Announcing Volunteers of the Year

June 22, 2022, is Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Volunteer Day in the City of Saint Paul. Here’s a quick look at volunteers who will be recognized.

Golden Shovel Award Roni Slowiak gets the Golden Shovel Award for her tenacious vision and fundraising to build the China Friendship Garden at Phalen Park – building bridges between the Hmong communities of Changsha China and St Paul as well as building actual bridges and pavilions for us to enjoy right here in Phalen Park

Parks Volunteer of the Year/Friends of Mears Park Volunteer of the Year Lee Ann LaBore is the terrier of the park – gently nipping city heels to get park needs met. She’s also the terror of the squirrels who chew through the twinkle lights! She is a tireless gardener and fundraiser brightening the park with flowers and lighting it up in winter to make it the jewel of Lowertown.

The Booster Club of the Year is The West Side Booster Club, led by Carlo Franco, Bob Cruz, Andreanna Sontoya, Mary Heather-Moore and Molli Hernandez. For 50 years, the club has provided Football, Baseball, Softball and Basketball leagues for boys and girls ages 6-14 years. Through their fundraising, they make sure no one is turned away for their inability to pay.

The Recreation Services Volunteer of the Year is John Hoeschen. John has supported the Goveland Ice Rinks all season long for many years, making sure that area youth have access to great ice time and hockey programs.

Wacouta Commons Park Volunteer of the Year Chris Thomforde is the hero of this neighborhood gem.  With nothing but determination, Chris reclaimed the gardens, got trees planted, got rid of the trash. Like Tom Sawyer he got all the neighbors to join him to make this park beautiful for families.

Upper Landing Park Volunteer of the Year Chris Scullen is a powerhouse! She worked 60 hours last year in the gardens as well as raising funds for hanging baskets. She even stepped forward to become the treasurer for Friends of Upper Landing when no one else would do it!

Friends of Swede Hollow Volunteer of the Year Brad Griffith does everything from running monthly meetings to removing Buckthorn, collaborating to bring bird walks and nature activities to the community, sharing the Park’s Dakota and immigrant history and leading the charge for park improvements.

Friends of Pedro Park Volunteer of the Year Chris Beckstrom is the unstoppable gardener of downtown parks. He has planted thousands of bulbs and plants at Pedro Park with an artistic flair and generous spirit of sharing his plant knowledge passed down from his grandmother.

The St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden Volunteer of the Year Bill Pesek became the answer to “where are the plants?” He worked with the garden’s Chinese designers to choose Minnesota-appropriate specimens and then he planted Korean Maples, White Pines, & Junipers.  He guides volunteers though ongoing planting and tending. His devotion made sure everything survived the brutal drought of 2021.

The Garden Club of Ramsey County Volunteer of the Year Barb Meyer has been a ray of sunshine in the club since 1978, as well as a loyal worker at the club’s public gardens since 1993. Barb has planted canna bulbs, contributed annuals, taken care of ongoing weeding, deadheading, thinning and moving plants, and much more. She was President of the Club in 1983-84 and has served on many committees, heading up garden tours, holiday parties, and currently the sunshine committee.

The Como Friends Volunteer of the Year Lynette Palmgren has been a volunteer at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory for 20 years, helping visitors learn the wonders of the natural world from polar bears to large cats.  She creates enrichment activities for the animals and for families.  She is a very involved member of the Sunset Affair gala committee to help the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory thrive.

The Central Village/Midway Peace Park Volunteer of the Year is Rev. Gerald O. Garth, the heart and soul of this area. He works tirelessly to keep it clean, safe, and inviting for all. He organizes National Night Out, works with police on safety initiatives and helped turn on the new lights in the park this spring. He is helping energize the space though art and neighborhood gatherings.

Volunteers will be celebrated with an original song composed and performed by the amazing jazz singer Thomasina Petrus at the Party for the Parks! Join Us!


Photo: Romi Slowiak with friends at last year’s Party for the Parks. Photo by Katie Thering.