By Anna Desmarteau
As those who work in the field of parks and recreation, we do a lot more than provide spaces and opportunities for people to have fun. We serve our communities in a variety of ways, such as facilitating health and wellness, community planning, preservation of habitat and animals in the parks, historical and environmental education, provision of social services, inclusion advocation, and so much more.
With July being National Park and Recreation Month and July 21 being Park and Recreation Professionals Day, employees of Johnson County Park and Recreation District from across our county took time to share about what they do and how they impact our community.
“I believe community is the core of everything we do and what we stand for,” said Children’s Services Administrative Assistant Laura Nofsinger. “We provide a foundation for our community to build upon. From a leisurely walk on a trail, bird watching or admiring landscapes, to dropping off and picking up a child from a before- or after-school program.”
“We’re at the center of family reunions, wedding receptions, graduations, birthdays, or anniversaries with reservations of park shelters,” she added. “We’re the reason for all those fun memories.”
“In Johnson County, parks and recreation is everything,” said Southwest Region Park Manager Dan Haase. “We touch so many lives every day and allow people to explore their passions through nature, physical activities, and many fine arts. We bring beauty and diversity and opportunity for people and children to interact and make new friends.”
“Staff are always very welcoming and understanding to all our users,” he noted. “I believe we do our part to provide programs, activities, experiences, playgrounds, and beautiful parks to all who are interested in participating.”
“JCPRD offers a wide variety of programming and opportunities, though there is always room to grow in this area,” said Corporate & Community Wellness Manager Lacey Fisher. “We’ve made exciting advances with accessible playground equipment and inclusive programming, and I look forward to continued growth.”
“Special Populations offers participants the benefit of cognitive stimulation, fine motor skill utilization and development, as well as socialization,” added Special Populations Coordinator Lise Dujakovich. “Our mission is to provide fun, an opportunity for competition, making new friends or sharing time with old ones, and ultimately – smiles. I waited years to find a job that fulfilled my passion; and have found success!”
“We in registration are often the first contact point people have with JCPRD,” said Registration Clerk Kelly Hawkins. “Even if we don’t know the answer, we usually know the correct person to connect them with that does.”
“I hope what I do leaves a lasting, and positive mark on both park patrons and staff, especially beyond just what I see. I want patrons to enjoy the places we provide and maintain.”
“I enjoy and am very proud of being in JCPRD Family,” said Northwest Region Assistant Park Manager Brandon Loomis.
“I love every minute of it. I have never felt so welcome, and I have a complete joy working for JCPRD!” added Out of School Time Program Director Lea Giesbrecht, who added that she is proud how her work positively impacts students and their families. “Parents often say that they’re confident and happy knowing that their kids have a place to go to that they are excited to come to.”
“I’ve been with JCPRD for nearly 29 years, and I still love that I get to work in a park setting,” said Communications Specialist David Markham. “I get to see the seasons with a variety of flora and fauna, but I also get to make a difference in promoting programs that impact people’s health and quality of life for the better. I’m happy to have a role in telling a variety of stories about people and programs at our parks and facilities, as well as helping to connect people with nature.”
“I love to be a part of the internal support for the programs and parks that directly benefit the public,” said Applications Administrator Katie Anderson of JCPRD’s IT department. “My work and contributions have more meaning when I see my family and others enjoying the end result. It’s a joy to surround yourself with motivated, happy people every day!”
Since 1985, America has celebrated Park & Recreation Month in July to promote the importance parks and recreation have in health and well-being, conservation, and social equity. Also, to recognize more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals, along with hundreds of thousands of part-time, seasonal workers, and volunteers that maintain our country’s local, state, and community parks.