MPRB Announces 2017 Volunteer of the Year Awards

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is pleased to recognize outstanding volunteers for their work in 2017. Last year, more than 11,000 people volunteered with the Minneapolis Park system. Whether coaching, maintaining a garden, mentoring youth, assisting visitors at park facilities, or helping with special events, volunteers bring a wealth of talent and experience to the system. The Volunteer of the Year Awards recognize these outstanding efforts and signify the importance of every volunteer to the success of the MPRB.

Award recipients were honored during a ceremony and reception at the April 4, 2018, Board of Commissioners meeting.

Eight individuals and two groups received the Remarkable Volunteer Service Award, and one individual received the Youth Rising Star Award. All of these volunteers embody one or more of the themes set forth in the Park Board’s Comprehensive Plan including, Environmental Stewardship, Recreation that Inspires, and Vision and Leadership.

Each honoree and group received a framed certificate of their award, and a donation of $500 will be made to the park program where they volunteer. The funds will be used to enhance programming or purchase needed materials and supplies.

Staff members, Commissioners and the community were invited to nominate outstanding volunteers for these awards.

Thank you to all of our volunteers!

Remarkable Volunteer Service Award Recipients

The below are excerpts from submitted nominations.

Rodney Bell

Coach Rodney Bell has been a dedicated volunteer with Folwell Park sports for the past three years. Each season he has coached football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. He has coached players ages 8 to 14.

Coach Bell volunteers hundreds of hours each year, on and off the field/court. When he is not coaching his players, Coach Bell takes a leadership role in making sure that Folwell Park athletes participate in camps and team field trips and he can be counted on to assist with concession stand fundraisers that support all of Folwell’s sports programs.

Coach Bell has been committed to encouraging the personal development of the youth that he coaches. He helps youth become better students and athletes. He acknowledges their improvement, rewards them for hard work and explains consequences when effort is not attempted. Coach Bell shows players how to have a competitive nature, teaches them about ethical behavior and good sportsmanship, and promotes leadership skills. Coach Bell also supports other Folwell coaches so they become better resources for their teams.

Brad Madson

Brad has been a fixture in the Minneapolis Park Youth Sports Programs for more than 15 years. He has contributed his time and talents in a variety of ways over the years, showing up at each event with positive energy and passion for his work.

For the past 12 years, Brad has helped to coordinate the Annual Gridiron Gallop 5k event, with proceeds from the event going to assist with youth sports participation fees, safety equipment for youth sports and training for youth football coaches. In addition, he has set up opportunities for Minneapolis youth to meet players from the Minnesota Vikings, has arranged donations for cleats, mouthgards, and Vikings game tickets and has assisted with grants for football field renovations.

Brad has also assisted in coordinating an annual junior player development football camp for youth ages 8 to 18. Over the past 18 years, thousands of Minneapolis youth have learned throwing, catching, footwork, tackling, character building and 7-on-7 drills. The camp is free of charge and youth receive breakfast, lunch, and a commemorative t-shirt.

Sarah Johanns

Sarah has been the lead track coach at Pershing Park for the past three seasons.During the track season, she averages 12-15 hours each week working with the over 75 registered participants. Along with twice weekly practices prior to the start of the season; she also challenges the athletes to run with her on weekend mornings around the lakes. Sarah leads a team of 10 adult volunteers and provides instruction to both adult volunteers and athletes on short- and long-distance running techniques, high jump, long jump and shot put.

Sarah cares so much for every child and encourages them to be their best. She has an in-depth understanding of the skills and strategies that make for an effective training program for all the events.She is a great leader and is an excellent role model for all the athletes.She is disciplined, always has a positive attitude and has strong communication skills.She motivates the participants and creates a positive atmosphere.Sarah Johanns is the main reason Pershing’s Track team has had so much success both on and off the field over the past three years.

Sean Connaughty

Since 2013, volunteer Sean Connaughty has been collecting trash at Lake Hiawatha from both the shoreline and his kayak.

Sean’s finds include, but are not limited to: plastic bags, bottles and straws, aerosol and beer cans, toys, flipflops, and snack wrappers. His annual trash haul averages more than one ton.

Sean’s efforts have inspired community members to get “picking” through Friends of Lake Hiawatha organized clean-ups and storm drain stenciling activities. Sean is a founding member of the Friends organization and lead many, if not most, of the trash picks at the lake.

Sean’s volunteer work at Lake Hiawatha, combined with his artistic abilities, have raised community awareness of pollution in our waterways. In 2015, his trash finds were displayed at the Sandbox Gallery. For the exhibit Sean displayed a 10 percent sample of the trash collected at the Hiawatha. The exhibit documents what Sean calls a contemporary “midden,” which is an archeology term used to describe a refuse heap, also known as a dump. Citizen behavior is documented in the trash and debris that ends up in the lake. Additionally, in 2016, Sean launched a video public service announcement to highlight how trash and garbage ends up in Lake Hiawatha. This video was screened at 17 locations throughout the Twin Cities.

