Ellen Vaughn service award courtesy photo

Ellen Vaughn of Hastings poses in Chautauqua Park after being presented with a Voluntary Service Award from the Nebraska Parks and Recreation Association. Vaughn has been picking up trash on her walks around the park for more than 15 years.

A helping hand can go a long way in improving a community — and it tells a lot about the character of the person to whom it belongs.

Hastings resident Ellen Vaughn was presented with a Voluntary Service Award sponsored by the Nebraska Recreation and Parks Association on Dec. 21, 2021.

Vaughn has been cleaning up around Chautauqua Park since 2006. Every day when she goes on a walk — or when the weather is nice — and she sees trash lying on the ground, she will pick it up.

“I walk around the park and skate park, and I think that the trash needs to be picked up instead of laying around. This makes me feel like I’m doing something for the city,” she said.

Ryan Martin, the city of Hastings’ recreation superintendent, was thrilled Vaughn won statewide recognition for her volunteer service on behalf of Hastings Parks and Recreation.

“It’s an opportunity for us to promote good people that we have in Hastings. It goes to show, Ellen is a good example of how good of a community we are for people to move to Hastings and live in,” Martin said.

“We have great people helping our staff pick up around the parks. This shows our gratitude toward (Vaughn), to help picking up the trash around here and making this a nice place not only for us to work in but also the community members that live around here to have a nice, clean park and area to be around.”

Martin said the consistent effort Vaughn brings is what stands out about her.

“It’s fantastic that she is always doing it. She has a mindset that ‘I need to pick this up,’ and the responsibility and consistency is what is great about her and it shows what great character she has about her passion for the city of Hastings,” he said.

Vaughn was shocked when she found out that she won the award.

“I was in shock because he (Martin) interviewed me and filled out an application early in the spring, so I thought, well, it is all said and done — but here I am. Keeping this community clean shows how people need to be responsible, and it makes the area look better instead of the trash laying around.”