Abby M. Zent Service Recognition

Karen and Leroy Zent and the Governor’s Office of Community Service are proud to announce that nominations are open for the Abby M. Zent Service Recognition. This recognition encourages all citizens to engage in service to benefit others and to continue service throughout their lifetime.

The Abby M. Zent Service Recognition distinguishes Montanans who served in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or Senior Corps and who continue to make an impact on their communities and those around them. Abby demonstrated a lifetime love of service and was known to inspire others to serve along side her. In that spirit, nominees should also encourage others to serve and be committed to service througout their lifetime. 

Abby dedicated her life to service. She served two terms, one as a member and one as a leader, in AmeriCorps VISTA with the Prevention Resource Center (PRC).  Abby then joined PRC staff for seven years, working on antipoverty initiatives. She provided support to the Senior Companion program and served on the Senior Corps Advisory Group for the Rocky Mountain Development Council. She volunteered with Kiwanis, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Lewis and Clark Humane Society, Intermountain Festival of Trees, and Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership. Abby's passion for serving her fellow humans knew no bounds, and was evident by her yearly trips to work on homes with Esperanza International in Tijuana, Mexico.

Well suited nominees are purposeful, mission-driven, and have demonstrated sustained service to others. Like Abby, nominees inspire others to serve, particularly in the areas of safe and affordable housing, youth leadership development, and the arts and culture.

Eligibility:  AmeriCorps alums, AmeriCorps VISTA alums, AmeriCorps NCCC alums, and those who serve or have served with Senior Corps who have shown a spirit of service throughout their lives beyond National Service.

Recognition: Recognitions are provided to at least two Montanans, one over the age of 55

Selection: Winners are selected by a thoughtful committee, including Karen and Leroy Zent, Abby's parents.

 Zent Recognition Honorees:


Orrin Johnson attended a small Baptist church from kindergarten through high school where he met many role models who helped form his faith. Orrin served four years in the U.S. Air Force. Later, at U of M, he changed his major from Forestry to Elementary Education because he felt teaching was the best way for him to be a role model for young students. Orrin’s university  experience broadened his horizons and desire to become a community activist for many worthy causes. Orrin continues teaching, mentoring, and community service as a Foster Grandparent.

Melissa Lavinder began serving others at a young age and has continued throughout her life. Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Montana Children’s Trust Fund allowed her to affect positive change in the lives of Montana families across the state. Because of that experience, Melissa has remained with the organization for six years, transitioning from AmeriCorps VISTA to Program Specialist to Director. Melissa currently serves on the board of Prevent Child Abuse Montana and is a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 


John IIgenfritz's time as an AmeriCorps VISTA instilled in him the need for dedicated community service in America. Since then, he has continued to serve his community in many ways, from his time with the Montana Commission on Community Service to public awareness events and civic engagement activities.

Kami Kirchberg's dedicated service to Montana began with the Montana Children’s Trust Fund as an AmeriCorps VISTA and continued through a term as a VISTA Leader and beyond to her current work with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Care Van Program.


Ed Broaddus served in AmeriCorps VISTA on the Fort Peck Reservation, where he built relationships, started a newspaper and a little league, and simply asked what needed to be done, and kept serving.

Julianna Crowley served in AmeriCorps VISTA in Sidney, Montana, and has served on the board of Blue Mountain Clinic, created care packages for refugees and served meals to Special Olympians.