Rountree’s Barbara Thurman recognized as one of state’s Most Engaged Neighbors


Marilyn Prosser, City of Springfield, Park Board and KY3 recognized for Top Acts of Neighboring

The second annual Missouri Good Neighbor Week (Sept. 28-Oct. 4) exceeded expectations. Organizers had a goal to document 15,000 acts of neighboring. Instead, Missourians reported 19,752 acts of neighboring during the week.

The sponsors of Missouri Good Neighbor Week – University of Missouri Extension and The Hopeful Neighborhood Project – recognize the most engaged neighbors and the best acts of neighboring during the week to encourage acts of neighboring all year.

According to David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension and creator of Missouri Good Neighbor Week, 10 different reported acts of neighboring were selected as the best examples in Missouri this year.

“Whether you are an award winner or not, we want to encourage Missourians to keep learning the names of their immediate neighbors, finding ways to use their names, and planning fun neighborhood events to develop positive relationships and increase social capital,” said Burton. “Your personal health and social capital improves, your neighbors have an increased sense of belonging, and your community benefits from more civic engagement.”

Each statewide award winner receives a signed certificate and a prize check by mail as a thanks for their efforts. Several participants this year marked their submission as wishing to remain anonymous and were not considered for these awards. One goal for 2024 is to do more of random prize drawing from among submissions to include all submissions.

Top Acts of Neighboring

The City of Springfield, KY3-TV, and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board worked with other community partners to organize four neighborhood block parties in four different parks in Springfield. Each event was attended by hundreds of people and helped neighbors make new connections, grow the membership in neighborhood associations, and elevate the community conversation of what it means to be an engaged neighbor.

Marilyn Prosser in Springfield recognized that neighbors on her street had a unique opportunity to celebrate their ethnic backgrounds with food. She organized an ethnic potluck dinner for residents of Warmwater Avenue (a small dead end road). Marilyn says her co-chair was Jane Cogdill and her neighbor Balwinder Dhanoe made most of the potluck possible.

Shari McCallister and D&L Florist in Houston worked with sponsors, volunteers and partners to distribute 5,078 individually wrapped roses on Sept. 28 across Texas County to neighbors and community heroes. This year’s effort increased by 2,000 roses by involving partners in other Texas County communities: Licking, Summersville and Cabool.

The Cooper County Extension Council and 4-H Clubs partnered on a pet supply drive during the week to make a “pawsitive impact on the lives of some deserving animals.” The project leveraged multiple partnerships in the community and collected over 400 items. Twenty Cooper County 4-H’ers also made 20 no-sew kennel blankets. All donations were given to Second Chance, an organization in the community dedicated to rehoming unwanted pets.

Wanda McLane of Nixa used her abundant crop of cucumbers to make new connections during Missouri Good Neighbor Week. She began sharing them with neighbors, with strangers on street corners and at the local police department. Soon, neighbors reciprocated by bringing Wanda fresh eggs, green beans, pie, seedling trees and more. Word spread on the community Facebook page and by the end of the week Wanda had gifted over 500 cucumbers around her community. She hopes others embrace her message of kindness. “This world and our town needs more simple acts of kindness with no strings attached,” wrote Wanda.

Susan Peck and members of MapleGood in Maplewood hosted a neighborhood event called “Rock and Roll,” featuring two of MapleGOOD’s programs: The MapleGOOD Dino Dancers and MapleGOOD You Rock (a community rock painting effort). Volunteers also made 200 bags of homemade cookies for this afternoon event.

University of Missouri Extension staff and council members in Pulaski County in conjunction with Missouri Blue Star Families, held a food drive focusing on military families.  Many military families starting their careers experience food insecurity. Blue Star Families also hosted their Missouri Welcome Week during the same time frame as the Missouri Good Neighbor week, so each program complemented the other.

Sgt. Thomas Crossley of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office in Carthage and other deputies assigned to the Village of Airport Drive organized a movie night for local residents to bring people together for fun and connect deputies and community members.

Darla Noble of Rogersville worked closely with her neighborhood association to host a neighborhood cookout and deliver cookies to 99 houses in the neighborhood with a sticker reading: “Happy National Good Neighbor Day from Patriot Place HOA.”

Cathy Baker of Republic planned ahead for Missouri Good Neighbor Week. She grew a large bed of flowers from seed and then used those various flowers to create vases for delivery to 25 neighbors. Each vase had a hand-painted card celebrating Missouri Good Neighbor Week.

Greene County led the state with over 6,000 reported acts of neighboring, followed by St. Louis County, Texas County and Boone County.

