MPRB Announces Volunteer of the Year Awards for 2013

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is pleased to recognize outstanding volunteers for their work in 2013. These volunteers are representative of more than 8,475 individuals who donated almost 132,185 hours of time and talent each year to the park system. Through the Volunteer of the Year Awards, the invaluable contributions made by individuals and volunteer groups are highlighted. The awards recognize these outstanding efforts, and signify the importance of every volunteer to the success of the MPRB.

The award recipients were honored during a ceremony and reception at the Wednesday, May 21, Board of Commissioners meeting.

Ten adults and one group were recipients of the Remarkable Volunteer Service Awards. Each honoree and group received a framed certificate of their award and a donation of $500 will be made to their park program. The funds will be used to enhance programming or purchase needed materials and supplies.

One local youth was honored with the Rising Star Award. Recipients of the Rising Star Award have brought enthusiasm and leadership to the parks they serve and a framed certificate of their award and a donation of $500 will be made to their park program.

Adult Remarkable Volunteer Service Award Recipients

Jenn Bennington
For the past two years, Bennington has been the point person for the MPRB Northeast/Southeast soccer program which serves more than 200 youth and utilizes more than 35 volunteers. Bennington recruits the coaches, organizes teams and their schedules, and trouble-shoots a multitude of issues related to the program. Bennington’s recruitment of participants and volunteer coaches is vital to the success of the Northeast/Southeast soccer program. Bennington assists the families to find a way around barriers preventing their kids from participating in sports and other park programs. She has impacted the soccer program and other programs at NE parks, and has changed countless lives of youth and families for the better.

Wes and Dawn Chapman
Wes and Dawn Chapman have worked in tandem on behalf of Linden Hills Park for many years and in many roles. Wes has served in various roles with the Southwest Activities Council (SWAC) over the past 10 years, most recently as President of the SWAC. In the youth sports area, Wes has both coached and recruited coaches for various teams. He also actively works to coordinate components of events such as Kitefest. Wes has been an advocate and supporter of better and safer sport fields at Pershing and the tennis courts at Linden Hills.

Dawn has served on the neighborhood board, advocating for parks and neighborhood safety issues such as field fencing and event sponsorships. She is always looking for ways to leverage neighborhood resources to benefit the park and community they love. A member of Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, Dawn has invested many hours toward community and citywide events and projects. Individually and together, over the years Wes and Dawn find countless ways to make their mark on Minneapolis Parks.

Hollis Fricek
For 11 years, Fricek has taken on the responsibility of planting and caring for a park sign bed along Minnehaha Parkway. Over this time, it is estimated that this Fricek has volunteered 300 hours working on the garden bed from spring through fall, donating her own plants to the beautiful bed year after year.

While Fricek would be the first to say that her garden spot is small and manageable for her as an individual volunteer, the bigger story is the longevity and positive attitude with which she has volunteered for 11 years. It is the small, steady, skilled work by volunteers such as Fricek that keep our park sign beds beautiful, healthy and a treasure for our parkway patrons to enjoy.

Lily O’Brien 
Fundamental sports programs are vital to the development of an understanding and passion for just about any organized sport. As a coach for fundamental soccer and basketball at Luxton Park, O’Brien has excelled in encouraging and teaching young athletes in the park to understand and enjoy these sports. She works with kids and parents from two different neighborhoods to provide a meaningful and fun sports experience. The fundamentals program has grown and flourished, and there is now a wait list for children who want to be a part of this diverse and successful program.

O’Brien also has volunteered at holiday parties at Luxton. Having her volunteer in this capacity is great for kids who have known her as their coach. Families from neighborhoods surrounding Luxton have fallen in love with O’Brien, and we appreciate her dedication to these families and to the whole community.

David Rayson
Rayson began volunteering in Minneapolis Parks in 1987 coaching his daughter’s softball team. He coached for five years and returned in 2004 to begin another 10 years of coaching. This time, it was Rayson’s grandchildren and their love for sports that brought him back to volunteering in the parks.

Rayson is not only the coach, but is also the taxi service, uniform-fitter, popcorn supplier, tear dryer, ATM machine, cleat finder, coat rack and the cheerleader for many of the kids on his teams. The community and park have come to treasure Rayon’s quick wit, his sharp mind, friendly smile and all his efforts to make a difference for the kids.

Mary and Marcus Strong
Mary and Marcus Strong have dedicated more than 200 hours per year over their past either years of service to the Minneapolis Parks. Through the Park Stewards program, they have developed and maintained a beautiful boulevard garden bordering their property. The busy road along 46th Avenue South leads to the Minnehaha Falls Regional Park has a large and appreciative audience from spring through fall.

The Strongs have learned through experience as they have worked. Their developed skills and dedication to the project over the years, as well as their plant donations, have yielded beauty and color that are appreciated by all who pass this stretch. Their many hours of hard work are a gift to all who pass by.

Eric Tuck
Tuck has been an active volunteer at Pearl Park for more than 10 years. He started coaching when his oldest son was in fundamental sports. Tuck has also served as treasurer on the board of the Pearl Improvement and Recreation Council. Altogether, Tuck volunteers an average of 6-8 hours per week, year-round.

Tuck has touched the lives of countless young athletes. He inspires teamwork, commitment, goal-setting and sportsmanship. Tuck is a terrific role model for kids and adults alike, and has been generous with his gift of time and talent to the parks.

Kenneth Yanish
At Lake Hiawatha Park, Yanish is a big reason for the park’s success with their baseball program. He has been coaching for six years and has amassed 600 hours of volunteer time given to working with youth and their families. In addition to guiding and coaching his players, Yanish serves as a mentor to new coaches at Lake Hiawatha. This has given the program consistency in how coaches work with their teams and in their handling of various issues that arise throughout the season.

Yanish inspires youth to develop lifelong skills and good sportsmanship. He has also gone out of his way to help them understand the game of baseball. Yanish’s longtime participation and excellence as a coach has greatly benefited the youth and the greater community at Lake Hiawatha Park.

Youth Rising Star Award Recipients

Ethan Cunningham
Cunningham is a volunteer at Kenwood Park, volunteering 16-20 hours per month. He assists with various RecPlus activities, fundamental and squirts basketball, special events and meeting room set-up at Kenwood. Cunningham is reliable, patient and willing to learn new responsibilities.

The RecPlus kids, parents and staff have a high level of respect and appreciation for Cunningham and his work. He has developed a rapport with both the kids and staff, and is a mature young man, with a cool, calm demeanor and a quiet confidence. Cunningham takes initiative, understands his role as a volunteer at Kenwood and is a great asset to Kenwood Park – and the community.

Group Volunteer Award

The Men’s & Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis 
The Men’s & Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis started donating trees, plants and shrubs to the Lyndale Park Gardens in 1952. The group began their volunteer legacy of caring for the Perennial Trial and Border Gardens in 1996. The group donates plants to the garden and dedicates hours every other week to keep the gardens thriving.
The members of this reliable group stagger their vacation time to ensure that work in the Perennial Trial Garden can continue throughout the summer months. They are a hard-working, team-oriented group of volunteers. In their words, “We are proud of our determination and for not giving up – we took a space that was nothing and turned it into a destination. We are proud of the design of the garden and the flow of the whole border. It is beautiful in all four seasons.”


Sherry Brooks
Volunteer Coordinator