Hopped up on chocolate cereal snacks, the kids at the Rosedale Ridge Apartments Community Center have abandoned their inside voices.
So much so that Lindsey Snyder and 10-year-old De’Aviance Miller move to the front porch in 44-degree weather to read “The Outside Dog.”
And yet, this keeps Snyder sane.
She began volunteering for the Kansas City Urban Youth Center during her senior year at MidAmerica Nazarene University and has continued in law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“This is like the only thing that keeps me remembering why I’m doing it and who I’m going to help. It kinda keeps me sane through all of the headache that is law school.”
And it’s what everyone wants to feel, she says: “That you’re needed and loved.”To volunteer:
The wind picks up as the temperature falls, but 56 baby goats at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park could not care less.They want milk!
Somebody has to feed these bleaters three times a day to make them fat and healthy for the season opening on Friday. Then paying customers can take over. For now the farmstead relies on volunteers to show up even during snowstorms. One is 13-year-old Olivia Blackwell of Overland Park.
“Whenever I come to Deanna Rose my favorite part is to see the goats,” Olivia says. “So I just thought it would be fun getting volunteer hours doing what I like to do.”
Ditto for Madeline Koke, Eryn Coates and Logan Coates, all 14-year-olds from Overland Park.
“My parents just wanted me to volunteer somewhere,” says Madeline.
“For a good cause,” chimes in Eryn. “And you’re definitely a good cause,” she adds to a goat with baby horn nubs.
“This one started pooping on me,” reports her twin brother, Logan. “I think it’s over.”
Nearby, another goat climbs on top of Joe Danielson of Lenexa, another 14-year-old volunteer.
“I’m not a mountain,” he tells the oblivious goat.
Marianne Goss of Overland Park is a volunteer veteran at Deanna Rose, but the goat detail is a new gig.
“I want to contribute,” Goss says. “I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 25 years so I’ve been fortunate to have time to do it.”To volunteer: firstname.lastname@example.org 6 p.m.
Forty-five minutes before the first job hunters are expected, Judy Ambler arrays sign-up sheets and name tags on a table in the church fellowship hall.
It’s a familiar task. For nine years, through some of the worst job markets in history, she’s volunteered to lead the Career Transition Ministry at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa.
Twice a month, maybe a half-dozen, maybe as many as three dozen people come for job-search support.
“Welcome back!” she hugs Clyde Robinson, one of the first arrivals at 6:45, who’s returned to the job club for a second time.
“She’s amazing,” Robinson says. “She keeps it going. It’s an inspiration.”
Ambler shrugs off the accolades. “It helps me focus on the positives,” she says.
For nearly a decade, Amber has persevered in this volunteer role — despite her own long-term unemployment, despite a painful and nearly useless right hand that was crushed in a workplace assault, despite a grueling, expensive bout with invasive breast cancer, and despite recent knee surgery.
“At times it really gets to me,” Ambler admits. “But I try not to let it show. My nickname as a child actually was Sunshine because I was happy. I try to remember that when trials come my way.”
A few minutes after 7 p.m., seven attendees — some old hands at job clubs and a couple of first timers — sit at two round tables, each behind a paper nameplate that tells what they do or what they’d like to do.
On their tables Ambler places copies of the agenda for the night, evaluation forms to rate the evening’s value, and a small pile of candy. The round chocolate candies are foil-wrapped and look like tiny globes.
“I tell them they have the whole world in their hands,” she says.To volunteer: www.jccc.edu/files/pdf/ce/community-career-services/job-clubs/area-job-clubs.pdf 6:50 p.m.
In the back of Diane Sparks’ Toyota 4Runner, Callie’s going crazy.
The border collie jumps at the window, tail flitting back and forth, and starts to whine. As the vehicle gets closer to the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center in Olathe, her whine only increases in urgency.
Just a little farther.
“She knows when we get off the highway, we’re almost there,” says Sparks, of Leawood.
