Eight counties | 36 cities | one region

a voluntary council of local governments
serving the missouri meramec area.

Rion receives outstanding community service award

For immediate release

For more information, contact
Bonnie Prigge or Caitlin Jones

ST. JAMES—Sarah Rion received an outstanding community service award from Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). Unfortunately Rion, could not attend and the award was accepted on her behalf by MRPC Board Member Laurel Yahl, who nominated her. Awards were presented at MRPC’s 2023 Annual Dinner and Awards Banquet, held Oct. 26 at the Festhalle in Hermann. Each year, MRPC honors residents, local agency representatives and organizations in the Meramec Region who contribute to their communities by volunteering their time, talents and support. This year’s event was hosted by Gasconade County and the City of Hermann. Event sponsors included Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce, Hermann Regional Economic Development Corporation, Peoples Savings Bank and Joseph Brazil.

Rion, of Potosi, is active with her family in the community and, by profession, is a Family Nurse Practitioner (F.N.P.), practicing family medicine with a specialization in wound care. She comes to mind as a “community hero” for so many reasons but the biggest two are: the example she sets for families across the county and beyond of how to turn a “salad family” into a “blended family” and how she uses the gift of healing she has been given. Rion and her husband, Steven, are living-proof examples to all moms, dads and extended family members of what it looks like to put your children first above all adult “situationships”. They are public about their activities, and others have learned so much by following their examples, ideas and teachings. Healthy family units are critical to the success of a community, and they take their natural ability of role-modeling very seriously even though it is portrayed in a fun and often casual manner. Physical health is also critical to a community and its growth and stability. Rion is part of that for Washington County. As a Nurse Practitioner, she answered the calling to heal and does so with a seemingly effortless style; her patients feel like they are the most important person in the world sitting with her. She either figures it out herself, “thinks on it” and calls you back, or finds a specialist to send you to see.  She has changed many lives for the better.

“It was so good to come together in-person and honor our volunteers,” said MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge. “We are only able to honor a few volunteers each year, yet we extend our gratitude to the hundreds of volunteers in our region who truly make our region such an amazing place to live, work and visit. We are successful because of our volunteers.” 

The night included a reception that began at 5:30, which was sponsored by The Inn at Hermannhof and showcased German music and dance by the Loehnig German Band and Wurstjaegger dancers. A silent auction, held during the reception, raised over $3,076 to offset the costs of the dinner. Approximately 170 people attended this year’s event. The dinner was catered by the Inn at Hermannhof.

Other individuals and community organizations recognized for 2023 contributions to their communities are:

  • Barbara Feagan of Owensville, nominated by Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Tim Schulte, 
  • Brenda Johnson of Vienna, nominated by Maries County Presiding Commissioner Vic Stratman, 
  • Rylee Krawiecki of Rolla, nominated by MRPC Board Member Shane Anselm, 
  • Belle Community Betterment Association, nominated by MRPC Board Member Steve Vogt, and 
  • The ARK Community and Sports Center, nominated by Waynesville Mayor Sean Wilson.

MRPC also honors youth volunteers. This year’s award recipients were: 

  • Bryce Heidbreder of Bland, nominated by MRPC Board Member Steve Vogt,
  • Juliana Mae Davis of Vienna, nominated by Maries County Presiding Commissioner Vic Stratman,
  • Emilia Vega of Waynesville, nominated by Waynesville Mayor Sean Wilson, 
  • Easton May of Salem, nominated by Dent County Presiding Commissioner Gary Larson, and 
  • Madiline Pankey of St. James, nominated by MRPC Board Member Shane Anselm. 
MRPC's Annual Volunteer Award Winners
(Back Row) Pastor Howard Malone with the ARK Community and Sports Center, Ashley Harris with the Belle Community Betterment Association (BCBA), Jesse Kelly with BCBA, Cindy Barbarick with BCBA, Vicky Nelson with BCBA, Barb Schaller with BCBA, Stacey Kelly with BCBA, Madiline Pankey, Easton May and Barbara Feagan (Front Row) Emilia Vega, Mark McClane with BCBA, Bryce Heidbreder, Julianna Mae Davis, Brenda Johnson, Rylee Krawiecki and Deloris Gray Wood

The Eugene E. Northern award, the highest honor given by MRPC for volunteers and community service, was presented to Deloris Gray Wood of Salem for 2023. 

Wood, nominated by Dent County Presiding Commissioner Gary Larson, is a community scholar and journalist  who works to educate the public on the Native American history in this area. She currently serves as the president of the Dent County Historical Society, past president of the Missouri Chapter Trail of Tears Association and a national board member of the Trail of Tears Association. She is also a member of the Trail Leaders Council, Partnership for the National Trails System and helped plan a Trails Workshop in Albuquerque in November 2022.  In 2006, she and then Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman worked to certify a portion of the trail near the Old Route 66 Bridge and Roubidoux Spring. They then worked together to establish seven National Park Service wayside exhibits in the park. 

In 2017, Deloris was instrumental in planning stops for the Cherokee Removal Bike Riders as they came through Crawford, Phelps and Pulaski counties. The day included stops at schools to speak with students and other landmarks along their path, riding along the Trail of Tears. At Hike the Hill, in Washington, D.C. in February 2023, she presented before the US House of Representatives staff for the Natural Resources, Public Lands, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. 

Wood also located two campsites north of St. James, in Phelps County, where Cherokees camped in the fall of 1837 and other detachments in 1938 that the National Park Service Trails Office in Santa Fe has acknowledged. Recently, she has submitted a National Park Service grant to tell the story of the Current River. She is also working in St. Francois County to get the National Park Service Historical Trails signed and properly designated.

The Lender of the Year award was also presented during MRPC’s Annual Dinner. Working in partnership with the Meramec Regional Development Corporation (MRDC), MRPC recognizes lending institutions who partner with MRPC/MRDC on local business projects. For 2023, the Lender of the Year award was presented to Guaranty Bank. Guaranty Bank partnered with MRDC on two SBA 504 loans for PR Joplin, LLC, dba Pizza Ranch in Joplin and Croft Wilson Properties LLC, dba as Croft Bedding Company in Webb City. 

Staff members were recognized at the 2023 awards banquet for years of service included: 

  • Bethany Ferrell, Senior Accountant II, 5 years of service; 
  • Chuck Cantrell, Housing Inspector, 25 years of service;
  • Tammy Snodgrass, Assistant Director and Environmental Manager, 30 years of service; and 
  • Elaine Cloyde, Housing Program Coordinator, 35 years of service.

Each year, MRPC employees are asked to select one staff member who performs above the call of duty, exhibits exemplary work performance, voluntarily promotes the organization and exhibits a positive work ethic and attitude. MRPC’s 2023 employee of the year was Linda Carroll, secretary. 

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Mary Heywood, representing the unemployed, serves as chair of the board. A professional staff of 30 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.