Lasley, Brenneman make a difference in people's lives

Janeece Lasley

Josh Brenneman
National Volunteer Week
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, was established in 1974 and then-President Richard Nixon signed an executive order as a way to recognize the efforts of volunteers all over the U.S. The week has become a national effort to urge people to get out and volunteer in their communities.

     Monticello has a wealth of community volunteers. There are many ways for one to get involved and give back. No matter your age, abilities, interests, etc., there is a plethora of ways to make this community a better place.

Janeece Lasley

     Lasley has a passion for knowledge and literacy, which has led to her dedication toward the Monticello Public Library.

     Lasley was an educator of 30-plus years, focusing on language arts. She said seeing children get excited about reading and literature is a great thing to see.

     Lasley actually worked at the library for a couple years in 2010-12. After she quit working at the library, she started her volunteer service.

     “I do it for the kids,” she said. “It’s fun to see them come together and enjoy the library.”

     Lasely has been seen helping behind the scenes at many library events and programs such as the Valentine’s Tea Party in February. But, she truly enjoys lending a hand at the popular book series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” party.

     “That event has really grown,” she said of the continued event. Despite the books’ bizarre characters, Lasley said it really speaks to children and allows them to relate the family school life depicted.

     She also helps, along with a few other educators, at the library’s Crazy 8s program. Lasley said they assist with conducting the math activities for grades kindergarten through fourth, and modifying activities when needed.

     It’s not unusual for people in a community like Monticello to lend a hand in more ways than one. Lasley is also seen as an avid volunteer at her church, Wayne Zion Lutheran.

     “We’re a busy church,” she said.

     Between handbell and vocal music for special services, the new church library, and training for the church’s newly established Stephen Ministry, Lasley shows no signs of slowing down.

     Stephen Ministries involves members of the church congregation being trained by the pastor, Wade Reddy, to become support team members. Currently, seven members of the church are being trained to support other members of the congregation who might be experiencing a loss or crisis in their life.

     “It’s a calling,” Lasley said of why she felt compelled to join the ministry. “Pastor Reddy and Lisa Farley, another member of the church, were familiar with the program and saw a need for it in our church.” Lasley said she just felt that this was something she could do for others.

     “We’re led to support them through a stressful time in their lives,” explained Lasley, “to let them know that someone cares.”

     In visiting with care receivers, Lasley said Stephen Ministry requires complete confidentiality.

     Lasley was hesitant at first to agreeing to be featured in this article.

     “There are so many more people who do more than I,” she said. Lasley certainly fits the volunteer mold.

     When she has spare time, she is still seen in the Monticello School District volunteering and substitute teaching.

     “I enjoy going back,” she said of returning to the schools. “I’m familiar with the district and its procedures.”

     In general, Lasley said being a volunteer just means you’re being helpful toward others, perhaps making their lives a little easier.

     “It’s important to exercise your time and talents,” she said.

Josh Brenneman

     Despite living outside of the Monticello city limits, Brenneman is a strong community volunteer.

     For the past year a half, he’s been a volunteer at the Monticello Food Pantry. He said after living in the community for about 10 years now, he wanted to give back and volunteer around town.

     Brenneman helps out for a couple of hours every Wednesday morning.

     “It was one of the only opportunities I knew about,” he said.

     Wanting to find various volunteer options in Monticello, Brenneman reached out to Amy Keltner, the Jones County Volunteer Center coordinator. (The center is located in Anamosa.) Keltner told Brenneman the food pantry was in need of volunteers, so he offered his time.

     Brenneman works at the front desk of the food pantry, greeting patrons as they walk in for assistance and helping them verify the required paperwork needed.

     He also sits on the food pantry committee, made up of four community volunteers and Rev. Ed Moreano. The Monticello Food Pantry is overseen by the Monticello Ministerial Association, with volunteers from the 10 community churches assisting during the three days it’s open (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Brenneman said the committee meets once a month to discuss issues the volunteers come across or suggestions people may have.

     Brenneman said while it depends on the time of the year, the food pantry sees 25-35 people a month. He said the patrons might consist of one person or a family of seven.

     “I enjoy meeting the different people,” said Brenneman of the gig. “It’s nice to have someone provide that friendly greeting to make these people feel comfortable.”

     The food pantry also has volunteers working in the back of the facility, stocking shelves, organizing donations, and filling bags/boxes for the customers. Brenneman said the committee contacts the churches to make sure they have their timeslots filled for volunteering from month to month.

     It’s Brenneman’s job to also keep track of the inventory needs at the food pantry, and helping to keep the ad up to date that’s published regularly in the Monticello Express.

     “I send out the needs list to the churches so their members know what we need,” he said.

     With his wife, Amanda, a nurse at Camp Courageous, Brenneman is also seen volunteering at Camp when needed.

     Working with Keltner, Brenneman gives of his time to drive Jones County residents to non-emergency medical appointments in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Dubuque. This is the Volunteer Center’s Transportation Program. Typically, Brenneman transports the same people week to week.

     “I enjoy the people,” he said. It gives the patrons someone to talk to as well on the drives to and from the hospitals or doctors offices.

     “It’s about building relationships,” said Brenneman.

     He is also the newest member of the Monticello Parks and Rec Board, and is active with MYBSA (Monticello Youth Baseball and Softball Association). Brenneman is the vice present of the association and has served on the board for about a year.

     “I enjoy athletics in general,” he said. “It’s a way for me to help out.”

     His daughter, Bailey, has played with the MYBSA the past few years.

     “I’ve coached her teams the last three years,” said Brenneman.

     It’s easy for him to see a need and fill it.

     “Growing up, I always had good volunteers in my schools and community,” recalled Brenneman, “and throughout my life. It’s nice to give back to this community and try to get involved and make a difference in people’s lives.”




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