• Greene County community development specialist David Burton received five national awards at the 2022 Neighboring USA conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.
    Greene County community development specialist David Burton received five national awards at the 2022 Neighboring USA conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – “I was a great neighbor until I discovered that I was not,” says David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Greene County. “I don't throw loud parties. I mow my yard regularly. I clean up my leaves. I even pick up after my dog when I take him on a walk.” 

A couple years ago, however, it dawned on Burton that he didn’t know the names of most of his closest neighbors. “To be honest, I was not loving my neighbor. Some people think the opposite of love is hate, but really the opposite of love is apathy, and that's really what I was showing by not getting to know my neighbors better.”

What started as a resolution to forge connections with more people who lived nearby became an MU Extension program that earned five national awards at the 2022 Neighborhoods USA conference, May 3-7 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“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.”

Burton says his prize money will go back directly into the Engaged Neighbor program.

Neighborhoods USA is a nonprofit organization founded in 1975 to strengthen communities by facilitating the development of partnerships among neighborhood organizations, government and the private sector.

Neighborhood of the Year: Social Revitalization/Neighborliness

Third place in this category went to Stoney Creek Estates in Republic, Mo., where Burton lives, for “Pandemic to Socially Connected,” which highlighted efforts in 2020-21. Included in the award were other residents who took the initiative with neighboring projects and appeared in a series of National Good Neighbor Day PSAs produced 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.

Neighborhood of the Year: Multi-Neighborhood Partnerships

The multi-neighborhood partnership category recognizes projects jointly produced by at least two neighborhoods or community organizations to address physical or social concerns. Second place went to MU Extension's Engaged Neighbor pilot program, a two-year project to engage the residents of eight diverse neighborhoods in Greene County through training, events, neighborhood directories and a quarterly neighboring newsletter.

“These eight demographically diverse neighborhoods teach people how to connect with neighbors socially,” said Precious McKesson, chair of the awards committee. “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.”

Program of the Year: Social Revitalization/Neighborliness

Finalist honors went to Burton in this 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.

“In Southwest Missouri, this project documented over 5,500 acts of neighboring in 2021 as a starting point,” said Burton. “I'm very excited about the project's direction in 2022, but we still need partners.”


Burton won first place for a printed neighborhood newsletter produced by an agency or nonprofit for the “Your Neighborhood News” publication.

He also received first place for a digital newsletter by an agency or nonprofit for “The Engaged Neighbor Newsletter.”

Get involved

Being a good neighbor offers tremendous health benefits, reduces crime and loneliness, and improves communities and your quality of life, Burton says. MU Extension offers four easy ways to learn more about neighboring:

Contact Burton at or 417-881-8909.

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