Sixty-one county MU Extension councils conducted a day of service during Missouri Good Neighbor Week that involved hundreds of volunteers and reached thousands of Missourians.

Most Engaged Neighbors

Twelve Missourians were chosen for statewide recognition as “Missouri’s Most Engaged Neighbor.”

Sixty-two people were nominated for recognition as one of Missouri’s most engaged neighbors. Each of them received an acknowledgment letter and gift by mail.

“Honestly the plan was to honor 10, but we couldn’t get to that number,” said Jennifer Prophete, coordinator of The Hopeful Neighborhood Project. “I thought the nominations this year were great from one to 62.”

“We were excited to see two Missouri towns, Seymour and Webster Groves, collect their own nominations and honor engaged neighbors during the week,” said David Burton, a University of Missouri Extension community development specialist. “It would be great to see other cities do something similar next year. We must celebrate and recognize neighborly behavior.”

These statewide awards are provided by University of Missouri Extension and The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, which sponsors Missouri Good Neighbor Week.

Those selected for the statewide honor as Missouri’s Most Engaged Neighbor will receive an award certificate and prize check by mail.

Rountree’s Barbara Thurman was nominated for her “leadership and efforts to elevate the connectedness” of the Rountree Neighborhood Association. She has revived Welcome Wagon for new homeowners, organized and promoted a Chalk Your Walk event to celebrate Missouri Good Neighbor Week with 38 participants.

John and Cheryl Dabney of Lebanon were nominated by their neighbors who are handicapped. For the past three years, the Dabneys have done everything possible to care for them, mow their yard, make home repairs, install a chairlift, and even build a ramp. “We are so blessed to have them as our neighbors,” wrote the nominator.

Dr. Melissa Nash of St. Louis opened the first free healthy food market in the St. Louis area and serves over 10,000 lbs. of food monthly from her mobile food marts and wellness center. “She has been an advocate and champion for our neighborhood,” wrote the nominator.

Aaron Dohogne of St. Louis was nominated for his efforts to make St. Louis area neighborhoods more beautiful and happier. He organizes trash pickups, secures native trees, and plants them for those who want them. “He is the epitome of an engaged neighbor making a difference, one piece of trash and one tree at a time,” wrote the nominator.

Geralds Wirths of Pilot Grove is an 89-year-old veteran who shares bounty from his garden, tools, and hospitality with everyone in the neighborhood, especially those who are shut in. “He is a great friend to people in need and those who are lonely,” wrote his nominator.

Bill Mueller of Kimberling City is described as the caretaker of his neighborhood. He has driven neighbors to the doctor, walks multiple dogs around the neighborhood, cares for the yards and homes of those traveling, and plans neighborhood parties. “I can’t begin to explain how kind and caring this neighbor is toward his neighbors,” wrote his nominator.

Jenn Fischer of Webster Groves who organizes monthly neighborhood meet-ups and the annual block party. When a neighbor’s home caught on fire, Jenn organized a GoFundMe that raised $1,500 in less than 24 hours.

Ray Morgan of Cleveland is a leader and volunteer in his small town of 600 people.  He does all types of maintenance work around the community, clears snow from driveways, mows yards, and puts up flags along Main Street for special events. “One thing that stands out to me is his positive outlook and happy demeanor,” wrote his nominator.

Virginia (Ginny) Zarinelli of Ellisville is a trustee for her neighborhood. But she is best known for greeting new neighbors, visiting neighbors who are ill or hospitalized, driving neighbors to the doctor, and planning a monthly luncheon for ladies on her street. “She makes our neighborhood a great place to live with her thoughtfulness,” wrote her nominator.

Greg and Suzanne Smith of Manchester are active volunteers in their neighborhood. Greg serves as a trustee in the neighborhood and “brings diplomacy, wisdom, and care to his role and is appreciated for his careful stewardship of our resources,” wrote his nominator. This couple also hangs 100,000 Christmas lights for an annual neighborhood display.

Lee Scribner of Sedalia is known for creating joyful experiences in his neighborhood like an annual Halloween block party and annual neighborhood cleanup event. “Lee’s selflessness and devotion to our community make him an outstanding nominee,” wrote his nominator.

Kati Westcott of Chula is known for helping neighbors in need and organizing neighbors annually for the Chula Street Fair.  “She is the glue that holds our community of 200 together. We are a small community with a big heart and she keeps it pumping,” wrote her nominator.

About Good Neighbor Week

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation HB1738 on July 1, 2022, establishing Missouri Good Neighbor Week. The week begins on Sept. 28, also National Good Neighbor Day (first created in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter). Missouri Good Neighbor Week was also selected as the best neighboring program in the United States for 2023 by Neighborhoods USA.



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