Saturday, January 10, 2015
Stoney Creek Inn, Columbia, MO
The Missouri River Relief crew is an amazing group of people. These are the volunteers that form the heart of this organization. They help organize events, drive boats, cook food, travel all over the watershed, provide the human infrastructure and staff at clean-ups, and then they give the energy and love that keeps it all going.
More than your normal non-profit, these folks form a tribe. An always growing, always caring family of river lovers that want to share the river with others.
One of the ways we try to honor this tribe is through our annual "Post-Holiday" awards banquet.
The evening starts with dinner, followed by awards, and then music making. The awards start with a massive circle - everyone joins hands and Tim Nigh encourages us to move our energy throughout the crowd. It's a touching way to begin, and brings us all together instantly. Next, Nina Stawski read one of her poems to get us in the mood. This year she read "Fish Poem - Alien Species". You can read it here.
We'll start with the "Special Recognitions" followed by our Annual Awards. Although the banquet took place in 2015, the awards are for 2014.
2014 Special Recognitions
First Smile of the Day
Some of the stories I’ve shared with this guy are some of the best moments I’ve had with River Relief. Goat Island morel madness up near Yankton. Long campout weekends in his front yard, with a side of fried catfish and a trip to the big sandbar. Three in the morning solar boat rescues on the 340. Hushpuppies and catfish for 150 on California Island at sunset. Hearing Osage River history idling down the Osage River in the moonlight. This guy turned the job of “Parking” into a performance. There’s no one I’d rather have as the first person people meet driving up on a cleanup morning than Soda Popp. And you can feel that good energy ripple on through the rest of the event. We’re so lucky to have you as part of the family, Soda.
Here’s to the First Smile of the Day award recipient, Soda Popp!
This next award recipient is one of our downstream treasures. She has been the keystone for building community on many levels—from growing fertile gardens and organizing food circles to restoring old buildings and presiding over town councils.
Her true passion is artistic expression and, for several years, she has taken discarded, ugly river trash and created beautiful metal sculptures. These treasures on display at the Washington River Festival have raised both awareness about river issues and money for River Relief.
This year, we dumped next to her forge a pallet of scrap metal gathered at river cleanups and she created magnificent sculptures for the Art Auction in McKittrick. But that barely scratched the surface—she also was a key organizer for the Benefit in October and helped gather fantastic pieces from local artists. She arranged to use the mercantile store. She wrote the menu, organized the cooks and made delicious dishes. She linked up with local businesses and she offered her house and yard for a weeklong camp. As Mayor of McKittrick she opened up the town green for our tribal fire. And she even invited us to come back—although perhaps not during Octoberfest.
Please join me in recognizing our trash-to-art sculptress who took generosity to the highest levels, thank you, Joey Los
Good Cheer Go-Getter
When I say Missouri, you say River. Missouri… River…. Missouri… River! When I say Big, you say Muddy. Big… Muddy… Big… Muddy! Remind you of anyone? This award recognizes River Relief’s own river cheerleader. After taking an extended break from the clean-up crew for several years, this headstrong mama came back better than ever. Only with a 4-year old mini-me. We love our river family, and couldn’t be happier to have this spirited sparkplug back amongst our ranks.
Please help us recognize this year’s Good Cheer Go-Getter, Jax Acton.
Favorite FamilyPrevious winners – Stew & Crew, the Richmonds, the Franks, the Penningtons, and the Hemmelgarns.
This year we finally got to spend some quality river time with this family. If it wasn’t enough that these are two of the most talented, hardest working people I know, they have two boys that bring a shining light of positivity. Plus they recruited a solid bunch of really great friends to help us on the river. One of the parents got thrown head first into the River Relief vortex and whipped together our first ever Leavenworth clean-up, really tapping into the community and creating a great, but soggy event. The other parent is a laughing force of nature, who brings a solid get-er-done ethic along with a standup comedian’s timing. And their sons Ben and Luke reminded us of the joy of the river moment.
Deepest gratitude and love to the Mattern Family, Kris, Jeremy, Ben and Luke.
Mise en placeIf you have ever used someone else’s kitchen to cook, or had someone put dishes away, you know how frustrating it can be to have things out of place.
“Why are the mixing bowls where the plates go?”
Well, it stands to reason that the more people you are cooking for the larger the kitchen and the more frustrating unorganized kitchens can be. The sight of willing helpers sorting through bins to find a bowl, a spatula, or the uncommon seasoning was rather common early in the year. Often as we were packing up you would hear, “Oh here is that pan I was looking for earlier!”
