Missouri Community Service Commission honors volunteers at 22nd annual Show-Me Service Awards

Ethan Romig Rhonda Stout

Ethan Romig, left, and Rhonda Stout recently were recognized by the Missouri Community Service commission for their acts of volunteerism. | Photo courtesy of Douglass Community Services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A New London teenager was recognized when the Missouri Community Service Commission held its 22nd annual Show-Me Service Awards recently at the Missouri State Capitol.

The Show-Me Service Awards recognize the impact of service and volunteerism throughout the state. They are divided into seven categories and awarded across four regions, with Hannibal and New London in the North/Central region.

Ethan Romig, 15, of New London was named Youth Volunteer of the Year for the North/Central region. Romig is a sophomore at Hannibal High School and active with Gracie Barra, YMCA and FFA.

Romig has made quite a name for himself In Hannibal with his “Random Acts of Kindness.”

His acts began with activities, such taping quarters to arcade games and vending machines and bags of microwave popcorn to RedBox machines, distributing roses to nursing home residents and using money from his allowance to buy toys for his church’s children’s ministry.

Most recently, Romig has surprised both the Hannibal Police and Fire Departments with gift baskets and handed out goodie bags to cancer patients at the James E. Cary Cancer Center.

Romig was one of three Hannibal youths to receive the inaugural Youth Community Service awards from the Hannibal Early Bird Kiwanis in 2021.

Today, along with setting up a Blessing Box with household necessities in front of his home, Romig has his “Ethan Romig’s Random Acts of Kindness Hannibal MO,” Facebook page, chronicling his monthly efforts for singling out organizations and people for his acts of kindness.

Rhonda Stout was named the winner of the Senior Volunteer of the Year award for the North/Central region.

In his nomination of Stout for the award, Harold Smith, coordinator of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for Douglass Community Services in Hannibal, said, “It’s an understatement to say that Rhonda Stout is the heart and soul of The Forget Me Not Senior Center in New London.”

Forget Me Not has been a gathering place for Ralls County seniors since 1976. Stout’s involvement began about six years ago.

“When I retired, I had one of the (Forget Me Not board) officers approach me and ask, ‘Rhonda, would you be interested in helping out — you like to cook and everything — and serve as an officer?'” Stout said.

The rest is history. Stout and a dozen other volunteers put in about 30 hours a week taking care of cooking, serving and clean up for the senior center’s Friday lunches.

Stout says she believes the mission of Forget Me Not is twofold.

“Sixty percent of the people come here for socializing, and it may be they don’t go anywhere else,” she said. “They’re here to visit and catch up on the news with people they haven’t seen for a long time. The other 40 percent are people who are less fortunate and maybe this is the only hot meal they get all week.”

Stout says Forget Me Not provides the service it does without having to put on any specific fundraising events.

“We rent the building, which brings us quite a bit, and we have the memorial donations benefactors for several members who have passed,” Stout said. “That’s all other than our meals.”

That social gathering place atmosphere at Forget Me Not is reinforced by allowing carry-in dishes to be brought in to supplement the planned meal, along with opening each Friday session with a time of announcements, celebration of birthdays and anniversaries, the pledge of allegiance and a prayer before the meal.

Stout also said feeding 25 to 50 Ralls County seniors every Friday is a labor of love.

“I have to say for all the things I volunteer for and do, this is the one thing I would not give up,” she said. “I have met a lot of nice people, I thoroughly enjoy being able to cook for them – and most of them think it’s pretty good.”

The Missouri Community Service Commission is a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor and administered by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Its mission is to strengthen Missouri communities through volunteerism and service. Through its AmeriCorps and volunteer programming, MCSC invests over $38 million into Missouri communities annually.

For more information on MCSC, and to find a place to volunteer, visit ShowMeService.org.

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