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Des Moines Parks and Recreation to Honor Volunteers


DES MOINES, IOWA  - Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 - Winners of the 2019 Des Moines Parks and Recreation Volunteer Awards will be announced at the January Parks and Recreation Board meeting to be held at the Richard A. Clark Municipal Service Center (1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway) on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m.  The event is open to the public. The meeting will also be broadcast live on Cable Channel 7 DMTV. This year’s winners - selected by a Volunteer Recognition Selection Committee – are listed below. 

  • George Davis - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Mike Rowley - Volunteer of the Year
  • Wells Fargo - Corporate Group of the Year
  • Watchmen Communities - Volunteer Group of the Year
  • Brooke Avila - Friend of the Year
  • DeMareo Darrah - Coach of the Year
  • Colby Fangman - Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
  • Jean Schooley - Special Volunteer Award

Lifetime Achievement Award - George Davis
George Davis has donated hundreds of hours to Parks and Recreation over almost a decade. His volunteer leadership on the Parks and Recreation Board and in his neighborhood is to be commended. Davis has one of the most active neighborhood associations in the city. Davis’ work, prior to retiring, teaching and coaching skills have easily crossed over to make him an encouraging volunteer leader and key supporter of our department. Davis happily represents the Parks Department at many board, committee and planning meetings. Under Davis' leadership we've seen an increase in board involvement in the Parks and Recreation Board and subcommittees. George Davis works well with our staff and demonstrates exemplary leadership. For his lifetime of service to Des Moines Parks and Recreation and our community, we will honor him with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Volunteer of the Year - Mike Rowley
Mike Rowley has been an outstanding volunteer over the years but in 2019, his service was beyond measure. Rowley chaired the Citizens Cemetery Advisory Committee, helped with the Governor's Own Regiment flag retirement project, spearheaded Wreaths Across America efforts (recruiting veterans, finding donors, working with musicians, volunteers and more) and has worked hundreds of hours over the years supporting our cemeteries and protecting the history within them. Rowley walks the cemetery almost daily and can be found at almost every cemetery volunteer event. He spends countless hours supporting efforts such as the installation of the 1812 stones this year to put on unmarked graves. He is a great leader, a voice for our cemeteries and our community's past and we honor him as our 2019 Volunteer of the Year.

Corporate Group of the Year - Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is an environmentally responsible company which encourages a strong community. They are the Iowa Parks and Recreation Association’s Business Support Award winner this year and will also be honored as our 2019 Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year. They believe one of the most important contributions their team members make is using their professional skills, knowledge and abilities to help organizations, such as Des Moines Parks and Recreation. In addition to financial support to renovate George Whitmer Park in the heart of Des Moines, they also donated 1,228 hours in our cemeteries, parks, trails, greenhouse, coaching and more. Their year-round volunteerism touches every part of our operation. Through philanthropy and community outreach they’ve strengthened our community and enhanced our quality of life. We will honor Wells Fargo as the 2019 Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year.

Volunteer Group of the Year - Watchmen Communities
Watchmen Communities, led by outstanding community member Lokus Ngo, was created to watch over humanity by supporting, protecting, and preserving life. Lokus is determined to enhance communities worldwide to create a better world for future generations. He works to instill sound morals and character traits within youth in the community. He created a Litter-Free Movement and in 2019 adopted Prospect Park. Through Lokus’ hard work he organized children and their families to adopt and care for the park throughout the year. They educated youth, marched through the community and hosted multiple fun clean-ups. Their dedication to enhancing and beautifying the neighborhood is amazing. Watchmen Communities encourage the communities they are in to take care of each other and our natural spaces. They exemplify our mission to help Des Moines Live Well, Play Hard and Protect the Earth. We will honor them as the 2019 Volunteer Group of the Year for the organization, leadership and positive presence in our parks.

Friend of the Year - Brooke Avila
Brooke Avila, Vice-President of the Friends of Des Moines Parks, has served in many roles over the past ten years including secretary and Board of Directors. Brooke has donated hundreds of hours each year promoting the Friends mission, advocating for more funding for parks and recreation programs and attending countless events and activities in Des Moines’ parks. In Brooke’s time with the Friends organization, the amount of funding given to Des Moines Parks and Recreation has steadily grown in part thanks to her dedication and time volunteering. Her commitment to both the Friends and Des Moines Parks and Recreation parks and programs has allowed countless kids to learn how to swim, supported construction of iconic facilities and improved the overall quality of parks and trails in the City of Des Moines. For her ongoing support and perseverance to improving parks and recreation services for Des Moines residents and visitors, we honor her as the 2019 Friend of the Year.

Volunteer Coach of the Year - DeMareo Darrah
DeMareo Darrah, a three-time Midwest Football Alliance Offensive Most Valuable Player winner and former East High School all-stater holds career passing and rushing records and has been selected to their All-Star Team numerous times. His dedication and respect for the sport has been passed on to the children he coached and resulted in an undefeated flag football team in 2019. Darrah, a Des Moines Police officer, teaches his team good sportsmanship and demonstrates what a good leader is. The children enjoy his passion, are happy to see him each week and hang around him before, during and after games. For his outstanding coaching and service to the City, we honor him as the 2019 Volunteer Coach of the Year.

Volunteer Supervisor of the Year - Colby Fangman
Colby Fangman, Park Planner, had never supervised volunteers prior to his position with Des Moines Parks and Recreation. Fangman was eager to engage the public in projects and quickly came up with ways to encourage volunteerism. Fangman’s work in 2019 included multiple volunteer events, including leading a large playground build in Ashby Park. He plans volunteer projects and evaluates ways to improve each time resulting in some of the most well-thought out projects in the City. Fangman has also worked on the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, a national effort utilizing volunteers to gather data to support work on our trails. This coordinated effort has resulted in millions of dollars of trail funding as a result of the volunteer’s work. His ideas have improved efficiency and keeps volunteers coming back. Fangman thoughtfulness, creativity and pursuit to raise the bar for our volunteers shows every time and he will be honored as the 2019 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year.

Special Volunteer Award - Jean Schooley
Jean Schooley has helped beautify the City for almost a decade. Each year, Jean spends time in our greenhouse transplanting spring flowers to prepare them to go out to neighborhoods. More than 250,000 annuals are grown thanks to people like Jean. Year after year, she has not only helped grow them but then Jean spends countless hours in our parks helping plant them. Jean loves to support other volunteers too and often can be found helping other volunteer groups in her neighborhood beautify Walnut Trace. Our staff have enjoyed her support through the years. Between neighborhood beautification projects and volunteering at greenhouse, she is responsible for over 1,200 hours of service. We thank Jean for her ongoing efforts to making our community a better place to live and will honor her with a 2019 Special Award for her beautification work.

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 2019, we had over 5,173 volunteers donating over 32,079 hours of service (valued over $815,770). They removed over 45,000 pounds of litter, brush, tires and debris from our parks on Earth Day alone. They help grow over 210,000 plants, distribute hundreds of toys to families in need, record our city’s history, survey trail users, distribute flowers to neighborhoods, build playgrounds and more. Volunteers bring diverse skills and talents which enrich our community in so many ways. For more information about volunteering, visit, email or call 248-6380.

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 (