See Our 'Doing the Most Good' Volunteer Nominees for the Region
Check out our nominees, who range from a 12-year-old entrepreneur to a nearly 75-year-old triple-threat volunteer. It's time to vote for which you think is "Doing the Most Good."
Patch recently asked readers to nominate a person in the community whom they believe is "Doing the Most Good." We got five solid nominations and were able to learn a bit more about each one, thanks to the people who nominated them.
In partnership with the Salvation Army Midland Division, we put together this recognition program to give readers a little information about some of the extraordinary people serving our communities — and give them a little reward for their work.
We present mini-profiles of each person below. Then, you're invited to vote for who you think should win our "Doing the Most Good" award. The top vote-getter gets an overnight stay at the Moonrise Hotel in the Loop, a $50 gift card toward a dinner and two tickets to a show at a St. Louis-area venue.
The winner will also be recognized at the Salvation Army's annual Turkey Tweet-Up on Nov. 15.
Presented in alphabetical order, see what you think and vote in the poll at the bottom of the article. Voting will close on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m.
Steve Blacksher, Pastor in Service
Steve Blacksher is the director of evangelism at Church of the Shepherd in St. Charles, leading a 6:08 p.m. service on Sunday evenings that's known as "the service that serves." In his nomination, Karl Griffith said under his leadership at the church, "The folks that worship at COS 6:08, and other COS worship services, are constantly in service. Most recently was the COS Feed My Starving Children meal packing event. (Church of the Shepherd) has also made a commitment to send a mission team to Joplin every month for two years."
Blacksher told Patch that the service is "called 6:08 because the weekly worship experience starts on Sundays at 6:08 p.m., but also because of the 6:08 signature Scripture text: Isaiah 6:08. There the prophet Isaiah responds to God's question of 'Who will go for us?' by saying 'Here am I send me!' At 6:08 we are about helping people say 'Here am I send me!'"
Blacksher said since starting the 6:08 service, the church mobiled volunteers on service projects such as helping residents in the Lewis Place neighborhood of St. Louis rebuild after the Dec. 31, 2010, tornado; remodeled a St. Joachim and Ann transitional living home; painting/cleaning up in different Youth-In-Need facilities; helping a St. Louis church with building repairs; and cleaning the OASIS Food Pantry building regularly.
He's also a humble man. "I'm flattered to be contacted and nominated," he said. "It's just that 'winning' a contest is not why I do what I do."
Diane Brayfield: Meals on Wheels and More
Diane Brayfield is at an age where she could be forgiven for allowing other volunteers to work for her. But she's shown no signs of slowing down after a career as a computer programmer for the government. The Lemay woman delivers dozens of meals a month for the Mideast Area Agency on Aging, a job that has her cruising the streets of St. Louis County along three different routes.
"I get a kick out of it. I have a captive audience I can tell my jokes to," Brayfield told Patch.
She was nominated by Pamela Guest of the agency, who said Brayfield has been delivering in the Mehlville-Oakville area for 10 years, three to five days a way.
"Neither rain, sleet, snow or scorching heat deters her from making sure the folks on her route get their meal," Guest said "She doesn't just deliver that meal, she makes sure each person is feeling well and is quick to alert the proper authorities if there is concern or if help is needed."
But that's not all. Brayfield is also a docent at the St. Louis Zoo and a volunteer at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. And why not?
"I'm going to be 75 at the end of November and I feel great," Brayfield said. "I can close my eyes and be any age I want…and I choose 28."
Clarence Goldthree, Volunteer Coach
Clarence Goldthree spent a 30-plus-year career as a teacher and coach in East St. Louis. After retiring, he wasn't done working with kids. Now, he wrangles friends, former colleagues and former students and runs a summertime volleyball camp for students every year — boys and girls — that has touched hundreds of young lives in the 20 years he's done it.
Pamela Coaxum, executive director of the Greater East St. Louis Community Fund, said Goldthree and his colleagues "have given of their time and resources, above and beyond, to the children of East St. Louis. They have sponsored many recreational programs so poor children can learn anti-violence skills through recreational opportunities."
Clarence's wife Vernisia spoke to Patch about her husband's work — and wanted the nomination to be a surprise to him. She said volleyball was the way he wanted to go with his summer camps.
"Volleyball was something different," she said "It was something the girls could get into and something besides just basketball."
She said her husband, 62, taught science, physical education and health and coached a variety of sports at Mason/Clark Middle School in East St. Louis. The summer camps run at Mason/Clark, and draws students Cahokia, St. louis, Belle Valley, Edwardsville and beyond.
Sam Klein: Turning Trash to Cash at age 12
Sam Klein has had an interest in how trash and garbage works since way back — when he was 4 years old. Now, at age 12, the young entrepreneur has made his passion for the stuff we toss a fundraiser. The seventh-grader at Parkway Northeast Middle School runs a recycling charity called InkCycle, and raises hundreds of dollars for charities in the community.
"I used to help the garbage men load trash into the trucks when I was 4," Klein said. "Mom didn't know. When I turned 5, they threw me a party."
The Creve Coeur boy's business proposition is simple: He'll collect your empty, discarded computer ink cartridges — along with laptops and cellphones. He works with providers he's identified that will pay him cash for the discards that he has collected. Then he donates those proceeds to places like Ronald McDonald House and the American Heart Association.
"Sam never ceases to amaze me. He is selfless in his efforts to help those in need," said
Kimberly Brandon, principal at Parkway Northeast. "I love celebrating all the wonderful things Sam does for our community."
Klein doesn't stop there. He's also run what he calls "service days," where he'll identify charities, print up fliers that list what they need from donors, and hands them out to customers at Dierbergs. Customers can buy the goods and leave them with Klein, or just give him cash. He's recently given $200 to Ronald McDonald House, $550 to St. Patrick's Center and $330 to Peter and Paul Community Services.
"At 12 years old, he puts us oldsters to shame. Sam is visionary, kind, committed and relentless," Dan Anderson-Little, pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in University City.
Otis Woodard, Helping the Poor in St. Louis
Here's how Patch began its profile of Otis Woodard that ran on Wentzville Patch in January 2011:
Otis Woodard marched for freedom. He sat in prison to prove a point. And since April 4, 1968, he has lived his life in service. Woodard worked with Dr. Martin Luther King. He is speaking at the city of Wentzville's remembrance event Monday night at Holt High School. Woodard, who goes by Outreach Otis in his north St. Louis neighborhood, tries to help another American every day. "I want to live as Dr. King lived," he said. "He said it doesn't end here. I need to live as he taught."
Those are the sorts of qualities that moved Justin Dixon to nominate Otis Woodard for our "Doing the Most Good" program.
"He maintains a 'Peace Park' in the community in order to provide meals to the community and provide a safe place for the residents of the neighborhood," Dixon said. "Anyone who has ever had the privilege of knowing Otis knows that his smile and laughter are infectious. Even in the worst of situations, he has a positive word and a positive message for all of those around him."
The site of the Peace Park is the site of the home Woodard bought for $1,000 when he moved with his wife from Memphis, after King was assassinated.
"We promised the guys that we bought the house from that we were going to do God's work from that house if we could get a place to live," Woodward said in a YouTube video about the Peace Park.
In a 1986 profile, the Chicago Tribune described Woodard like this:
Wherever he brings his cornball Gospel road show, he unvaryingly signs up recruits for his do-it-yourself crusade. Every afternoon, a procession of late-model cars pauses for a few minutes on Bissell Street--their drivers interrupting their commute between the city's commercial district and suburban homes to drop off a load of food or clothing.
All of the work he does, he does without any regard for himself," Dixon said.