Volunteer Spotlight: Mike & Pat Jones

How many years have you lived in Lafayette Square?
We have lived in Lafayette Square for a little over four years, or 28 dog years as Mike puts it!

What is your occupation?
Volunteers and parents to two wonderful grown children and to Bix, a two-year old mixed cattle dog who makes sure we “get our steps in” every day.

When did you start volunteering in the Square?
We basically started volunteering right after we bought our home. We helped tidy up the Rock Garden and docented at house/parlor tours.

What attracted you to the cause?
The many events and activities in the Square that are entirely run by volunteers. I realized that if these are to continue, it is essential (and rewarding) to help out.

What are your current volunteer activities and what do they involve?
I am on the standing House Tour Committee, and I help recruit houses/gardens for the tours. It is a pleasure to visit with homeowners and get a pre-tour peek at their lovely homes. I also help with the writing and editing of the tour booklets. Volunteering in the rock garden and other public gardens is also something I enjoy. Mike runs the Lafayette Square Archives Committee, collecting and conserving our shared history. He also write essays from what the committee collects and post them to our social media accounts and website. He’s a board member at-large on our neighborhood association (LSRC), and he enjoys the association with the committee and helping to navigate our course.

What motivates you to stay involved?
Whatever we do constructively here pales in comparison to the pioneering efforts of brave folks who re-established this neighborhood. The story of young and often broke idealists buying brick ruins in a slum and restoring them in the face of skeptical banks, insurance companies and even families is deeply inspirational to us.

Why do you volunteer/donate?
Regardless of where Mike and I have lived, I have always believed that “we are all in this together.” A neighborhood, school, church, organization, etc. cannot survive without the shared commitment of its residents/members. Even volunteering at tasks that take little time can make a difference. Mike feels that in the absence of TIFs and SBDs, our human capital and the attractiveness of our historical aesthetic is all there is to generate the funding necessary to sustain and improve Lafayette Square. Recognizing how fragile what we have is, he can’t not contribute.

Of what contribution or achievement are you most proud?
In Lafayette Square, I am really proud of the amazing House Tour committee that has grown over the last two years. It is a joy to work with these dedicated neighbors. Mike is really excited that on June 1, his committee intends to go-live with a Lafayette Square archival database, on line and fully searchable. It has been nearly two years in the making, and may be a real asset to this community.

What do you hope Lafayette Square will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
I would love to see the vacant storefronts on our “main” street, Park Ave., become vibrant again. This would be my hope for the near future and the long term. I also hope we continue to reach out to all of our residents who may have just moved in, are renting, and perhaps have not joined the LSRC. Mike feels that in the longer term, we need a way to diversify our income stream beyond house tours, as the LSRC is almost totally dependent on them for its current operating budget.

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
My wonderful husband, Mike, who has totally immersed himself in the history of this beautiful neighborhood, is a great supporter. He and I are in awe of those who rescued so many of the painted ladies in the 1970s and 80s. They are our inspiration. Mike says that we are in tune on this neighborhood and its role in our urban happiness. He says that my self-motivation gets him going, if only so he doesn’t feel like a slouch!

Do you have an anecdote about this cause/organization that really moved you?
There are so many wonderful stories, it is difficult to have a favorite. One of the reasons we fell in love with the Square is the walkability and the feel of a “small town” in the middle of the city. And, there are the dogs! One resident laughingly told us, “A spouse or significant other in Lafayette Square is optional, but a dog is mandatory.” Mike is often reminded of the 90/10 rule – that 90% of the work is generally done by 10% of the people involved. He grew up in Montana around cattle. He decided early that he didn’t want to be part of the herd.

What other organizations or causes do you support?
I am a member of the St. Louis League of Women Voters, and I volunteer as a reader to pre-school students for the Ready Readers program. Mike volunteers at Habitat for Humanity, Association of St. Louis Area Archivists, Regional Histories, St. Louis Regional Historical Societies, St. Louis Area Foodbank and Landmarks Association of St Louis

What is something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn?
I love urban living, but I come from a teeny tiny town in the middle of the state. In Mike’s 20s, he used to jump out of airplanes (recreationally).

Do you have a message to share with residents?
Please consider joining one or more of our wonderful neighborhood groups. Whether you’re gardening in the park, helping with the house tour, working on the movies/concerts in the park, or joining the Novel Neighbors book club at the library, it is so rewarding and a great way to meet people and help our community thrive. Mike suggests we listen to our great funky philosopher James Brown who sang it best – “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved.” Mike says that whether you’re a homeowner or a renter is irrelevant. Be part of the moment you live in.