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Local volunteer opportunities abound
You don’t need a lot of time to make a huge difference
Meals on wheels
Volunteer Conrad Koehler counts meals in preparation for a Meals on Wheels delivery Friday morning at the Great Bend Senior Center. Meals on Wheels delivery is one of many opportunities available for those looking to volunteer in Great Bend and the surrounding areas. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Making a large impact in your community does not have to make a large dent in your calendar or pocketbook. In fact, volunteering is something even the busiest person can do, local officials say.

Though it is easy for community service to get squeezed out of busy schedules, especially for working individuals and families, volunteering is something that deserves a higher place on the family’s to-do lists, said Linn Hogg, director of Volunteers In Action/AmeriCorps Seniors.

“Between school, work, sports and events, family life is busy. The trick is to build volunteering into your schedule so that it becomes a priority,” Hogg said.

Donna Krug, Family and Consumer Science Agent with the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood district, said the process begins as simply as taking the time to inform yourself on what is going on in your community. “If people take time to read the newspaper, or listen to the news, they’re going to hear about what’s going on, and from there, it’s just about finding their niche and finding out what they are interested in.”

And no matter where that interest area lies, Krug said, there are a wealth of organizations in the community that are always needing willing volunteers of all ages.

For example, Hogg said, for kids who love animals a zoo or animal shelter is a good place to look to find something the kids will enjoy. “Community service doesn’t have to be a chore.”

It also can be a positive learning experience, particularly for young children, Hogg said. When a parent or a guardian is involved in community service, she noted, it will spur the child toward continued community involvement later in life. Parents should be good role models in that respect. 

For example, volunteering at a senior center or assisted living facility can be a good teacher for young people. Locally, the Great Bend Senior Center is often looking for volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels, something that only takes a lunch hour to do, she said.

“They get the chance to talk to and learn from the very people who raised us, fought our wars, taught our schools and built our country’s history,” Hogg said.

Involving families in volunteer activities also allows them to see the impact even small goodwill gestures can have, and creates a stronger family bond.

“Working shoulder to shoulder with your kids can foster conversations about their lives and experiences and provide a window into their worlds,” she said.

Krug said the extension office has several opportunities for individuals to get involved that do not involve large time commitments. “We’re always looking for volunteers, whether it’s a youth (Extension) program, or something with adults, or with our program development committees.”

In particular, she said, the Extension office is always looking for volunteers for committees to help design and promote educational programs, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic having changed the way people learn and receive information.

And the more people who become involved, the better. Krug observed that those with the desire to become involved are often involved in several different projects or areas at once, so having more volunteers to share the load in the community is crucial.

Many opportunities available locally

In addition to the groups listed above, both Hogg and Krug noted there are several local organizations always looking for volunteers, and recommended a few different places to start.

For example, Krug said, the Central Kansas Partnership is a local group made up of several different task forces that address a variety of local issues, including wellness, suicide prevention, healthy eating, and youth engagement. That group alone, she said, offers opportunities for people with a variety of passions.

Another organization she suggested specifically is Central Kansas CASA, which works with children going through the court system. This is a good opportunity for those who enjoy working with children.

Krug understands busy schedules often create barriers for younger individuals looking to get involved. However, she said, you can always find opportunities to give back to groups you are already connected with such as your local church or your child’s school, or simply taking time to visit a neighbor. It does not have to be a time-consuming process.

Hogg agreed. Even on a busy schedule, she suggested taking a few minutes during your regular shopping trips to pick up toys or food for local organizations, or spending time at home going through old toys with your kids. Doing so, she said, can also instill in your kids the joy of giving back to others.

“A project doesn’t need to be on a grand scale to impact those intended to benefit from it or those who are participating (as volunteers),” Hogg said.

Again, Krug said, it boils down to always being aware of the opportunities around you. Community fitness events, like a bike ride Krug helped put on last year, are good chances to get involved. For that event, a local volunteer created promotional fliers, which she said helped increase turnout.

For those with tight schedules, weekends and school breaks are particularly good times to get involved with community projects and organizations. A lot of organizations will hold more family-friendly events during these times.

What it really boils down to, Krug said, is finding what you are passionate about and taking the initiative to get involved.

“It’s just networking with the right people and being part of the community,” Krug said.

Krug can be reached at the Extension’s Cottonwood District Office at 620-793-1910, and Hogg can be reached through Volunteers in Action/AmericCorps Seniors at 620-792-1614 or 620-786-7558.