Volunteerism in Cameron Impressive to Missouri Community Betterment Judges
Cameron presented five community projects to judges with Missouri Community Betterment (MCB) on Monday, September 10, at City Hall. The judges seemed truly impressed with the projects they were presented. According to the judges, few communities that reach our size stay interested in MCB because the monetary prizes can’t really do much for them. The fact that Cameron has continued to be involved, present such strong projects, with volunteers that encompass all age groups and demographics says a great deal about the type of town we are and aspire to be.
Judy Cunningham and Lisa Savage presented Boofest. The Boofest project that started as the brainchild of Cindy Williams who had the vision for a centralized Halloween event; able to offer good food, safe candy, and a way for friends and family to enjoy the holiday together. A one-stop-shop: kids can play games, eat hot dogs and chips, drink water, and go trunk or treating. “We didn’t know what to expect that first year,” recalled Lisa Savage, “we weren’t entirely sure all the effort we put in would be worth it. But then the first kids came, and they just kept coming…. yah, it was worth it.” In that first year they thought they might have about 200 children attend and 500 showed up. The next year there was 1200 children and not just from Cameron but from surrounding communities as well. This past year there were 700 children in attendance, which is impressive considering it was snowing. Boofest has received a lot of support from area residents, local businesses, and the church community. Approximately 200 people volunteer to help make Boofest possible. Volunteers from each age group and economic tier show up to do what they can. High School students are often out there to help set up, grandparents and even residents from a couple senior facilities come help pass out candy. There are over 60 cars that participate in the trunk or treat.
**Please note that the author was mistaken in last week’s article -- Boofest and the Fire Department do not work together for this event. Each offers hot dogs, chips, and refreshments to trick or treaters independently.
Amy O’Grady with Cameron Regional Medical Center presented the Meals on Wheels project to the MCB judges. When the Stella Grinstead Nutrition Center closed due to a loss in funding it created a vacuum in the community. Cameron Regional Medical Center chose to step up to fill the nutritional vacancy. The Meals on Wheels program offers homebound senior citizens and disabled citizens of any age in Clinton County a hot lunch delivered to their door. The program operates with 9 staff members, 5 volunteer drivers, and 6 backup drivers. Three Meals on Wheels participants spoke to the need the program helped provide. The common thread in each, very different, story was a hesitancy to reach out to the program for help and just how valuable and uplifting the social interaction is. The program is not just in the hot meal delivered to someone who needs it; it is a lifeline, a connection, to another person to the community. Recently a volunteer went to deliver a meal and found the person on the floor. They were able to call for assistance and get the resident the necessary care.
Pat Jones introduced herself as a “bag lady” and presented how she and her group of volunteers repurpose plastic bag by making mats and pillows for the homeless. Pat is an avid recycler and was distressed when plastic bags were not permitted in with recyclable materials citing that one bag can take 20 years to decompose. She learned about the technique at one of the library’s events intended to teach children about recycling. There was a lady there that showed the children how to make a mat out of plastic bags. Pat spoke with the lady afterward and asked about the loom the lady’s husband had made. Pat started making mats on her own at home but quickly grew to the point of holding a two-hour get together twice a week at the Old School. Volunteers of all ages come help make mats and pillows for the homeless. There is something for every type of person and skill level. “If you can fold laundry you can fold a plastic bag and we all learned how to cut with scissors by first grade.” It takes approximately 600 plastic bags to make one mat and around 75-100 bags to make a pillow. Pat estimates that their efforts to date have kept 30,000 plastic bags out of the landfill. The mats and pillows are sent to Kansas City and the City Union Mission for use in their efforts to provide care to the homeless population.
Purple Heart recipient, Troy Green told the story of Ruck Between Rivers and all they do to bring honor, attention, and funding to the veterans at Cameron’s Veterans Memorial Home. “Our goal is to enhance their retirement years. Providing funding to go to car shows, ball games, and other activities of interest.” Thus far Ruck Between Rivers has raised $20,000 toward this goal. Troy and his group of volunteers walk across the state with a 50-pund military style backpack called a “ruck”. They travel US36 from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River and are welcomed and encouraged by communities all along the way. Green told the MCB judges, ““The volunteerism in this town is one of its greatest attributes. People here just jump in when you need them”. People that cannot make the hike are encouraged to do what they can by going out to the Veterans Home and visiting with the residents there. Ruck Between Rivers is typically held in September but was postponed this year due to several volunteers deploying. The ruck will take place late April or early May 2019. The goal will be to make the trek in 48 hours or less.
Tim Wymes presented on the DRGN Video project. This was a collaborative effort with High School students partnering with the radio station. The City donated to the course for equipment and the students developed some promotional videos about Cameron. DRGN made videos focused on the quality of life, education, and economic development. One of the videos was played in its entirety for the judges who were impressed with the skill of the young people and with the ingenuity of giving the youth such an active role in showcasing the community and in a medium that is relevant to that generation.
Cameron Fire Chief, Mike O’Donnell, was nominated for the Adult Leadership Award in recognition for individuals who demonstrate great leadership qualities within their communities. Mike was chosen for the “myriad” of ways he leads by example and lends a hand in Cameron area activities. He is very active with the business community, city events, fire department, and other events within the community. Results will be announced at the MCB Awards ceremony on October 14 – 15 in Springfield, Missouri.