Johnson County celebrates National Volunteer Month

People joining hands in a huddle next to a calendar

During the month of April, we take a moment to celebrate those who make an impact in our community, volunteers. Not only is April National Volunteer Month, but the week of April 16–22, 2023, is recognized as National Volunteer Week. According to Points of Light, an international nonprofit, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenge, build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world. In 1974, President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week in a presidential proclamation. Since then, a new proclamation has been issued by the American president every year recognizing the importance of this week.

Volunteers are an essential piece of the community, serving in many capacities at schools, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community groups and more. The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said the essence of life is ‘to serve others and do good.’

Johnson County Government has more than 30 boards, commissions and task forces that reflect the community’s varied interests. Volunteers serve on appointed boards and commissions to help support, guide and oversee the county’s agencies and departments.

Additionally, nine county departments and agencies utilize volunteers in various capacities, whether it’s helping vulnerable senior adults, assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing support to the 14 library branches, working on busy election days, meeting the needs of victims in the criminal justice system, bridging the gap between correction clients and the community, providing educational programming in the community or helping with emergency management.

During 2022, more than 5,400 volunteers provided more than 827,000 volunteer service hours contributing to the continuity of Johnson County services. The independent sector recognizes the national value of each volunteer of $29.95 per hour. Using the independent sector’s rate, volunteers contributed nearly $25 million in service to the county last year.

There are many benefits of volunteering. Volunteering has been known to have positive health effects on both physical and mental health. Volunteering is great for building community and expanding one’s network. Volunteering is fulfilling by connecting individuals to interests and passions. For some residents, time may be a huge deterrent to volunteering, but for others, volunteering is a way of life.

David and Dianne Jones: Aging and Human Services

Volunteers David and Dianne Jones

David and Dianne Jones are proof couples can volunteer together or independently. They joined the Aging and Human Services volunteer team in 2019. Initially, they served as independent Catch-a-Ride drivers. In 2022, they began volunteering for the Home Delivered Meals programntogether. Last year collectively, David and Dianne served for 568.5 hours. David and Dianne enjoy volunteering because “these folks are important to the community, and we get a great feeling of accomplishment by working with the community.”

Giving back to the community where they, and their family, live is important to them, “Johnson County has been good to us, our children and our grandchildren. We believe in trying to pay back some of the good that has come our way.” Driving throughout Johnson County for Catch-a-Ride and delivering meals in Gardner for Home Delivered Meals has had memorable moments.

“We have met some of the most interesting people who have led such interesting lives,” Dianne and David shared.

For them, it’s a “win-win” situation to hear so many life stories. In recognition of their contributions to the Aging and Human Services’ volunteer program, David and Dianne Jones were honored in 2021 as one of the KC Shepherd’s Center 70 over 70 honorees.

Maggie Rodgers: Developmental Supports

Volunteer Maggie Rodgers

If you happen to walk into the Johnson County Developmental Supports Elmore Center on the first Friday of the month, you will hear the joyful singing, clapping, dancing and expressions of happiness from those participating in Maggie Rodgers’ music therapy sessions. Participants choose songs to play or sing and all lend an ear to support each other during their individual choices.

“It is a very supportive environment,” said Rodgers. “All are welcome, and all are loved!”

Maggie has volunteered her expertise as a board-certified music therapist for nearly 15 years.

“I volunteer because I love it,” said Rodgers. “It has opened my eyes and widened my horizons. It helps me see how little I am in this big world.”

At Developmental Supports, volunteers provide unique experiences and opportunities for Johnson County residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2022, more than 80 volunteers dedicated 525 hours of their time to share personal talents like singing, playing an instrument, teaching new skills, hosting special events, making crafts or holding a weekly special interest club like gardening.

Al Pope: Library

Volunteer Al Pope

Al Pope is a testament of a lifetime volunteer. He has volunteered with Johnson County Library since 1994, supporting the Library Friends’ used book sales. In April 2023, Al will be honored with the Points of Light Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for contributing 5,147 hours. Volunteers on duty during the height of the pandemic had to remain socially distanced, so Al gathered everyone in the break room to share his daily riddles. The jokes brought a lot of joy to fellow volunteers, so he’s continued to share them every Tuesday. They are even featured in the weekly library volunteer newsletter. Nothing seems to slow Al, a retired pastor aged 94 years. He logs more than one thousand miles annually on his bicycle. He also volunteers at Lakeview Village, writing a newsletter column, playing the piano and serving in their library.

“My volunteering has brought me a bouquet of satisfactions and delights,” says Al. “First of all, is the friendships that have flowered in the course of partnering with others to contribute to enriching the lives of those in our community.” “Secondly, a good share of my volunteering has involved ‘big muscle movement’ that has helped me stay physically active and healthy. What it boils down to is the stunning truth that Giving is Getting.”