These 30 rock
The 30 Columbians
It all started with an unusual birthday present. Five years ago, Melanie Cheney made her friend Jessica Leet’s birthday wish come true by joining her in a cleanup for Missouri River Relief.
For Cheney, fate struck that day. “Getting to know the river and the community, I just fell in love,” she says.
Since then, she has been participating in river cleanups across the state and planning educational events and fundraisers with Missouri River Relief. As the environmental coordinator, Cheney helped organize the second annual EcoArtFest at Cooper’s Landing in September. Local artists, musicians, environmental groups and members of the community gathered at the river to celebrate the nature and culture of the region.
Steve Schnarr, program manager for Missouri River Relief, was amazed by the crowded event and by Cheney’s involvement. “She worked for a month beforehand and did an amazing job of getting the word out,” Schnarr says.
One of Cheney’s main contributions to the festival was the recycled fashion show, a highlight of the weekend. Models strutted the catwalk in outfits constructed entirely of recycled materials, including T-shirts made from plastic bottles and belts made from old tires.
In addition to her community service, Cheney researches native plants for MU professor Nadia Navarrete-Tindall and runs a private local land-management business that rids the landscape of invasive species. Last month, she began a full-time AmeriCorps job that enables her to conduct water quality monitoring.
Cheney is optimistic that she is affecting change. “I think that small actions can make a big difference,” she says. “Even if you’re picking up trash on the river, it will still have an impact.”