Des Moines Parks and Recreation to Honor Volunteers


DES MOINES, IOWA  - Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 - Winners of the 2020 Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department Volunteer Awards will be announced at the January Parks and Recreation Board meeting on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.  Due to COVID-19, the Parks and Recreation Board meeting is being held virtually via Zoom. The 2020 volunteer award winners are listed below.  If you or your organization would like more information on volunteering for Parks and Recreation, please email us at   

  • Rex Coble, Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Mike Rowley, Volunteer of the Year
  • Confluence Brewing Company, Corporate Group of the Year
  • Watchmen Communities, Volunteer Group of the Year
  • Kristine Bartley, Friend of the Year
  • Nathan Raske, Coach of the Year
  • Lee Wheelock, Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
  • Mark Kane, Special Volunteer Award
  • City of Des Moines Police Department, Special Volunteer Award

Lifetime Achievement Award- Rex Coble
Rex Coble’s ongoing volunteer leadership in our community is to be commended. Coble, active in the Friends of Des Moines Parks, has donated his time, talents and treasures over the years. Coble happily advocates for and represents our Department during community outreach. He served on our Citizen Golf Advisory Committee and has worked hard to network, engage partners and build support for our parks and recreational opportunities. For years, Coble has served as our Santa in our Community Recreation Centers bringing the spirit of Christmas alive.  His generosity has supported playgrounds, a pedestrian bridge, youth scholarships and swim lessons to make our community safer, happier and healthier.  For his volunteer commitment to our community, we will honor him with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. 

 Volunteer of the Year- Mike Rowley
Mike Rowley has been an outstanding volunteer over the years but in 2020, his service was beyond compare. Rowley will be our first two-time winning Volunteer of the Year.  Rowley again chaired the Citizen Cemetery Advisory Committee, continued to help with the Governor's Own Regiment project retiring over 3,000 flags, spearheaded 2020 Wreaths Across America efforts (finding donors, coordinating virtual ceremony, recruiting volunteers, placing wreaths and more), and donated hundreds of hours this year completing 120 government marker applications and installations. He helps maintain our cemeteries and walks Glendale and Woodland Cemetery almost daily. He spends countless hours continuing to support and honor those that served our community before him. For his dedicated service giving voice to our community's past, we will honor him as our 2020 Volunteer of the Year.  

Corporate Group of the Year- Confluence Brewing Company
Confluence Brewing Company is devoted to creating a confluence of great beer, good friends, and wonderful times. They are defined by their respect for tradition, a passion for innovation, and a relentless commitment to quality. Their values, dedication to building community, fun-loving attitude, and location next to Gray’s Lake Park make them a perfect partner to the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department, especially for the UPCYCLE program. UPCYCLE is a partnership between the City of Des Moines, Blank Park Zoo, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Trees Forever, and Confluence Brewing Company. Volunteers remove unwanted vegetation at Gray’s Lake Park which helps us improve our water quality, diversify our woodlands, and UPCYCLE our invasive plants into food and fun for Blank Park Zoo animals. After an evening of hard work, volunteers enjoy a free beverage next door, at Confluence Brewing Company, as a “thank you” for their efforts to improve the area. They have been a partner of UPCYCLE since 2017.  Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, they eagerly agreed to continue supporting our volunteer program in 2020, including the option of to-go orders for volunteers. Confluence Brewing Company truly cares about the park and trail users as well as its patrons, which often are one and the same. For their dedication to improving the surrounding area and building community, we will honor them as the 2020 Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year. 

Volunteer Group of the Year- Watchmen Communities
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our staff was working hard to keep parks and trails open during our state’s shutdown. There was a shortage of personal protective equipment. Watchmen Communities, led by outstanding community member Lokus Ngo, graciously volunteered to make and donate 110 face masks to keep our entire staff safe. They rose to the challenges that 2020 brought our community by being creative, flexible, and resourceful. Adhering to new safety protocols, Ngo organized small groups of children and their families to not only pick up litter but also help with derecho storm damage cleanup at Prospect Park and in the surrounding neighborhood.  Watchmen Communities encourage the communities they are in to take care of each other and our natural spaces.  For their leadership, organization and positive presence in our parks, exemplifying our mission to help Des Moines Live Well, Play Hard and Protect the Earth, we will honor them as the 2020 Volunteer Group of the Year. 

