By Jennifer Conard—Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine
The Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine (CFGM) announced the winners of its annual Initiative Awards at its 20th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting dinner.
Great Initiative Award
Megan Zalzala received the 2019 Great Initiative Award (GIA). In spring of 2019, the West Liberty Parks and Recreation Board of Directors (WLPRBD) and The Friends of West Liberty Parks and Recreation decided to upgrade the playground at Kimberly Park, the city’s oldest park. They set a goal to raise $200,000 for a rubber surface and new equipment. WLPRBD member Zalzala took the initiative to chair and recruit a fundraising committee for the project.
The project brought in over $75,000 due to numerous grant applications Zalzala 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 Zalzala 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.
Nick Heath, Director of WLPR nominated Zalzala and described her as hard working, determined, responsible, loyal, and generous; he also suggested it may have taken another two to three years to break ground without her leadership, determination, and help.
Youth Initiative Award
Vanessa Calderon and Isabelle Hartman won this year’s Youth Initiative Award. February 1, 2019, marked the first day girls could join Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Calderon and Hartman make up two of the five founding members of BSA Troop 1127. They assumed the two highest leadership positions within the troop with Calderon as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and Hartman as Senior Patrol Leader. At the week-long, council-wide National Youth Leadership Training, they represented the only two females in attendance.
Calderon and Hartman teach younger troop members scouting skills and leadership by example. They volunteer at local retirement homes, pick up litter for the Nature Conservancy, and collect food for the annual post office drive. Dana Jones nominated Calderon and Hartman, describing them as brave, helpful, friendly, and trustworthy leaders.
Tom Hendricks Community Service Award
Keep Muscatine Beautiful (KMB) received the Tom Hendricks Community Service Award for Almost Friday Fest (AFF). Chris Boar and Brenda Christensen accepted the award.
A charitable organization, KMB leads initiatives to help make Muscatine a better place to live and work. These have ranged from a city-wide clean-up, to the Healthy Living Fest, to AFF. There were four AFF 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.
Volunteers accomplish KMB’s initiatives. John Axel, with support from John Krieger, Shawn Schrader, and Robert Sheets, nominated KMB. They wrote AFF volunteers met the mission of KMB 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.”