Having consecutive events only a week or two apart can leave little time for reorganizing. Leading into our Fall cleanup season this person took it upon herself to get the kitchen in order and establish mise en place which is a French phrase that means “putting in place.” By having things in place people were able to contribute in preparing the delicious meals from the Flying Nun Kitchen. There is no doubt that the meals were delicious and prepared with love by the River Relief community thanks to the leadership of this amazing camp chef!
This year’s Mise en place Award goes to Gale Lauber Johnson.
The William Clark Cartographer Award
River Relief hosts events throughout the lower Missouri River basin, from Yankton, SD to St. Louis and beyond. Often we are on unfamiliar waters trying to find out where to go and how to get there. This special award is for a long-time member of our core group that has time and again shown us the way.
Her thorough knowledge of GIS systems and her dedicated work ethic creates the detailed maps of the river we use to find the trash, distribute the volunteers and make sense of the territory. Her positive attitude as a registration expert, safety and orientation coordinator and map-maker has saved our bacon many times. She was a tireless participant in making the data collected during our river “Mega Scout” useable. She is always there to make serving the volunteer lunch go smoothly. At most of our events she quietly contributes her quick thinking and insightful perspective to make the whole thing run smoothly.
Despite her inability to properly break the champagne bottle at a boat christening, we unanimously hold her in high regard. Among a sea of treasured crew members of River Relief, this lady shines because of her dedication to the cause and her true heart. If you earn her respect, you are doing something right. Please join in a show of appreciation to our personal river cartographer, or rio-grapher if you will, this generous geomancer, Dyan Pursell.
Most Honorable River DogLast year we said goodbye to one of River Relief’s most honorable river dogs, Ms. Sombra. Sadly, we lost another lovable canine recently that is just as deserving. This little fellow could have been a cat for his many lives and the adventures he survived. The most extravagant tale I seem to remember is the little guy getting plucked out of gator infested waters down in Louisiana. He also took a tumble off of a moving sternwheeler in the middle of the Mighty Mo. Yes, he survived many boat rides, on many a boat, and more than one mighty river. He loved catching flying carp, and he loved his people faithfully, leaving behind many friends. He was a passionate river dog and River Relief Ambassador, going between boats and land to clean up with all of the seasoned crew who he loved and trusted greatly.
He was a trooper, companion, protector and snuggler. A Most Honorable River Dog, Mr. Foxy.
2014 Annual Awards
The Floating Classroom AwardWe all know that the future of our world lies in the hands of the next generation and that there’s no better way to ensure a child cares about the river, than to get them out on it. The annual Floating Classroom award goes to the educator who branches out beyond the classroom to help Missouri River Relief get students on the river where they belong!
Previous year’s recipients were: Douglass High School Science Teacher - John Reid, Dave and Fran Stous of Kansas City, and Janet Moreland with “Love Your Big Muddy”.
Quality educators are one of the most valuable resources of any society. They are the headwater streams of every watershed and like those streams they possess the potential to inspire and produce beautiful, healthy rivers downstream. It takes the efforts and commitment of a high quality educator in order to get students on the Missouri River; an educator who places the real world needs of their students above irrational fears, and understands the power of getting students outside of the comfort and routineness of classroom education in order to create lasting experiences.
This person is committed to the mission of Missouri River Relief and has continued to support the education program beyond their school. Not only is this educator a headwater stream, through her dedication to what we do, she has become a confluence of many streams.
This year’s Floating Classroom Award goes to Ms. Tony Jean Dickerson, Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology.
Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the YearPartnerships are key to building an organization that reaches & includes a wide variety of individuals, agency’s & organizations. In 2008, we tragically lost a good friend & inspirational partner, Troy Gordon. Troy epitomized the nature & essence of what it means to give of ones self, include others and inspire action toward the mission & goals of Missouri River Relief; Troy was the ultimate partner. The annual Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the Year Award is given to that individual, agency or organization that best represents the spirit of Troy.
Previous Year’s Winners: Tim Haller (Big Muddy Refuge), MDC Stream Unit, Scott Mansker (Rivermiles), Gloria Attoun-Bauermeister, Patrick Lynn and the MDC Chillicothe Boatdrivers.
2014 saw an amazing bounce back to Boonville after many years away, with a wildly successful clean-up that squeezed us to capacity, alongside a massive river festival with all of the educational bells & whistles. One outstanding and energetic Boonvillian, stepped up to the plate to make it all happen.
A seasoned clean-up volunteer, she began organizing her own annual event for the last four years called Pick Up Boonville. Early on, she invited us to participate with a team, set-up booths, meet other key partners and became our go-to gal with gusto. Soon there was a committee, artwork being arranged, numerous media opportunities to include a 4-part series about Missouri River Relief and how trash ends up in our water, ads were donated, presentations made to civic groups, classroom visits, and then a VIP boat ride was organized. There was even a parade.
With enthusiasm, this person donated both huge amounts of time and resources to help us make our Boonville comeback a huge success. When it became “go-time”, she attended late night planning discussions around the campfire and helped us problem solve along the way as rain, heat, floods & mud tested our skills. Most of all, this lady’s simple dedication and passion for cleaning up the river and getting people on it, truly stood out.
Please help me give our thanks to this year’s most deserving partner, Joan Read.
The Rising Star AwardThe long term survival of Missouri River Relief depends on the continual recruitment of volunteers and crew members dedicated to our Mission. While all ages of volunteers are treasured, outstanding young people are the next generation of River Relief. The annual Rising Star Award is given to youth who have risen and shined as outstanding River Relief crew members.
Previous Year’s Winners: Alex Jansen, Hana & Eli Kellenberger, Campbell Richmond, the Liz Kids, the Dattilo Brothers and the McClain Clan.
We met this guy back in 2012. He and his brother came and helped all day during a cleanup. And then helped break down camp the next day. This year, he was around camp all weekend, helping with everything before anyone could think to ask for help. He even played a mean guitar around the campfire. Well, his commute was short. He literally lives at the boat ramp. I wonder how many times he’s rolled a basketball down the ramp! This year’s river cleanup flier had his brother, Dallas Short, in full color. Jeff Short asked if he would be on the flier next time. Well, we just made one up for you. We have huge gratitude and respect for this year’s Rising Star recipient, Jeff Short from Brunswick, MO.
The Dive-in Head First AwardThe key to the success and longevity of any organization is a continuous supply of new, energetic volunteers and crew members. The Annual Dive-in Head First Award is meant to recognize the most outstanding newcomers to the River Relief crew.
Previous Year’s Winners: Jen Sieradski, Rod Power, Bill Fessler, Mel Haney, The Kellenbergers, Liz Doubet, Alicia Pigg, Josh Pennington, Gale Johnson, Nanci Mon, Tom Smith, Tina Casagrand & Jim Stewart.
Many people get bitten by the river clean-up bug and quite a few express a desire to expand their influence with river stewardship. Few people can make that happen.
Our award winners are two exceptions to the rule. One came as a volunteer at river clean-ups and then returned to her college to re-invigorate the student environmental group. She presided over monthly meetings, raised money for events and organized two river clean-ups and a camp-out. On her graduation day, she skipped the cap-and-gown ceremony and showed up at a Missouri River clean-up wearing mud boots.
The other winner came to us highly praised as a trash-collecting warrior by the Mighty Stream Team211. As a new MU student, he joined Sustain Mizzou primarily to serve as their Stream Team coordinator. In that position, he organized several creek cleanups and the annual campout and cleanup with River Relief. He dedicated full weeks at the Summers@Mizzou camp and the MR340 race as a crucial crew member. This guy also pioneered the sport of “buoy rodeo” by riding a renegade red nun buoy for more than 60 seconds.
Let’s give it up for the co-recipients of the 2014 Dive-In Head First Award, Anniya Priesberga and AJ “Red Bull” Feicht.
The One Step Ahead AwardFew organizations survive without individuals who are persistently watching out for what needs to be done and simply diving in and gittin’ her done. The Annual One Step Ahead Award is given to that individual that has exhibited a go-to-it-ness that exceeds all. They are recognized for their selfless recognition of what needs to be done and doing it.
Previous Year’s Winners: Anthony Pettit, Janie Becker, Racin’ Dave, Sarah Pennington, Jodi Pfefferkorn, Craig “Iffy” Holt and Laurie “Ready” Ferretti.
When this guy started coming to lots of cleanups this year, we suddenly had a volunteer for every unfilled task that needed doing. “I’ll do that” is something that he seems to blurt out as often as breathing. It’s become a game to find a task he hasn’t done yet and have him complete it with style and ingenuity. Signage, site leader, cook, ramp, whatever. We’ve got a list for next year. Plus, he’s tall enough to monkey on top of our box truck Ol’ Yeller to retrieve wind-blown pop-up tents. Tina thought it would be cute if we gave you the “Dive-In Head First” award, which she got last year so you guys could have matching fleeces or something. Instead, we think you are the embodiment of what it means to be “One Step Ahead”.
Praises and Thanks to this year’s recipient, Duncan Foss!