About twice a month, Sparks brings Callie — one of many dogs in the Pets for Life therapy program — to the detention center to spend an hour with the young people.
The teens can be in detention for theft, assault, burglary or drugs. Because of security risks, they can’t touch another human.
No hugging or shaking hands with staff or volunteers. Not even family visitors. No high-fives with other teens.
So what Callie and the other canine volunteers give is crucial.
“She makes me think of my dog,” one girl says, her hands combing Callie’s back. Another teen sits next to Callie, petting her.
Their hands don’t leave Callie’s dark coat until the dog jumps up and runs about 25 feet away. She’s ready for another Frisbee.
It’s almost 8:30 when the last round of teens leaves the gym. Callie has chased her last Frisbee for the night.
She makes her way back into the 4Runner, done until next time.To volunteer:
Alvin Schneider doesn’t speak a word of Italian, he can’t carry a tune and he’s never been an actor. But he loves performing with the Kansas City Lyric Opera.
He is a supernumerary, or volunteer actor. For each production, he donates about 60 hours of his time to rehearse and perform in non-speaking, non-singing roles.
This night he’s one of 13 volunteers rehearsing “The Marriage of Figaro” with the main cast.
The lead baritone’s voice booms warm and heavy. The supers flit across the set, moving furniture, pretending to have conversations and lending a sense of life.
“I just think they add so much depth,” says Kathryn Barker, the “super captain.” Some, she says, “have great comedic timing, and they have striking stage presence.”
But the most important quality in a super is reliability. “It doesn’t matter how great you are if you don’t show up or show up on time.”
Schneider, a retired teacher, says being on stage is always a thrill.
“I think there’s a ham inside all of us.”To volunteer:
The sounds of bluegrass and country music reverberate through the dining hall at the Maywood Terrace Living Center in Independence.
Dave Robinson and his Best of Friends band are providing their own special brand of therapy.
And there’s little doubt they’re playing to rave reviews.
“Hallelujah!” shouts a frail woman in the back. “You guys are good!”
“Glad you like it,” he says. “We’re having as much fun as you are.”
For Robinson, knowing that he is providing some joy and comfort to hospice patients is rewarding.
“I suppose I make a difference in their lives,” he says. “But they make a difference in my life, too.”
Robinson, 63, of Liberty is one of 60 volunteers for Three Rivers Hospice. In the last year and a half, he has comforted a number of patients in their dying days.
“The music is only a small part of it,” he says. “Most of the time, it’s one on one — maybe just talking to them, reading the Bible with them, or just being there.
“You form relationships, and it’s hard to see them go. But you know that their suffering is over and that they are in a better place.”To volunteer:
The man on the other end of the line is lonely and frustrated by the way mental health workers have been treating him. He’s been talking non-stop for half an hour.
“Oh, gosh,” Cynthia McCorkindale says. “Do you need to see your doctor? Can you talk to your case manager or something?”
McCorkindale is a volunteer with Compassionate Ear, a toll-free line for people whose mental illnesses have left them socially isolated and in need of someone to talk to.
The line is staffed daily from 4 to 10 p.m. by about a dozen volunteers who have a history of mental illness. They work from home, taking turns on three-hour shifts.
“We understand. We’ve been there. We are there,” says McCorkindale, who struggled with bipolar disorder until medication helped her. “I’m a lot like these people who call.”
She chats with a regular caller, laughs, jots notes in her log. They talk about the weather and swap diet advice.
“We’re peer volunteers, so we share our personal life.”
Compassionate Ear is run by Mental Health America of the Heartland. It’s based in Kansas City, Kan., but the phone line has national reach.
A man in New Hampshire talks about his cats. A woman in Iowa mourns a friend.
One man had a bad day. He just needs to vent.
The call doesn’t last more than a couple of minutes, but that’s enough.
Sometimes, just being there for someone else is all it takes.To volunteer: