The Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine’s announced the winners of its annual Initiative Awards at its 20th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting dinner.
Great Initiative Award
The recipient of the 2019 Great Initiative Award is Megan Zalzala.
In the Spring of 2019, the West Liberty Parks and Recreation Board of Directors and The Friends of West Liberty Parks and Recreation decided to upgrade the playground at Kimberly Park, the oldest park in West Liberty.
They set a goal to raise $200,00 for a rubber surface and new equipment, and West Liberty Parks and Recreation Board Member Megan Zalzala took the initiative to Chair and recruit a Fundraising Committee for the Kimberly Park Playground Project.
The project was awarded over $75,000 due to numerous grant applications Megan wrote. West Liberty Foods agreed to match up to $25,000 for every dollar donated by the Community. In only six weeks West Liberty Community members donated $28,000 with Megan leading the effort. The Kimberly Park Playground Project exceeded their goal of $200,000 in only nine months with plans to install the playground equipment this coming Spring.
Megan was nominated by Nick Heath, Director of West Liberty Parks and Recreation and he described her as “hard working, determined, responsible, loyal and generous.” He also suggested it may have taken another 2-3 years to break ground without her leadership, determination and help. Megan was also recommended for the Great Initiative award by a fellow Fundraising Committee member, Emily Neeld, said Megan’s “determination and dedication does not go unnoticed to those of us who are behind the scenes to see the work she completes.”
The Great Initiative Award began in 2009 when Shirley Jean Drake, one of the Community Foundation’s long-time board members, was retiring. Shirley Jean left a legacy of great initiatives across our community, county, and state.
It is only through tirelessly working towards one’s goals and building strong relationships with others that good ideas become great initiatives. Shirley modeled the spark and drive that made people want to follow her and to buy into her initiatives. Many of those initiatives continue to inspire others to create positive change for our communities.
The Great Initiative Award is given each year to a person who served as the impetus for a great initiative, who engaged others, and championed it into something that makes our community and county great. The award winner must also exemplify the kind of personal determination, ethics, and cheerfulness that Shirley Jean Drake possessed.
Youth Initiative Award
This year two recipients were honored with the Youth Initiative Award – Vanessa Calderon and Isabelle Hartman.
February 1, 2019, was the first day girls could join Boy Scouts of America since being founded 109 years ago. Vanessa Calderon and Isabelle Hartman are two of the five founding members of Scouts BSA Troop 1127. They assumed the two highest leadership positions within the troop with Vanessa as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and Isabelle as Senior Patrol Leader. At the week-long, council-wide National Youth Leadership Training they were the only two females in attendance. They applied the skills they learned within their own troop and what started as a troop of five has grown to a troop of ten girls. Isabelle and Vanessa are teaching the younger troop members scouting skills as well as leadership by example. They volunteer at local retirement homes, pick up litter for the Nature Conservancy during hikes and kayaking and helped collect perishable foods for the annual post office food drive. Vanessa and Isabelle initiated the first female Boy Scouts of America Troop in Muscatine on the first available day, volunteer within their community and mentor younger troop members all while attending school, participating in student council, orchestra, band and sports.
Dana Jones nominated Isabelle and Vanessa and described them as “brave, helpful, friendly and trustworthy leaders.” Dana wrote that when Vanessa and Isabelle are given a task or responsibility, they always complete it and exceed expectations.
Vanessa and Isabelle were told by their parents that they were attending the award ceremony to do clean up for community service. They were quite surprised to find out the actual reason they were at the awards ceremony. And were also thrilled they weren’t on clean up duty!
In the similar spirit of the Great Initiative Award, we know there are talented, generous youth in our communities doing charitable projects of their own. The Youth Initiative Award was created just for them. The award is eligible for youth age 18 and under who were the primary organizer of a charitable program or project.
Giles Joslyn received the first award for creating “Stringfest” concerts to raise money for new band instruments and music lessons for students who might not otherwise be able to afford them. The passion, persistence, enterprise and leadership he demonstrated will continue to be honored through this Youth Initiative Award.
Tom Hendricks Community Service Award
The recipient of the Tom Hendricks Community Service Award is Keep Muscatine Beautiful for Almost Friday Fest. Chris Boar and Brenda Christensen were there to accept the award.
Keep Muscatine Beautiful is a charitable organization that addresses initiatives to help make Muscatine a better place to live and work. The initiatives have ranged from a City-Wide Clean-up to the Healthy Living Fest, to this year’s newest initiative Almost Friday Fest. There were four Almost Friday Fest events this summer providing free live music entertainment, a kids and family play area, local food trucks and a beer and wine tent. These family friendly events promoted the use of our riverfront and downtown, provided an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their services and raised funds to improve the riverfront. The first event in June drew about 400 attendees and that number tripled by the next month with more than 1,200 visitors.
The initiatives addressed by Keep Muscatine Beautiful are accomplished with volunteers. Keep Muscatine Beautiful was nominated by John Axel and supported by John Krieger, Shawn Schrader and Robert Sheets. They wrote that The Almost Friday Fest meets the mission statement of Keep Muscatine Beautiful by “Engaging Muscatine County residents to take greater responsibility for improving and enhancing the community environment through beautification programs and quality of life opportunities that help make Muscatine a better place to live and work.” And it is accomplished through dedicated volunteers.
Keep Muscatine Beautiful has events planned for fall. Their next event is a dueling pianos fundraiser.
Three years ago, Tom was inducted into the Volunteer Hall of Fame by Governor Terry Branstad. Tom is involved in many charitable activities and is a founding member of Muscatine Charities. His volunteer leadership and service are well known throughout the Muscatine area. So well known that Tom also received the People’s Choice Award by recording the largest total votes of all Hall of Fame candidates. The large number of votes by area residents helped him win the People’s Choice Award and is indicative of our community’s high esteem for Tom.
As a local tribute to Tom’s charitable work, Muscatine Charities established an endowment with the Community Foundation. This endowment will provide funding for the Tom Hendricks Community Service Award annually – every year – virtually forever.