For the most part, Great Bend-based Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development Council flies along under the radar – quietly working behind the scenes on a number projects in central Kansas.
The non-profit agency became a little bit bigger of a blip on that radar Thursday afternoon. The council received the Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team Partnership Award for its use of volunteers.
In fiscal year 2011, the Central Prairie RC&D utilized 419 volunteers logging 6,419 hours. They only recently learned that they had been recognized.
“Our volunteers define the direction of all our projects,” said LaVeta Miller, RC&D manager and program director. “Where ever the need, we try to facilitate.”
This is National Volunteer Week and the theme is “Celebrating Earth Team Volunteers in Action.” “These folks allow us to stretch available resources and help us put conservation practices on the ground,” said Eric B. Banks, Kansas NRCS state conservationist.
Chief among the council’s projects are the Honor Flights where the RC&D works with the National Honor Flights organization. The purpose is to give World War II veterans the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. at no cost to see the national monument erected in their honor. This program was developed to honor the veterans for their sacrifices and the time they served our country during World War II.
This year, three flights carried 233 veterans and 182 guardians to the Nation’s capital. Through this ongoing project, a total of 1,515 veterans and their guardians on 15 flights have visited Washington, D.C. RC&D fundraisers and donations make the trips possible. Volunteers must pay their own way.
Upon returning from the trip, a designated group honors the veterans. “These events bring recognition to the men and women who served our country,” Miller said. “Family members say this trip has allowed the veterans to discuss things they have never talked about with anyone until now.”
Veterans have the opportunity to not only see the memorial built in their honor but to meet with others who served and understand, because they had the same experiences. The trip for some is also a time of emotional healing for what they experienced so many years ago.
“The time is now; we need help fundraising to get the job done,” Miller said. “Our ‘Dare to Care’ program states that if every Kansan would donate $1 per person – we could send every veteran in our database that covers Kansas, in partnership with the National Honor Flight Network.”
This council is formed by volunteers from Barton, Edwards, Ellsworth, McPherson, Pawnee, Reno, Rice, and Stafford counties. Central Plains is one of 10 councils in Kansas.
“We are dedicated to improving the quality of life in our communities through approximately 30 projects and programs,” Miller said. As of April 15, 2011, it was no longer a government program. “We receive no state or federal money.”
Central Plains is located at 1916 16th Street, and can be reached at 620-792-6224.
For more information about being an Earth Team Volunteer, contact Jan Klaus, Kansas volunteer coordinator, 785-625-2588, or go to the Kansas NRCS homepage at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov, and click on Earth Team Volunteers.
Additional information on the Earth Team Volunteer Program is available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/people/volunteers or by calling 888-526-3227.