Mark Stiles named Volunteer of the Year for beautifying traffic islands in Prairie Hills

Mark Stiles was named Volunteer of the Year for beautifying his neighborhood traffic islands. Photo submitted by Brenda Stiles

Over the past several years, Prairie Village resident Mark Stiles has spent countless hours volunteering to beautify the traffic islands in his neighborhood. His neighborhood spirit and devotion to beautification of Prairie Hills made him the next recipient of the Jim Gary Neighborhood Spirit Award for the Volunteer of the Year.

The Homes Association of Kansas City honored Stiles with the award at the organization’s annual dinner last month at the Milburn Country Club.

“It was a fantastic award,” Stiles said. “To me, I do all this work just because I love to do it. It’s neat to know that other people feel that yes, it’s a hard position, it’s a position that I’ve fulfilled well over the years, especially about the islands, the gardens themselves, and keep them so beautiful.”

Loring Leifer, president of the Prairie Hills Homes Association board of directors, said Stiles has been doing “wonderful, amazing things” for the neighborhood.

“While this isn’t the good season to appreciate them, they have become some of the prettiest islands in Johnson County, and under his management,” Leifer said. “Most of the other homes associations, they have to pay people to do what Mark has done for free for decades now.”

Stiles started beautifying the traffic islands in 2005. He also manages a group of volunteers who help him with landscaping, planting, mulching, weeding and watering 15 islands. He also creates habitats for monarch butterflies.

“I get a lot of compliments from people that say, ‘ooh your islands are cool,’” Stiles said, adding that he enjoyed hearing that other homes associations enjoy their gardens on the traffic islands as well. “It’s kind of neat to be recognized for that kind of work.”

Last year, the Prairie Hills Homes Association dedicated the island at 71st Terrace and Cherokee to the Stiles family.

Stiles has also served in a variety of leadership roles in his homes association, serving as president for two years.

Leifer said the couple has embodied the neighborhood spirit since they moved to Prairie Hills in 1984. They’ve raised two daughters, participated in nearly every neighborhood event — including the popular picnics and pumpkin carvings — and have led the Holiday Homes Tour for the past decade as a benefit to Harvesters.

“Both he and his wife are the quintessential good neighbors,” Leifer said. “The flesh-and-blood kind of neighbors, not the kind that remember your birthday on Facebook but the kind that come and let your dog out and loan you their chainsaw and come over with soup when you’re sick. Both he and his wife, Brenda, are just pillars of what it means to be a neighbor.”