Robert Buck

Robert Buck has been generously donating is time and expertise to the Forestry Department since 2013. A professional PhD. statistician by trade, Robert offered to assist with the scientific analysis of tree survival rates in Minneapolis. In collaboration with Park Board Forestry Staff and the University of Minnesota, Robert designed an ongoing study to track the establishment of newly plant trees over a five-year period.

The study includes multiple steps throughout the year to facilitate ongoing quality control analysis. The work is extremely technical and includes pulling a survey sample set from the seasonal planting population, working to find and correct data discrepancies and sourcing additional data sets, writing an annual scientific report, and annually presenting the study results to the Forestry Department and Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission.

The benefits of this study to the Park Board are immense. Until the study, most, if not all, tree establishment survivability rates have been case by case and anecdotal. Robert’s findings and analysis to date have and will continue to impact Forestry operations and tree care for years to come.

Charles Chevnert

“Chuck,” as Charles is known to his MOCA (Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocate) friends and family, has been a 10 plus-year volunteer “Dirt Boss” at Theodore Wirth and Brownie Lake where he helps build and maintain multi-use single-track trails.

In the last four years, MOCA has added two new additional sections to the Wirth and Brownie trails. Unique trail design and cool features keep the folks who bike, hike and run on the system coming back for more. Chuck was integral to these additions.

Chuck ensures that MOCA volunteers have all the supplies necessary for their weekly Wednesday trail building events. Chuck knows that keeping volunteers engaged and busy will result in efficient use of their time. In 2017, MOCA hosted multiple large-scale trail building events, Chuck spent countless hours planning projects and preparing; guaranteeing a successful event and a positive volunteer experience.

David Hile

About 13 years ago, David retired and moved to the city from the suburbs. After the move he realized he missed gardening, so he joined Friends of Loring Park gardener group. In 2008 he joined the Friends of Loring Park Board. The next year he took over the tending Horseshoe Court Rose Bed in the park, and in 2011 he took on the additional responsibility as Friends of Loring Park board president, a position which came with many responsibilities.

When it comes to the roses, Dave claims his secret is as simple as keeping them watered and fed, as well as being committed to the overwintering process.

Brian Crotteau

Brian Crotteau has been volunteering with Park Stewards the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary for more than three years. Brian also has an independent stewardship agreement with the Park Board for which he removes invasive species, such as, buckthorn, honeysuckle, garlic mustard, motherwort and burdock, from a buffer zone that surrounds the Bird Sanctuary.

In 2017, between volunteering with the Friends and volunteering under his individual stewardship agreement Brian logged more than 300 hours pulling invasive species and planting native species in and around Roberts. In addition to the 300 hours, Brian was in the field volunteering over 53 separate times during the growing season.

Minneapolis Downtown Next Generation and Minneapolis Ambassadors Lions:
Joan’s Memorial Garden at Father Hennepin Bluffs

Joan’s Memorial Garden is located at the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge in Father Hennepin Bluff Park. The garden was established in 2002 by long-time Marcy Holmes resident Joyce Anderson in memory of her late partner Joan Leigh. Joyce maintained the garden until her death, at the age of 90, in 2013.

The Lions Club may be best known for fighting blindness through their two programs the Gift of Sight, an eye donation program, and Recycle for Sight, an eyeglass donation program. However, Lions also volunteer for many kinds of community projects, including environmental concerns. In 2015, members of the Ambassadors Club reached out to the Park Board to identify an environmental initiative in which club members could participate and provide meaningful service to the community. And, as it happens, the Anderson’s family and the Park Board had been seeking help to maintain the memorial garden. The Minneapolis Ambassadors Club asked the Minneapolis Downtown Next Generation Lions to join them in tending Joan’s Garden. Luckily for the Park Board both parties accepted this call to service. The Lions have been cooperatively stewarding the garden since 2015.

League of Women Voters Minneapolis

In 2014, the League of Women Voters Minneapolis formed a Parks Committee to monitor park issues. The committee met monthly to research, debate, establish and update their position regarding the Park system and its current status. The league reached consensus on the following Parks position: Support of adequate financing, sound administrative and planning procedures, and assurance of transparency and responsiveness to community concerns for the Minneapolis park and recreation system. The group’s efforts culminated in an organizational study in May of 2015.

The timeliness of this study aligned with MPRB’s Closing the Gap Initiative in 2016. Because of the committees work, LWVMPLS was able to mobilize their membership to support this initiative and advocate for its enactment. With their support, the 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan was voted into co-ordinance, adding $11 million to existing funding each year through 2036.

Youth Rising Star Award Recipient

Notorious Brown

Notorious Brown began volunteering with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as a 9th grader. He was selected for the Village Parks Language and Leadership program and has been a participant for four years. As a part of the program, teens are required to volunteer for 30 hours. However, Notorious chose to volunteer hundreds of hours, mostly at Whittier park, mentoring children, directing activities and leading younger volunteers. He has also worked with the Teen Teamworks Park Pathways program, leading day camps for children, encouraging cooperative exploring and learning.

In addition to being an awesome teen leader, Notorious is a committed student as well, taking classes at MCTC to earn college credit while still in high school. Notorious has multiplied his positive impact by being a role model for other teen volunteers