SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Twelve Missourians have been chosen for statewide recognition as “Missouri’s Most Engaged Neighbor” for 2023 as part of the planned activities for Missouri Good Neighbor Week (Sept. 28 to Oct. 4).

Sixty-two people were nominated for recognition as one of Missouri's most engaged neighbors. Each of them received an acknowledgment letter and gift by mail.

“Honestly, the plan was to honor ten, but we couldn’t get to that number,” said Jennifer Prophete, coordinator of The Hopeful Neighborhood Project. “I thought the nominations this year were great from one to sixty-two.”

“We were excited to see two Missouri towns, Seymour and Webster Groves, collect their own nominations and honor engaged neighbors during the week,” said David Burton, a University of Missouri Extension community development specialist. “It would be great to see other cities do something similar next year. We must celebrate and recognize neighborly behavior.”

These statewide awards are provided by University of Missouri Extension and The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, which sponsors Missouri Good Neighbor Week.


Those selected for the statewide honor as Missouri's Most Engaged Neighbor will receive an award certificate and prize check by mail.

John & Cheryl Dabney of Lebanon, Mo., were nominated by their neighbors who are handicapped. For the past three years, the Dabney’s have done everything possible to care for them, mow their yard, make home repairs, install a chairlift, and even build a ramp. “We are so blessed to have them as our neighbors,” wrote the nominator.

Aaron Dohogne of St. Louis, Mo. was nominated for his efforts to make St. Louis area neighborhoods more beautiful and happier. He organizes trash pickups, secures native trees, and plants them for those who want them. “He is the epitome of an engaged neighbor making a difference, one piece of trash and one tree at a time,” wrote the nominator.

Geralds Wirths of Pilot Grove, Mo., is an 89-year-old veteran who shares bounty from his garden, tools, and hospitality with everyone in the neighborhood, especially those who are shut in. “He is a great friend to people in need and those who are lonely,” wrote his nominator.

Bill Mueller of Kimberling City, Mo. is described as the caretaker of his neighborhood. He has driven neighbors to the doctor, walks multiple dogs around the neighborhood, cares for the yards and homes of those traveling, and plans neighborhood parties. “I can't begin to explain how kind and caring this neighbor is toward his neighbors,” wrote his nominator.

Barbara Thurman of Springfield, Mo., was nominated for her “leadership and efforts to elevate the connectedness” of the Rountree Neighborhood Association. She has revived Welcome Wagon for new homeowners, organized and promoted a Chalk Your Walk event to celebrate Missouri Good Neighbor Week with 38 participants.

Jenn Fischer of Webster Groves, Mo., who organizes monthly neighborhood meet-ups and the annual block party. When a neighbor's home caught on fire, Jenn organized a GoFundMe that raised $1,500 in less than 24 hours.

Ray Morgan of Cleveland, Mo. is a leader and volunteer in his small town of 600 people.  He does all types of maintenance work around the community, clears snow from driveways, mows yards, and puts up flags along Main Street for special events. “One thing that stands out to me is his positive outlook and happy demeanor,” wrote his nominator.

Virginia (Ginny) Zarinelli of Ellisville, Mo., is a trustee for her neighborhood. But she is best known for greeting new neighbors, visiting neighbors who are ill or hospitalized, driving neighbors to the doctor, and planning a monthly luncheon for ladies on her street. “She makes our neighborhood a great place to live with her thoughtfulness,” wrote her nominator.

Dr. Melissa Nash of Saint Louis, Mo., opened the first free healthy food market in the St. Louis area and serves over 10,000 lbs. of food monthly from her mobile food marts and wellness center. “She has been an advocate and champion for our neighborhood,” wrote the nominator.

Greg and Suzanne Smith of Manchester, Mo. are active volunteers in their neighborhood. Greg serves as a trustee in the neighborhood and “brings diplomacy, wisdom, and care to his role and is appreciated for his careful stewardship of our resources,” wrote his nominator. This couple also hangs 100,000 Christmas lights for an annual neighborhood display.

Lee Scribner of Sedalia, Mo., is known for creating joyful experiences in his neighborhood like an annual Halloween block party and annual neighborhood cleanup event. “Lee's selflessness and devotion to our community make him an outstanding nominee,” wrote his nominator.

Kati Westcott of Chula, Mo. is known for helping neighbors in need and organizing neighbors annually for the Chula Street Fair.  “She is the glue that holds our community of 200 together. We are a small community with a big heart and she keeps it pumping,” wrote her nominator.


Missouri's Governor signed legislation HB1738 on July 1, 2022, establishing Missouri Good Neighbor Week. The week begins on Sept. 28, also National Good Neighbor Day (first created in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter). Missouri Good Neighbor Week was also selected as the best neighboring program in the United States for 2023 by Neighborhoods USA.

For more information, contact David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension, by phone at (417) 881-8909 or by email at or online at

Jennifer Prophete can be found at the Hopeful Neighborhood Project ( and reached by email at