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Event honors local heroes
Volunteers in Action holds appreciation banquet
volunteer banquet
Around 60 Volunteers in Action of Central Kansas volunteers took part in the annual appreciation banquet Thursday night at the Best Western Angus Courtyard. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Beneath a banner reading “Never Fear, the Volunteers are Here,” around 60 Barton County residents who give of their time met for the annual Volunteers in Action of Central Kansas appreciation banquet Thursday evening.

“The definition of volunteer just doesn’t describe what the people in this room do,” VIACK Director Linn Hogg told the crowd gathered in the Best Western Angus Inn courtyard. “The cut and dry definition of a volunteer is a person who ‘freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. Or freely offers to do something.’

“Yes, that is what you do,” she said. However, there is more.

“You are truly heroes to many people,” she said. “You contribute your time, skills and experience to help out a number of organizations including the programs we do in house. You have chosen to act in recognition of a need, and you have done so with an attitude of social responsibility and without concern for monetary profit.”

So far in 2022, volunteers signed up through VIACK have contributed nearly 45,000 volunteer hours. They serve in a myriad or roles, from the blood drives to Meals on Wheels to Medical Transportation to helping with a host of critical tasks for 32 non-profit groups in area.

The actual number of volunteers has dipped some, but number of younger folks getting involved has increased a tick, she said. “It has really helped diversify to satisfy un-met needs.”

These last couple of years, many industries have failed through the COVID-19 pandemic. Services, supplies and jobs have been impacted.

“However, Volunteers In Action and RSVP has seen just the opposite,” Hogg said. “Programs vital to people being able to live at home have been sustained through people stepping up and stepping forward.”

Society has done a poor job mentoring the importance of volunteerism to younger generations, she said. “You out there have been carrying a very large load for many years. And yes, we have some wonderful new blood that is stepping forward, but not in the amount that we need.”

So, VIACK is trying to answer this challenge by making it easier to have a hub for all volunteers and volunteer opportunities and groups seeking volunteers, she said. A new software called “Get Connected” will help track volunteer hours, scheduling, event management, check-ins, calendars, resumes, email messages, text messages, integrate with social media and report volunteer impact.

“Just imagine signing up in one place and having all of the possible volunteer opportunities to preview,” she said. But, she stressed, “we can still register people by paper” for those uncomfortable with working online.

Hogg said she is proud VIACK has been certified as a Service Enterprise through the national Points of Light organization. This means they have the training to work with groups on creating the types of volunteer opportunities that will recruit new volunteers as well as empower all volunteers. 

VIA’s certification means it is among the top 11 percent of volunteer management organizations in the nation. It required more than 20 hours of training and coaching and an extensive internal planning and change process. 

“The Volunteer world is changing just as quickly as everything else is around us,” she said. “We are setting ourselves on that path of innovation so that in the “hopefully,” near future, Volunteerism is not just an opportunity, it is what we do.”

The event also included an a meal catered by Great Bend Coffee, introductions of Hogg’s Advisory Council, volunteer leaders, her staff, and door prizes collected by council members. 

VIA is a grant-funded volunteer service organization that manages an AmeriCorps Senior (RSVP) program and is administered through Barton Community College. VIA’s mission is to fill the un-met needs in the community by mobilizing the time and talents of area volunteers.