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Archive for Sunday, January 6, 2002

Agencies count on volunteers to get work done

January 6, 2002

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The holiday season seems to bring out people's generosity. Coins are dropped into Salvation Army kettles. Families are "adopted" and gifts purchased for them. Carolers stroll through the halls of nursing homes spreading their cheer.

But for some Lawrence residents, giving is a way of life. They volunteer a few hours a week, all year long, to help others and make Lawrence a better place in which to live.

The Roger Hill Volunteer Center asked Kansas University journalism students Kindra Davis, Ashley Boyden, Blake Thomas, Shali Chandra and Greg Jarrell to chronicle the efforts of some of its volunteers. Here's a look.

Making a difference

Some people do the same thing day in and day out waking up, going to work and going to bed. Not Marilyn Dobski.

As a wife, mother of three, owner of several McDonald's fast-food restaurants, Ronald McDonald's Children's Charities board member, chairman of the Lawrence Arts Center Major Gifts Committee and president of the Lawrence Arts Center Board of Directors, Dobski's days are far from mundane.

With an elementary education degree from DePauw University and a master's in learning disabilities from Northeastern Illinois University, Dobski taught elementary education for five years before her career took a different turn. She entered the business world in 1981 when she and her husband, Tom Dobski, purchased their first McDonald's restaurant in Leavenworth. Today they own and operate 13 McDonald's in Kansas.

"Working for the Ronald McDonald House charities is rewarding, to know that I might be making a difference in the life of a family that was disrupted," she said.

Dobski has held several positions for the Lawrence Arts Center, including vice president of the board, president of the board and chairman of the Major Gifts Committee. Dobski attends many arts center events, but most of her work is done behind the scenes.

As president of the board, most of her time has been committed to the opening of the new arts center.

"The ground-breaking last October is my favorite memory with the arts center," she said. "My favorite upcoming moment is the opening of it."

Dobski has contributed countless hours to helping others and the community has shown its appreciation. She has received the Athena Award from the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Award from McDonald's, the Friend of Education Award from the Lawrence school district and the Lawrence Businessperson of the Year Award.

"We are so fortunate to have her as a part of our community," said Ann Evans, director of the arts center.

Striving for excellence

Wallace May began his volunteer services with the oncology center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in March. May previously was a volunteer in the hospital's pain clinic. He says he chose to volunteer in the oncology center because of the doctors' positive attitudes toward patients and volunteers.

"He has high expectations for himself and those who work around him," Allyson Leland, director of volunteer services, said about May. "Excellence is a passion for him and it shows in what he does."

May helps develop volunteer handbook. He trains the volunteers to clean, run errands and "pamper the patients and support the staff."

The contact May makes with the patients is personal and heartfelt.

"If I see a patient who's cold, I will get him or her a blanket and a warm drink," May said.

May also has learned from the oncology patients how to live and how to die.

"I see human beings dealing with the ultimate reality and I walk out feeling lucky to be alive," he said.

Creating sellable art

Jill Tisdale, a 21-year-old Kansas University student from Lawrence, volunteers for Van Go Mobile Arts, a nonprofit, after-school art program for at-risk Douglas County youngsters. Tisdale assists children and young adults, from 8 to 18 years old, in creating art, which they can sell to support the program.

"I talk to the kids and work with them to help them make aesthetic choices in their art," Tisdale said.

The program pays the young artists minimum wage to create their art. They put the artwork up for sale at the end of an eight-week cycle.

Tisdale started working with the program to gain experience in her major, art education. She has been volunteering since the end of September, and plans to continue her work with the organization.

"I think by volunteering the kids and young adults know I don't have to be there so they see me as trying to help them," Tisdale said. "It gives them someone to relate to."

Tisdale says she plans to stay with the organization because she enjoys bonding with and teaching the youths.

Tisdale is familiar with community service. She has volunteered at other organizations, including baby-sitting at her church and teaching Sunday school for 2-year-olds.

Filling a need

Noticing the need for health and safety education in his workplace led to Ken Baldwin's initiation into the public service area. In the early 1980s, he became involved with the Lawrence branch of the American Red Cross. Today, Baldwin teaches classes in CPR, first aid, baby-sitting safety, swimming safety, lawn mowing safety and other public safety concerns.

Baldwin hopes participants take the information they learn home to their families.

"You can never have too much knowledge," he said.

He also serves as a Red Cross disaster team leader. The disaster teams are organized into weekly rotations, with members rotating on-call duty from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. If a fire, flood, tornado, train derailment or other disaster occurs, the team responds to the scene. The volunteers offer a variety of services based on the victims' immediate needs. Food, shelter and clothing needs are addressed first.

"The Red Cross is working to build more disaster services, and you can never have too many volunteers," he said.

Baldwin, who works for Hallmark, is also an assistant Scoutmaster and has volunteered for several years, along with other Hallmark employees, for the Roger Hill Volunteer Center's Home Improvement Day, a service of the Corporate Volunteer Council of Douglas County.

Baldwin lives in Lawrence with his family. He thinks that the most important part of his job is to create trustworthy interactions with others within the community.

"This is a great community and I am grateful to be able to provide it service," he said.

Making Mondays easier

Some people dread going back to work on Monday morning, but not Leonora Barker.

Every Monday morning for the past eight years, Barker has worked as a volunteer for Trinity Respite Care.

A retired secretary, she enjoys doing something useful with her time and giving back to the community. She updates and files client folders, types documents and writes thank-you letters to providers and donors to Trinity Respite Care.

"Anything I can do to help out makes me feel good," Barker said.

Trinity Respite Care is a 25-year-old nonprofit organization that serves families who have a loved one with a disability. Executive Director Teresa Martell is appreciative of Barker's volunteer work.

"It is very nice to have Leonora around the office. She seems to lighten the work load for all of us," Martell said.

Barker enjoys the annual picnics for employees and providers. She always receives an award for volunteer efforts, which makes her feel appreciated.

Barker said the best part about volunteering for Trinity Respite Care is the work environment. The people around her are good to her, and she has her own desk and work space.

"It gives me something to do other than playing bridge," she said.

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