The Metamorphosis AwardEqually important to new blood, the growth and evolution of crew members into positions of responsibility is essential to our continued success. The annual Metamorphosis Award recognizes a seasoned crew member who truly grew in their contributions to the organization this year; transforming themselves into positions of more responsibility as a leader, boat driver, staff member, board member or other positions.
Previous Year’s Winners: Scot Heidbrink, Dave Richter, Bill Fessler, Joe & Allison Kellenberger, Racin’ Dave, Daniel “Habibi” Belshe, and Patty Farrar & Dave Elsberry
This October marked the one year anniversary of a fresh and sprightly new crew member that really demonstrated her determination and grit. After getting a few clean-ups under her belt, this dynamic doppleganger scheduled a lunch meeting with us to offer up her services as a part-time intern in exchange for learning the basics of how a non-profit works. She wanted to do it all, learn the computer programs, write grants, and coordinate event outreach. Starting out just one day a week, we soon convinced her to help us take on organizing the Boonville River Festival, which pretty much turned into a full time job, and then some. For someone who had never been on the Big Muddy until recently, she overcame any fears of driving a big boat on its murky and swift waters, to learning how to gracefully dodge flying carp. She even received her first river baptism during the week long 340 race. She helped with classroom presentations, and drove our boats & trucks to and from events. With an amazing attitude and the ability to do whatever needed to be done, this little lady grew from just a sprout into a flower.
Please join me in congratulating the 2014 Metamorphosis honoree, Jen Davis.
The Broken Prop AwardEvery organization has their follies. Despite all of our best intentions, the River Gods will play their tricks, and hey, let’s admit it, every once in a while the shit does hit the fan. And as unfortunate as it may be---someone is usually standing there taking it on the chops. The Annual Broken Prop Award is given to that River Relief crew member that has endured the biggest tragedy, the most audacious malady, the most outstanding mishap, or is the brunt of the most cruel accusations and stories of the river cleaning season.
Previous Year’s Winners: Jeff Barrow, Anthony Pettit (& Scot Heidbrink by default), John Jansen, Anthony Pettit, Jeff Barrow, Tim Nigh and Jeanie Kuntz.
Choosing the recipient of this prestigious award is usually an easier task than it was this year. Most years there is one accident or incident that stands out from all the others and that can be judged to squarely rest on the shoulders of some well-intentioned trash warrior that just had a bad day and paid dearly.
The award recipient this year is one of the most proficient boat operators in our group. I have watched him, by careful attention to the equipment and to the river, progress from a boating neophyte to a sure and steady pilot who handles what the situation presents with a calm manner and sure skills.
In an uncharacteristic lapse in procedure, he neglected to check a vital part when installing the trailer hitch draw bar on a van. Unbeknownst to all, this innocent omission lay in wait for the right moment to rain on someone’s parade. Some days later, a boat was hitched up to the van and a jolly crew took off to launch the boat at Providence Landing. Downhill and over dale, his oversight lurked, not showing its cards all the way there.
As the van backed down to the river, the drawbar, lacking the pin that must be there to keep it attached, came loose from the truck. Only the safety chains prevented a runaway launch.
This years’ Broken Prop Award goes to someone who will never again fail to check for the pin, Mr. Steve Schnarr.
The Cornerstone AwardEvery organization has its unsung heroes, people who do the dirty work of making sure the organization is legal, well funded, organized, staffed and steered in a direction that ensures that we are viable and sustainable. The Annual Cornerstone Award is our organization’s highest honor. It recognizes a veteran River Relief crew or board member that has dedicated many years of service to the organization’s well being. Their leadership and commitment to our mission has been essential to our success.
Previous Year’s Winners: Joe Engeln, John Brady, Jeff Barrow, Dave Richter, Dave Stous, Racin’ Dave and Tim Nigh
This year’s recipient has been with us for more than 10 years. She has been a board member, served on and chaired many committees, donated generously to our mission and been a wise voice during times when we wandered.
She guided us in furthering our educational efforts, leading the process to hire Alex, our education coordinator. She also led the effort to find Sarah Martin to help with fundraising. She has written grants and letters to search for funding for our efforts and gone behind the scene to forge relationships with possible donors. She has marched with the River Relief crew in the True False parade and even donated use of her private retreat in the Ozark National Scenic River ways as an auction item for our film festival.
Beyond all of that, she has always been a wise observer of what is both helpful without impeding current progress. Her soft-spoken manner belies great powers of perception and problem solving. We know we can count on her for good ideas and wise council when a tricky situation arises. Besides, she’s also a wicked envelope stuffer.
Please help recognize and thank this wonderful friend as River Relief’s 2014 Cornerstone Award recipient, Kathy Love.