Countless men, women and children in our community benefit from the tireless efforts of volunteers willing to dedicate a bit of their free time and lend their skills and experience to important causes. These folks often work behind the scenes, seeking no pat on the back or commemorative plaque: They simply want to help make the world a better place. This month, we’re highlighting the contributions of six outstanding lake-area volunteers and the organizations they support. May they know how much they are valued and may you be inspired by their enthusiasm for giving back.
St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development
Candace Randle has volunteered at St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development since her twins began preschool there. The center’s early childhood education model is one of inclusion, and its integrated special services meant Randle’s twins, one of whom required speech and occupational therapy, could go to school together.
“I started out as a room mom,” says Randle, who also put together gift baskets or brought in items for special events. Then she joined the gala planning committee. This led to working on more outreach and fundraising events and also being invited to serve on the board. “I consider it an honor to be among such a dedicated group of folks,” she says. “I still consider myself a student, always learning more about the breadth of cutting–edge childhood intervention St. David’s offers.”
Randle also helps organize St. David’s Tee Up for Tomorrow golf tournament. This event is a way to bring her husband, Minnesota Vikings’ Hall of Fame player, John Randle, as well as other men, closer to the mission of St. David’s. “It’s perfect,” says Candace Randle. “My husband loves golf and he loves St. David’s.”
Randle says it’s fun to plan special events for an organization so dear to her heart. “I want to get the word out about St. David’s,” she says. “What they’ve done for our family and so many other families is remarkable.”
Seventeen-year-old Jacklyn Cooney began volunteering at St. David’s to fulfill a classroom service component for her high school. She found her work with 4 and 5 year olds a few hours each week so rewarding that she continues to volunteer at St. David’s, even though the class has ended.
Cooney plays board games and dress-up. She reads stories and helps with art projects. One of her favorite activities is pushing children on the swings and “listening to their imagination go” about favorite toys and super heroes.
“Interacting with these little whirlwinds brings a smile to my face,” Cooney says. “St. David’s is a great place to volunteer. It’s a privilege to enter a classroom and be welcomed with open arms and excited shouts of ‘Jacklyn!’”
Diane Duguay is passionate about being an advocate for people with disabilities. She is on the board of directors at Opportunity Partners and also volunteers there as a way to say, “I believe in you,” to clients served by the organization.
Duguay also co-chairs Opportunity Partners’ business partner council that endeavors to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. She has also been a keynote speaker at many events, illuminating the benefits of hiring employees with disabilities. Her belief is that anyone with a son or daughter who has a disability would want to know there are companies willing to give their kids a chance.
“I’m not talking about jobs no one else wants,” Duguay says. “I’m talking about building jobs that fit the abilities of employees with disabilities.”
Duguay’s employer, Kraus–Anderson, matched office responsibilities with the skills of clients at Opportunity Partners. The result is employment opportunities that involve tasks like loading fax machines, printers and supply bins. “It’s a win–win for everyone,” Duguay says. “When you see the difference you can make in someone’s life by providing meaningful work they look forward to and feel proud of, it makes you wonder why every business isn’t doing this.”
Jane Gorence has a niece in Texas with Down syndrome. When Gorence learned about Opportunity Partners, she concluded that if she can’t give directly to her niece Lisa, she can still contribute to people with special needs in her immediate community. “My niece has a good family and community support,” Gorence says. “I want to be a link in that chain of support for other folks like her.”
Gorence typically travels as an aid with between six and eight Opportunity Partners clients to parks, libraries and other local spots. “My role is to help provide opportunities that enrich clients and help them practice social skills,” she says. But what Gorence feels she really does is to be a friend. She engages each person, expresses interest in his or her life and listens attentively. Her work helps Opportunity Partners’ instructors be more effective in helping clients achieve their goals.
“I’m fortunate to have the time and freedom to help at Opportunity Partners,” Gorence says. “Any love and kindness I share comes back to me tenfold.”
ICA Food Shelf
Ron Kamps began volunteering at Intercongregation Communities Association (ICA) Food Shelf six years ago after retiring from a successful business career. A local pastor informed Kamps that ICA was growing and could use extra help. Kamps started out picking up and delivering food, while trying to learn more about how ICA works. But it wasn’t long before Kamps’ business instincts and rapport-building skills kicked into gear. Soon he was developing business relationships within the community that resulted in new food pickups from Target, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Then Kamps met with the president of Country Hearth. “ICA had never had sliced bread before,” says Kamps, who initiated a process by which Country Hearth now provides ICA with 3,000 loaves of bread each month. His next innovative idea resulted in him asking the vice president of Malt-o-Meal to consider donating cereal. ICA now receives 3,000 boxes of cereal a month.
In 2008, Kamps asked Tom Stevens, owner of Maynards Restaurant in Excelsior, if he would consider giving ICA a portion of one evening’s revenue. Stevens accepted and told Kamps that the Monday after Thanksgiving was available, a slow evening when Maynards typically serves only around 46 patrons.
Kamps went to work. He put out 26,000 emails, flyers, posters and radio ads to inform potential diners to make a reservation at Maynards for the Monday after Thanksgiving to support ICA. A whopping 700 reservations were made that year, resulting in a large donation from Maynards. “The rest is history,” Kamps says. “Now, we do it every year and have expanded the event to span the entire day.”
When asked why he gets so excited to help ICA, Kamps says, “ICA has an excellent and efficient staff. Ninety-five cents of every dollar goes toward buying food and ICA feeds a family every 12 minutes of the day. It’s gratifying to help those in need in our own community.”
ICA Food Shelf
Larry Barnett has always been impressed by the work of ICA Food Shelf. So after he retired 4 years ago, he decided to direct his energy toward helping ICA in whatever way he could. “I don’t do anything more than any other volunteer,” says Barnett, who does food pickups and unloads contributions from large retailers. He then helps sort and re-pack donations based on client needs or diet restrictions.
But Barnett’s favorite part of volunteering at ICA is distributing food to clients. “In other organizations, you may give money or time,” Barnett says, “but you rarely get to see the results. This is more satisfying, to actually meet the families we are helping.”
Barnett tries to make people feel at ease, recognizing that any one of them could just as well be a friend, a neighbor or even him. He notes that people smile when choosing food, and believes he and those he’s helping together experience the joy of needs being met.
Thinking of giving back this holiday season? Connect with these local organizations.