of Services for Independent Living. He met Mustard through volunteering. “The only thing I can believe, and I’m sure of, is that she’ll still be a force in the community.”
“Her retirement is almost overdue in a way because she’s worked so hard for so many years,” Amy Myers, finance administrator at the center, said.
Mustard said she has no big retirement plans.
“I’d love to travel south in the winter months to escape the cold,” Mustard said. “I haven’t been anywhere in years.”
Mustard said she will continue to be involved with a number of community organizations, including the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts Board, Junior Achievement of Columbia and the Mizzou Botanic Garden.
Although she plans on keeping busy, Mustard said she couldn’t wait to relax.
“What’s nice is you can pick and choose and don’t have to be up at 7 a.m. every morning,” Mustard said. “I’ve been working pretty much full time since ’65. I’m ready for a break.”
The Voluntary Action Center will hold a formal event in Mustard’s honor at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Tiger Hotel. Tickets are $50. All proceeds will be donated in Mustard’s honor to both the newly created Cindy Mustard Endowment Fund and the VAC Youth Enrichment Fund.
The Voluntary Action Center has chosen Nick Foster to replace Mustard as the new executive director.