• MU Extension Community Development Specialist David Burton was honored with five different awards at this year's 47th Annual National Conference of Neighborhoods USA.David Burton
    MU Extension Community Development Specialist David Burton was honored with five different awards at this year's 47th Annual National Conference of Neighborhoods USA.David Burton

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- David Burton, a community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension, came away from the 47th annual Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) national conference held in Little Rock, Arkansas (May 3 to May 7) with five coveted national awards in 10 possible categories.

NUSA is a non-profit organization created in 1975 to share information and experiences to build stronger communities. NUSA continues to encourage networking and information-sharing to facilitate the development of partnerships among neighborhood organizations, government, and the private sector for the ultimate goal of strengthening every neighborhood.

This year's conference theme was "Neighborhoods: The Fabric of Our Communities."

The NUSA awards process began with submitting applications in February. Applications were then scored, and those selected as national finalists were alerted to their status in March and asked to make a 20-minute presentation to a panel of judges at the national conference. Those judges made the final selections from the six to eight finalists selected in each category.

Each award winner received a plaque, and those placing first, second or third also received stipends. Burton says the prize money will go back directly into the Engaged Neighbor program.

"It was an honor to have my work recognized at a national level, and I hope it encourages others to get involved," said Burton. "I hope to get some neighborhood leaders in Missouri to join me at next year's NUSA conference in El Paso, Texas."

A list of all award winners, including details on the Neighborhood of the Year Grand Prize winner Friends of Belmont Beach, Indianapolis. Indiana, can be obtained by emailing Burton at or on the NUSA website in a few weeks.


Third place in the Neighborhood of the Year category for social revitalization and neighborliness was awarded to Stoney Creek Estates, Republic, Mo., where Burton resides. His entry, "Pandemic to Socially Connected," highlighted efforts made from 2020 to the end of 2021.

Included in the award were other neighborhood residents who took the initiative with neighboring projects and acted in a series of National Good Neighbor Day PSAs filmed by KY3-TV the NBC affiliate in Springfield. Those individuals included Rose White, Carolyn and Eric Gerke, Sarah Baker, Julie and Adam Cassella, Shane and Tara Crawford, Ken and Diane Knierim, and Luke and Hannah Harding.

The PSAs are available online at

"Changing a neighborhood from one where people live in isolation to one that was featured in  television PSAs about national good neighbor day sounds like a work of fiction. But it is the truth! Connecting neighbors socially is so simple that anyone can follow the example of Stoney Creek Estates in Republic, Mo," said Precious McKesson, chair of the awards committee.

The social revitalization and neighborliness award category honors projects focusing on the social or cultural aspects of a neighborhood.

Second place went to the Floral Park Neighborhood Association in Santa Anna, California which produced a “Road to Kindness” program. The neighborhoods hosted 10 separate drives (food, toys, blood, school supplies, medic supplies, etc.), awarded more than $14,000 in scholarships. First-place went to the Whitley Community Council of Muncie Indiana for their efforts in 2020 and 2021 to provide support to the 3500 households in their neighborhood with an emphasis on health education for adults, assistance with utilities, food and cleaning supplies, and education and technology help for children. Other finalists were from Issaquah Highlands, Washington, Travis College Hills Neighborhood, Garland, Texas, Jubilee Neighborhood, Nassau, Bahamas, and Rosehill Neighborhood Improvement Association, Texarkana, TX


The multi-neighborhood partnership category honors projects that are jointly produced by at least two neighborhoods or community organizations in a partnership effort, addressing either physical or social concerns.

Second place in the Neighborhood of the Year category for multi-neighborhood partnerships went to MU Extension's engaged neighbor pilot program involving eight Greene County neighborhoods. This has been a two-year project led by Burton to engage the residents of these demographically diverse neighborhoods through training, events, neighborhood directories, and a quarterly neighboring newsletter.

Third place went to Clark Neighbors Food Project, Vancouver, Washington for a volunteer food pantry that uses 150 volunteers to collect and distribute half a million pounds of emergency food to hungry children and adults in their represented neighborhoods. First place went to Floral Park Neighborhood Association of Santa Ana, California where they partnered with seven different neighborhoods on programs which dramatically improved the quality of life for those neighbors.

"These eight demographically diverse neighborhoods teach people how to connect with neighbors socially. The challenges with this project have confirmed that being quiet and leaving others alone is the new American narrative about what it means to be a good neighbor. But in Greene County, projects like this are changing the narrative," said McKesson.


The Best Neighborhood Program Award, in the social revitalization category, honors projects that focus on the social or cultural aspects of a neighborhood.

Finalist honors went to Burton in the Neighborhood Project of the Year category for his National Good Neighbor Day program. He presented the history of the good neighbor day, the results of his efforts since 2018, and details on how the program is transitioning to Missouri Good Neighbor Week in 2022. Early details are available at

"In Southwest Missouri, this project documented over 5,500 acts of neighboring in 2021 as a starting point designed to change the narrative about what it means to be a good neighbor," said Burton. "I'm very excited about the project's direction in 2022, but we still need partners."

First place went to the City of Peoria, Arizona for their community engagement block party program designed to connect neighbors block by block.

"This was an extremely competitive category this year," said McKesson. "All eight of the finalists were very good. We were very impressed with the results of this program and believe it has merit as a national program to get people talking about neighboring at the same time. We encourage David to apply again next year in this category."


Burton won first place for a printed neighborhood newsletter produced by an agency or non-profit for his "Your Neighborhood News" publication distributed to residents of the multi-neighborhood areas.

He was also awarded first place for a digital newsletter by an agency or non-profit for his Engaged Neighborhood Newsletter. Anyone can subscribe to the Engaged Neighbor Newsletter online at

Joyce Cox of Memphis, Tennessee, was judged for four newsletter categories. "Both of the Engaged Neighbor newsletters do a great job of reaching a unique audience. They are professionally written and designed, and I liked the emphasis on neighbor-to-neighbor relationship building," said Cox during the awards ceremony.


University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement recognizing the importance of neighboring in community development. According to Burton, being a good neighbor offers tremendous health benefits, reduces crime and loneliness, improves communities, and improves your quality of life.

MU Extension offers four easy ways to learn more about neighboring.

·       Enroll in the "Neighboring 101" series at to attend the monthly classes with special guests from across the nation live or to get exclusive access to Neighboring 101 class recordings.

·       Follow Becoming an Engaged Neighbor on Facebook.

·       Take part in the Missouri Good Neighbor Week program (Sept. 28-October 4). Learn more information at

·       Subscribe to the free monthly emailed Engaged Neighbor Newsletter online at

To learn more about our "Engaged Neighbor" program or the impact of neighboring, go online to or contact David Burton by email or telephone at (417) 881-8909.

Media Contact