Pride taps city’s top volunteer
Kevin Gardner, the longtime baseball commissioner for Lansing Parks and Recreation, is Lansing's 2006 PRIDE Volunteer of the Year, and Parks and Recreation director Jason Crum is the city's 2006 Employee of the Year.
The two were recognized Monday evening, Oct. 23, during the 13th annual City Recognition Dinner, which drew 145 community volunteers and city employees to the Lansing Community Center.
In honoring Gardner, Mayor Kenneth Bernard described a tireless volunteer who not only runs the program but wound up coaching a team because no other coach could be found.
"On any given night, you'll find Kevin out at the park taking in a game, whether it be baseball or softball," Bernard said. "It is not unusual for Kevin to purchase a cold drink for the umpires or the entire team, including the opposing team. His generosity to Lansing Parks and Recreation Department has been endless."
Gardner has been baseball commissioner since 1996, but Bernard noted the program's recent improvements.
"In the past four years, Kevin has made great strides in the baseball program by implementing indices and activities in leagues that previously had none, as well as improving the uniforms and updating game rules to make the games safer and more enjoyable for participants in all age divisions," Bernard said.
Gardner's volunteer work isn't limited to the diamond, though. He also is chairman of the city's Tree Board and has volunteered with other city activities.
"This year at Lansing DAZE, Kevin volunteered in two different time slots in the Lansing DAZE dunk tank," Bernard noted. "He has also volunteered his time to set up the Spooky Center and the OK Kids Day Fishing Derby, as well as working the events.
"The countless hours that he has spent volunteering for the greater good of the community show his total dedication to Lansing," Bernard said.
For his part, Gardner deferred most of the accolades, saying any improvements made in the baseball program came about because of suggestions from coaches, parents or other interested parties.
He did thank his wife, Terri, for pushing him to stay on as commissioner. He also praised City Administrator Mike Smith and Crum for their commitment to recreation programs in general and children in particular.
"It was clear that Mike and Jason's visions for what Parks and Recreation should be were all about the kids and making things better for the kids. I bought into that because that's the way I felt," Gardner said.
In recognizing the Employee of the Year, Smith noted all of the behind-the-scenes work Crum and his staff perform to help make the city's public events successful.
"All these festivals that you folks are able to attend and things like that, Jason and his crew are usually the first ones out there setting it up," Smith said. "Sometimes I wonder if it's like I've got three of them for every one of them that are out there. They really do a good job."
Smith said the first person he hired when he became city administrator in 1999 was Crum, and he hasn't regretted the hire.
"Jason's the kind of person where if you give him an assignment or you give him something to do or to be creative, he and his staff now are just unbelievable the way they do things," Smith said.
Crum is out of town attending a family funeral and did not attend the dinner. As one of four employees of the quarter for the year, Crum knew he was up for the annual honor but wanted someone else to be selected.
"Jason told me, 'Mike, since I won't be here this year, I don't know who you select : but don't let it be me. Let it be another employee because I want to be there to congratulate somebody else.'
"That shows just what kind of person Jason is," Smith said.
In addition to the two awards, the city also recognized Jeffrey Focht for 25 years of service to the Street Division and Capt. Ben Ontiveros for 10 years of service to the Police Department.
Also recognized were members of the city's boards and committees, reserve police officers, community volunteers, Lansing Correctional Facility and Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.
In addition, city employees were recognized with Safety Awards.