Betty Niehaus has a simple explanation for why she's volunteered so much time with the city of Bridgeton, the Pattonville School District and her church.
"I didn't want to stick around the house and clean it all day," said Niehaus, 83. "I liked the city of Bridgeton and I liked the school district."
Niehaus joined about 180 residents at Friday's 27th Annual Boards and Commissions Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The event honors citizens who volunteer with the city's 14 boards and commissions.
The city could not operate without these volunteers, said Mayor Conrad Bowers.
"We have so many people who help," he said. "(Bridgeton) offers a lot of services because of these volunteers."
Niehaus became involved when she and her husband moved to Bridgeton in 1957. She grew up in University City but moved to Bridgeton because they "needed a house."
"I volunteered because it was my way to stay involved," Niehaus said. "We were in one of the first houses built in the Carrollton subdivision. I think citizens need to get involved in their communities."
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She served on city boards and school district committees for about 50 years. Niehaus is currently an auxiliary with the Special Events Commission, although she no longer lives in Bridgeton.
The property buyout for Lambert Airport's new runway forced her to move out of Bridgeton. She lives near her daughter in Lake St. Louis.
"It's not really home," she said. "I still come into Bridgeton for church and for the commission. It broke my heart when I had to move."
During all of those volunteer hours, Niehaus enjoyed herself.
"Of course, I had fun. I wouldn't have done if it wasn't fun," she said.
Like Niehaus, many of Friday's attendees willingly volunteer much of their free time.
Marie Flood, 84, works with the Planning and Zoning Commission. She has been involved with the group for the past 10 years.
"I love it. It gives me something to say about what goes on in my city," Flood said.
She got involved in city government when a Metro bus station was planned across the street from her home on Fee Fee Road.
"I said, 'over my dead body,'" Flood said. "I worked to stop it, and I've been involved ever since."
She was born and raised in Bridgeton.
"It's a great community and I want to help keep it that way," Flood said. "I also think it's a lot of fun (to volunteer)."
Bridgeton resident Keith Brown, 74, has 23 years of civic involvement. He served on the Planning and Zoning, Police and Special Events commissions. He also chaired two Tax Increment Financing commissions for community projects. Brown is a retired engineer for McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing.
"Both companies always stressed community service," Brown said. "I like being involved. I believe if you're involved, you have a right to stand up and speak out. You feel like you can affect what happens."
Like other volunteers, Brown enjoys the experience.
"I've always stressed to my sons to find a job that they enjoy," he said. "I couldn't have been a volunteer if I didn't enjoy it."