Volunteers honored for helping Columbia

Thursday, February 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:38 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

While living in Minneapolis, Crystal and Steve Rogers were active in their neighborhood association.

“People said that it would help to make them feel safer if they knew who their neighbors were,” Crystal Rogers said. “We wanted to create a community where people felt safe.”

Crystal and Steve brought this desire with them when they moved to Columbia six years ago. In addition to driving MU international students to and from grocery stores every other Saturday, the Rogers also volunteer with the Clean Up Columbia program.

The Rogers and other dedicated volunteers were honored Wednesday night during a reception at the Activity and Recreation Center. All told, Columbians dedicated 40,912 hours of service to the city in 2003.

Mayor Darwin Hindman presented certificates to the Volunteer of the Month Award winners.

The Mills Drive Traffic Calming Project won the award for March.

“This actually began several years ago in meetings with the city,” said Lewell Wilkinson, a volunteer for the project. “The city didn’t have the staff to do the work, so we helped out.”

The volunteers timed and counted cars along Mills Drive to measure the speed, frequency and direction of the traffic, Wilkinson said. The data they gathered led to the city installing speed bumps on the road.

Bob Humphreys, another Mills Drive volunteer, also volunteers with the Park Patrol, a group that helps keep the city’s nature trails and parks clean. An avid runner and a member of the MU Track and Field Club, Humphreys, 77, found it easy to work volunteering into his running routine, which averages about 30 miles each week.

“I really would encourage anyone to volunteer out on the MKT trail,” Humphreys said. “It’s a good way to get exercise and do something worthwhile for your community.”

Also honored Wednesday night was Ora Lee Epperson. Epperson is an organizer for Older American Klub and OAK Tours, a travel group for seniors with more than 300 members.

“I’ve been involved for two years,” Epperson said. “We have entertainment and speakers. It’s a great way to get out and have some fun.”

Both Humphreys and Epperson are typical examples of volunteers who give their time, said Volunteer Coordinator Leigh Nutter.

“As you’d expect, there are a lot of retirees who volunteer,” Nutter said. “But we have a great mix of people. There are students in elementary schools who help out with different events, college students have come in wanting to be involved as well as many residents from all over Columbia.”

The range of ages for the volunteers is echoed in the breadth of different services they perform.

“Columbia is a fantastic community and from cultural affairs to police to public works, we always fill almost every activity,” Nutter said. “Often, we have to put people on a waiting list.”

Several residents were put on the wait list for the Community Emergency Response Team, a program introduced in Columbia in 2003 that helps firefighters build relationships with volunteers.

The team members are required to attend four four-hour training sessions. There are also refresher meetings to keep the members up to date and in touch with the firefighters.

All the award winners at Wednesday night’s event said their volunteer work stems from a desire to give back to a place they feel strongly about.

“Hopefully the city’s been good to you and you’ll be good to it,” Wilkinson said.

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