Jackson County Parks + Rec Appreciates Volunteers

Published on April 20, 2021

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Volunteers are what enhance many of the Parks + Rec Department’s attractions, events and programs.

“Our volunteers are our greatest Park Ambassadors,” said Parks + Rec Director Michele Newman. “We are proud to say Jackson County is home to the 3rd largest County Parks System in the U.S., serving 1.4 million visitors each year,” Newman said. “We offer a variety of attractions and events. Our incredible volunteers play an important role in serving the residents of Jackson County by volunteering over 55,000 hours annually which is a savings to the County of over $500,000.

Park + Rec volunteers are passionate about the specialty areas they have chosen to share their time and talents. Interpreters at Fort Osage National Historic Landmark and Missouri Town 1855 exhibit their specialized trades for visitors and educate patrons about the lost arts of the past. Golf Marshalls arrive at 5:00 in the morning with a smile and ready to meet, greet and assist avid golfers each day. Urban Trail Company volunteers have put Jackson County on the map through their hours of trail building and expertise.

“Many of our special events are powered by volunteers. Our volunteers enhance the guest experience,” Newman said.

David Bennett has been a volunteer at Fort Osage since 1985. He organizes events including the Fort Osage Fall Muster, Armed Forces Day and the 1812 in the West Symposium. The symposium draws a national following and this will be the 34th year for the muster. 

Bennet said he was an Army brat who grew up at forts, his father was in the Army for 27 years serving in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He noticed a need for military interpretation at the fort in the 1980s and wanted to ensure this aspect was represented.

“The satisfaction of sharing my knowledge of history, of presenting an accurate portrayal of those in history, who no longer have a voice,” he said is why he likes to volunteer. 

Jim Smith volunteers as a Special Olympics coach with Jackson County Special Populations. He teaches the athletes skills such as teamwork and commitment.

“I volunteer with Special Population Services because of the joy it brings to our athletes and how much fun they have while practicing and spending time with others like themselves,” he said.

Smith’s son and two daughters have been involved in Special Populations since high school and he has supported and coached them all the way as they worked to compete in Special Olympics. He has been volunteering since 2011 when his daughter graduated from high school and became involved through Special Populations.

“Just the happiness in all the athletes faces and hearts working with them is all the joy I need,” he said. 

Bryan Foster has enjoyed volunteering as a golf marshal at Fred Arbanas Golf Course for 11 years.

“I have lived most of my life in and around Jackson County so after retiring I just wanted to give a little back to the community,” he said.

As a marshal, he said he always greets patrons with curtesy and respect. Among his duties, are to make sure that patrons are enjoying themselves by getting enough carts out of the barn and making sure that they are clean and ready to go. He makes sure that there are no delays on the course and no backups to slow down the pace of play. He also collects range buckets and checks on how the turf is holding up and if ropes need to be moved. 

“I have played many courses around the area and I have always enjoyed this course and the people that run it, so when a slot opened for a volunteer, I jumped at it,” Foster said. “The people that run Fred Arbanas Golf Course, the other volunteers, and most of the patrons are what keeps me coming back year after year.”

National Volunteer Week is April 18-24. It is an opportunity to thank all the thousands of volunteers across the country who keep many organizations running, communities safe and provide the services that otherwise would not exist without volunteers.

It is also a time to consider volunteering or providing support to those organizations vital to your community.

There are a variety of volunteer positions within the Jackson County Parks system. From historical interpreters at Fort Osage National Historic Landmark and Missouri Town 1855 to Golf Marshals at the Fred Arbanas Golf Course, there are plenty of opportunities for dedicated volunteers. At the Kemper Outdoor Education Center, Outdoor Education Assistants introduce school age children to a variety of outdoor environmental experiences. Within the Special Population Services division, there are opportunities for volunteer coaches in basketball, volleyball, bowling, bocce, softball, track and field, and dance chaperones. A partnership with the Urban Trail Company provides opportunities to create and maintain primitive trails. Volunteers also beautify the parks with shoreline clean-ups and tree and flower planting events. Many Boy Scouts choose to take on a volunteer project in the parks to earn their Eagle Scout rank.

“We are always excited to have new volunteers join our team,” said Susan Kinnaman, Volunteer Coordinator for Jackson County Parks + Rec. If you would like to join the county’s volunteer team, go to the volunteer webpage and click on Volunteer Enrollment.