Friend of the Year- Kristine Bartley
Kristine Bartley has donated years of service as vice-chair of our Citizen Cemetery Advisory Committee. Her volunteer efforts helping spearhead Wreaths Across America, to honor our veterans, resulted in over 60 donations. Bartley has utilized her artistic capabilities to document restoration efforts, capture history in our cemeteries and inspire volunteers in our community.  She has taken more than 5,000 photos and videos while documenting our Woodland Monument Restoration project, flag retirement, flag placement, cemetery tours, derecho and more.  Bartley received a $10,000 grant to create a Woodland Cemetery video telling the stories of local famous/notable figures and their contributions to our community and the world.  For her ongoing support and dedication to preserving our community’s history, we will honor her as the 2020 Friend of the Year.  

Volunteer Coach of the Year- Nathan Raske
Nathan Raske has volunteered to coach our youth flag football teams for the last three years.  He is well-liked and his players and peers have the utmost respect for him.  We appreciate his leadership and hard work, especially stepping up to coach young athletes in the midst of COVID-19. Raske’s team, the 2nd and 3rd grade “Bulldogs” won the league and tournament championship this year. For his outstanding coaching, providing positive learning experiences and for his ongoing service to the City, we will honor him as the 2020 Volunteer Coach of the Year. 

Volunteer Supervisor of the Year- Lee Wheelock
Despite COVID-19, Lee Wheelock, Park Planner III, worked over months planning a playground partnership project at the new Weeks Middle School Park. Wheelock worked closely with the COVID-19 Response Team and Volunteer Team to find avenues to safely build playground structures while minimizing risks to our volunteers. The result was a successful volunteer playground build day and a new recreational space benefitting the entire community. In the midst of a record year for construction projects, Lee also found time to meet with and coach our summer extern, a teacher volunteering to learn real-world applications for the classroom. Together, they created an interactive webpage for the Planning Department showcasing public projects. For his resiliency and determination to make it happen during a pandemic, commitment to safety and volunteer project implementation, we will honor him as the 2020 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year.  

Special Volunteer Award- Mark Kane
About fifteen years ago, Mark Kane and several neighbors had a vision to transform a roundabout space in the Ingersoll Park neighborhood. Kane’s passion for planting helped him choose plants and flowers over the past decade, that would thrive in the middle of the homes and traffic. He made it a welcoming place for the neighborhood to gather. Kane recruited the help of neighbors and together they transformed the bed into Ingersoll Park’s crown jewel. He’s been a great mentor to the neighbors teaching others how to care for and sustain the beautiful space. For Kane’s countless hours beautifying his neighborhood, Ingersoll Park, and making our community a better place to live, we will honor him with a 2020 Special Volunteer Award. 

Special Volunteer Award- City of Des Moines Police Department
Prior to COVID-19 shuttering most of our community, Parks and Recreation, Des Moines Public Schools, and members of the neighborhood surrounding the new Weeks Middle School Park, were planning a summer playground installation project.  With COVID-19 restricting neighborhoods and students, the Department had to abandon the planned community build day. The City of Des Moines Police Department quickly stepped up to volunteer their off-duty time to make sure our community’s needs were filled during uncertain times.  Even with an extra layer of complexity due to COVID-19 protocols and extreme temperatures, under the leadership of Lt. Larry Davey, ten volunteers assisted organizing and assembling $65,000 in playground equipment. For their professionalism, hard work, and grit helping complete a safe new neighborhood space, in the midst of a very challenging time in our community, we will honor them with a 2020 Special Volunteer Award.   

The City of Des Moines Volunteer Award program was established in 2009 to recognize volunteers for their commitment and service to the Parks and Recreation Department.  In 2020, we had 1662 volunteers donate more than 14,104 hours of service (valued over $383,635).  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with new safety protocols in place, volunteers donated time to make our staff reusable masks, clean our parks and trails while park usage was up at times over 200%, plant flowers, decorate our cemeteries on Memorial Day, remove storm debris following the August derecho, coach youth sports, restore monuments in Woodland Cemetery, lead socially-distanced nature trail runs and cemetery historical tours, teach virtual yoga classes, write letters from Santa to children in our community and much more. While we are apart, our volunteers continue to be the heart of our community, connecting us together through their service, sharing their diverse skills and talents each day. For more information about volunteering, visit or email

Benjamin R.Page
Director, Parks and Recreation

About Des Moines Parks and Recreation
Founded in 1892, the Parks and Recreation Department’s mission is “Helping Des Moines Live Well, Play Hard and Protect the Earth.”  Our department is responsible for the management of 75 parks, over 4,000 acres of parkland, 81 miles of trails, seven cemeteries and multiple recreational facilities.  In addition, we offer numerous programs in the areas of sports, urban conservation, environment education, sport instruction, volunteerism, rentals and special events.  For more information on Des Moines Parks and Recreation programs or facilities, visit our website (, Facebook ( Twitter (@desmoinesparks), or Instagram (