The two are best known for ‘The Welcome Wagon’
Monrovia City Manager Dylan Feik announced Friday that two of Monrovia’s awe-inspiring volunteers, Hal Leavens and John Watson, are the recipients of the Champion of the Community award from California Parks and Recreation.
The Champion of the Community award honors and recognizes individuals or organizations who have contributed significant effort to influence and improve the quality of their community through parks and recreation. This statewide award recognizes the contributions of those who volunteer and provide support and services in their community that furthers the mission and quality delivery of park and recreation services, programs and facilities in their community.
For 18 years, John Watson and Hal Leavens have dedicated one Saturday a month “going door to door to welcome new residents to Monrovia with their big smiles and even bigger personalities,” as Dylan Feik put it.
These two dedicated volunteers have visited well over 10,000 families and shared many more stories. “They are the unofficial ambassadors of our community, setting the stage for new residents to become active and enthusiastically engaged in all things Monrovia,” according to the city manager’s most recent report.
However, for the past 14 months with the world coming to an abrupt halt because of coronavirus — and some back surgery for Leavens, the unofficial mayor — the dynamic duo’s weekly wanderings had to go on an extended hiatus. The glorious white limousine-like motorcar that used to transport the champions (Leavens and Watson) from house to house was put carefully away in the garage until the pandemic lets up.
There’s so much more to these two chaps than meets the collective community’s enquiring eye. They love to chat; ask them why they do what they do, and you’ll see. It’s elementary my dear Watson: They LOVE Monrovia and want to share that knowledge.
When this reporter moved into the foothill community, Leavens insisted, albeit respectfully, that I submit to a brief introduction from “The Welcome Wagon.”
The two men appeared on my doorstep within seconds of me hanging up the phone. Grinning from ear to ear, Watson and Leavens were parked outside our little cottage and with a swift knock on the door, the two men were ready to share their exceptional knowledge of the city they hold so dear.
Armed with literature about the city’s amenities and history, and with eager sparkling eyes, the dynamic duo got into their finely-honed speech and handed me a ton of brochures to help illustrate their knowledge of the city, who’s running the place and its extremely colorful history.
The two men have served the people of Monrovia as volunteers for more years than they care to remember. They love to share stories with the new residents and their fellow Kiwanians or other service organizations to which they both are charter members.
The award is based on any or all of the following elements:
- Record of outstanding volunteer, elected or appointed service to the delivery of park and recreation services or programs in their community.
- Contributions to the development of or improvements to new equipment, apparatus, facilities or programs that enhance the provision of parks and recreation services.
- Creation of positive and meaningful impact or change for the community, and those that are served, through park and recreation services and programs.
- Response to a significant challenge in their community and their innovative, responsive and proactive approach in developing solutions to those challenges.
- The extraordinary accomplishments connected to the recipients would fill so many volumes in Monrovia’s Library that a new wing would be necessary to accommodate said accomplishments.