2021 Volunteer Community of the Year
*Updated 7 April 2022 with photos from the award ceremony
From Mark Hayes, Executive Director, the Arkansas Municipal League:
Arkansas communities have always been known for their giving spirit, and that desire to help others has never been more evident than over the past two years. Cities and towns increased volunteer services to address a variety of needs, while always ensuring the safety of citizens and volunteers. These winning cities and towns have demonstrated an outstanding ability to mobilize volunteers in sustaining ongoing programs helping municipalities overcome obstacles. We celebrate the spirit of service and our core belief: Local people solve local problems best. Arkansas is blessed with an abundance of municipalities that hold dear the values of service and volunteerism. Cities and towns are dependent upon the need to create collaborative partnerships where their resources are shared. Local volunteers fill that gap and make big impacts through their service! Engage Arkansas and the Arkansas Municipal League both understand the impact volunteers have on our cities and towns and how valuable volunteers are in creating better and more sustainable communities. Both organizations share a strong love for the municipalities of Arkansas. Great Cities Make a Great State!
From Shana Chaplin, Director, Engage Arkansas:
It is Engage Arkansas honor to continue its longstanding partnership with the Arkansas Municipal League honoring communities that exemplify the spirit of service, engaging citizens in solution building. Each of the winning communities demonstrate an outstanding ability to mobilize volunteers in sustaining ongoing programs, helping municipalities overcome obstacles, COVID notwithstanding. This year, we are proud to honor Osceola with distinction for the establishment of the first, three-year city service plan. Arkansas holds a rich history of service and volunteerism, beginning with the establishment of the first state-recognized office of volunteerism in 1974, the establishment of the Arkansas Volunteer Communities of the Year Award in 1982, followed by the launch of AmeriCorps in 1994. Engage Arkansas continues to break new ground through National Service programs and innovative civic engagement strategies that leverage and empower citizens to engage in meeting needs across the state. Our work with municipalities will grow over the course of 2022 as we focus on supporting cities in developing city service plans and engage citizens, especially youth through Mayor Youth Councils. We believe a culture of service affording more citizens the opportunity to civically engage begins at home, in their communities. The culmination of our work in 2022 will be celebrated as part of the 2022 Community of the Year Awards celebrating 40 years of partnership.
Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Awards:
Seven communities have been selected to receive the 2021 Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Award. This prestigious award recognizes communities that exemplify the spirit of service by participating in citywide volunteer initiatives and making a positive impact in local areas of need. The municipalities honored in 2021 are: Fayetteville, Maumelle, North Little Rock, Osceola, Siloam Springs, Vilonia, and West Memphis. Community of the Year award winners are selected based on the municipality’s ability to identify its most pressing needs and demonstrate the community’s response to those needs. This year, the seven winning communities demonstrated an outstanding ability to mobilize volunteers to participate in citywide days of service, sustain ongoing programs, and overcome obstacles. The Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism served on the selection committee. The Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Awards are sponsored by the Governor’s Office, the Arkansas Municipal League, and Engage Arkansas. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department provides signs designating the winning communities as an Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year. The signs are place at prominent locations along the highways outside of the winning cities. For more information on civic engagement or to find out more about the Community of the Year selection process, visit www.volunteerar.org/COY
About VILONIA, population 4,765
The City of Vilonia’s most common areas of need are for the elderly and the economically impoverished. Three major citywide partnerships work to achieve these engagement and community aid goals. The Vilonia Veterans Museum has a diverse volunteer force of over thirty citizens with around 19,000 service hours. Together they do everything from administration, maintenance, and curating behind the scenes, to serving as docents for field trips and hosting events such as community celebrations and military recognition. The Vilonia Senior Center and the Spirit of Vilonia Food Bank weathered the COVID crisis, continuing to maintain relationships and offer basic services. The volunteers at the Senior Center are retirees themselves, making them uniquely passionate about their work. The foodbank is actively supported by member churches of the city’s Ministerial Alliance, providing hundreds of meals weekly, as well as running a benefit thrift store. The 24 volunteers of the Vilonia Fire Department with 2,496 hours of service are the key reason the department maintains an ISO rating of 3 within the city and 5 in the unincorporated fire district. These highly motivate volunteers commit to twice-monthly meetings and 24 hours of certified annual training. Membership in the firefighting force is robust and includes volunteers of all ages and experience levels. The Vilonia Planning Commission meets monthly to guide growth in line with municipal planning goals including permitting, city codes, street planning, and land use, all while keeping the vision of the Vilonia 2030 plan to rebuild and improve the city. In a city where the population has increased 119% in the past 20 years, the Commission’s work of visioning and directing the “big picture” is vital.