They work in the dark hours before dawn, throughout the day, deep into the night.
No punching clocks or collecting paychecks. They’re giving their time and talent because — simply put — someone needs them.
They’re the woman who prays at midnight, working her way through a Rosary in an empty chapel. The business owner who walks downtown streets at lunchtime, handing out peanut butter sandwiches to homeless people.
The retiree, motivated by the care his infant grandson received before he died, who pushes a cart through a hospital, giving snacks to other families going through a rough time.
They’re volunteers, and they take their jobs seriously.
“I’m on my ‘feel the magic’ time when I’m here,” Bob Hill says in Children’s Mercy Hospital.
The Star dispatched two dozen reporters and photographers to take you through one day, round the clock, of Kansas Citians giving something back.
The thing is, the giving goes both ways, say volunteers like Toni Hadel, who takes her dog Bella to play with teens in juvenile detention:
“You get more than you give when you see the people’s faces.”12:01 a.m.
In the midnight hour, houses are dark, businesses quiet, roadways deserted.
For radiation therapist Amy Reynolds, it’s time to pray.
She takes her place outside the sanctuary of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Shawnee, a rosary in her purse. As part of a larger plan to have parishioners pray round the clock four days a week, Reynolds and her husband take turns kneeling inside the adoration chapel once a week.
“Maybe God can use me,” she says. “If each person spends an hour in the parish with that same goal in mind it can be a ripple effect.”
Reynolds requests peace and comfort for victims of Japan’s tsunami. As candles flicker, she prays silently for her patients, living and dead.
At 12:15 a.m. she pulls out her rosary. She’ll use 51 of the 53 Hail Mary beads to pray for every family member. At 12:33, she kisses her rosary and tucks it away.
Years ago she dropped by churchoccasionally to “pray slash argue with God about me being able to have children. He said, ‘You will have children, but on my time not yours.’ ”
When she became pregnant, her daughter was stillborn. Still, she trusted God. She has three children now. That’s part of why she gives back.
At 12:59 a.m., she finishes her last prayer. The next parishioner kneels nearby.To volunteer:
Brittany Talley climbs into bed, wearing her track pants, T-shirt and socks. Her cellphone rests near her pillow.
Any minute, the phone could disrupt the quiet of the room and alert her to another emergency, another rape victim who needs support. All she’ll need to do is brush her teeth and slip on some shoes.
On-call nights are like this. When you volunteer with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), you go when you’re called.
“I feel like I’m doing something that really matters,” says Talley, 24.
The trunk of her Honda Accord is packed with care packages for victims: Pamphlets, soap, a toothbrush and washcloth, clothes in various sizes because their own clothes will be taken for evidence. This way, a victim doesn’t have to wear a hospital gown home.
Talley volunteers as a hospital advocate several days a month and has for four years. Some shifts she never gets a call. Other times, she gets more than one.
Earlier this shift, when she arrived at North Kansas City Hospital, the victim tried to keep a brave face but broke down in tears. Talley asked if she could put her hand on the girl’s back. Could she give her a hug?
Talley held the girl’s hand during a forensic sexual-assault exam. She asked the girl questions about her everyday life. The girl talked about horses.
Although this victim didn’t ask, many wonder whether Talley herself has been raped. Is that why she volunteers?
“I don’t feel right answering that question,” Talley tells them. “This is not about me tonight. This is about you. I’m here to make you feel comfortable and to help you in any way I can.”To volunteer:
Michael Collins has been in bed three hours when his beeper, always with him, bleats on the bedside table, waking him and his wife.Building fire.
8420 W. 135th St.
He is gone in 60 seconds, dressed and in his truck, his gear in the back, driving to the Salty Iguana restaurant just blocks from his south Overland Park house.
By day, Collins, 37, is a computer guy, working out of his home for a California software company. One day a week, he packs an overnight bag and spends a 24-hour shift at the Overland Park Fire Department’s Station Two. But he can also respond to calls at any time during his off-duty hours.
He’s one of a handful of volunteers in the department, a father of three young children who donates his time because he believes helping your community “is every citizen’s responsibility.” He feels a part of firefighter tradition, too: Most of the United States’ 1.5 million firefighters are volunteers.
He trained first while living in upstate New York, then paid $1,000 to be trained at Johnson County Community College when his family moved here. “You can’t just show up and jump on a truck,” says his boss, Capt. Paul Bishoff.
The Salty Iguana? Just a minor dryer fire.
Collins is home by 3.
Beeper on the bedside table.For information:
913-888-6066 — but there are no openings right now.4 a.m.
In a cramped and dimly lit room in downtown Kansas City, Linda Keller steps over piles of furniture and pushes aside stuffed sacks of clothes.
After a year of volunteering two days a week, the former bail bondswoman has grown comfortable in the storage room at the reStart women and families shelter. She sorts and stacks donations and helps wherever she’s needed.
All while most people are asleep.
In the cool morning darkness, a few men stand outside the shelter on Ninth Street puffing on cigarettes. Inside, Keller has been working since 11 the night before and has three hours to go.
“I’m a night person. This is like noon to me,” she says, plunging her arms into a bulging garbage bag, pulling out a woman’s blouse, checking it for rips and stains. “I like working through the night. It’s quiet and I can manage to get a lot done.”
When she’s not volunteering, the 58-year-old Lee’s Summit woman takes classes at Colorado Technical Institute. She went back to school after her former boss asked her to become a bounty hunter.
“I like a little adventure, but not that much,” she says.
She discovered reStart through a work-study program for school. And she stayed.
Most days, “I can’t wait to get here,” Keller says. “It’s crazy, but I like it here. It’s like Christmas, discovering a new prize every day.”
She gets to know the people who stay at reStart, searching bags for cute clothes for their children to wear to school or a nice dress or suit for job interviews.
“A lot of them had to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Keller says. “Here I get to be like Santa Claus.”To volunteer: www.restartinc.org 8 a.m.
In a small room in the back of the Catholic Charities food pantry in Olathe, about 800 cans of green beans line a shelf.
Donated bread is waiting to be sorted and boxes of food need to be unpacked.
It’s a good day, says volunteer Mike Whitacre as he stocks the nearly empty shelves of Corn Flakes.
Come back in a few days, and much of this food will be gone to the community’s growing number of hungry families.
Retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, Whitacre donates about 20 hours each week managing this pantry, which served nearly 11,000 people last fiscal year alone, up 26 percent from two years earlier. He solicits donations, organizes pickups and keeps the pantry stocked.
In his eyes, it’s like he’s come full circle in life.
“I paid for going to architecture school by working in a grocery store,” he says, flattening a box that’s been emptied of tortillas. “Thirty years working for the Corps of Engineers and now I’m back to working in a grocery store.”
As Whitacre readies the pantry, other volunteers filter in. By the time the office opens at 8:30, a family waits for their monthly sack of groceries.
“Whether you believe in God or anything else, we weren’t put here on earth with a bunch of people around for us not to be doing something to take care of the people around us,” Whitacre says. “You should be doing something instead of just taking up air and space.”To volunteer: