Nurturing a community garden and its young gardeners living in a children’s emergency shelter. Encouraging teen girls (many of them underprivileged) to acquire skills they need to fulfill their career dreams. Volunteering with two high school groups (football and music) to provide tutoring, college prep and scholarships.
The projects our three volunteers of the year participate in are as varied as the ladies themselves – but they all focus on children. Let’s meet the three: First place winner Brittany Rogers, underwriter II in automotive aftermarket from Overland Park; and from San Diego, our second-place winner Aisha Davis, workers’ compensation underwriter and third place, Angie Keus, vice president, residential earthquake.
In a recent chat, here’s what we asked them:
What charity activities did you participate in this past year?
Brittany spent most of her volunteer hours last year at The Gillis Center, one in a group of Kansas City charity organizations focused on helping children and families in need. Gillis has an emergency shelter for boys and girls, infants to 18 years old, and a longer term residential facility for boys ages 5-18 who are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. They offer counseling services to the kids and families, find foster family placement for children who can’t return home, and have an onsite school.
|Their community garden is Brittany’s focus: “It’s a great place for the kids to learn about growing food. It teaches a lot of useful skills and gets them excited about eating better (because they want to eat what they’ve grown). Volunteers work alongside the kids to pull weeds, spread mulch and maintain garden beds. The kids plan it, take care of it and harvest the produce – the bulk of which goes to families struggling with hunger. Last year they grew over 2,000 pounds of food, and they’re still expanding!”
|Brittany (2nd from right) and her team of Arrowhead workers at Gillis, L-R: Ben Coyle, Laura Nickles, Kathy Brooks, Kelly Smasal, Ben Potter, Lindsay Durand, Maddy Feld
Aisha volunteered with three charities last year: the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s Mae Day Fundraiser Fashion Show; a two-day event for the Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy, where she conducted the Sugar and Spice Tea Party for girls 5-16 years old, teaching etiquette, proper dress, proper speaking and more. Her third charity is Detour (Depositing Empowerment Through Outreach & Urban Redevelopment), and for her dedication Aisha has been named 2017 Board President. She planned events, coordinated speakers, vendors and volunteers for the Sixth Fancy Teen Girl Expo, raised funds at a June luncheon and helped organize an annual blanket/clothing/food drive.
Angie spent most of her volunteer hours with two high school groups: EMAP (Every Man's A Pointer at Pt. Loma High School) which provides tutoring, developing college prep skills and scholarships. The second group, CIMA, provides support for 400 students to learn various music skills for choir, band, guitar and orchestra. “These two programs affect hundreds of young men and women, providing a sense of family, building confidence and allowing many access to opportunities they might not have,” she explained.
Angie and her family also participated in several events for Rady Children's Hospital. “My youngest son spent his first eight weeks at Rady and they saved his life - and countless other lives.” Adopt-A-Family is one of her favorite charities that Arrowhead/ACM help support. “We have helped so many deserving families over the years, and I love how generous and amazing everyone is. We have an awesome group here!” she said.
When did you begin participating in charitable work? What got you started?
Brittany said she had volunteered on and off for several years, “but this past year I became more intentional about it. On the MeetUp app, I found a group called ServeKC that posts volunteer opportunities from different non-profit organizations. You can sign up for an event and help out. It was easy to get started. The Gillis Center just happens to be right up the road from my house, but I never knew what it was!” Once she realized all they did for children and families, right there in her own community, she felt compelled to help.
From a young age, Angie and her family, led by her mom, volunteered at food banks, retirement homes, and more during the holidays. “She said we have our family all the time, so we should help people that don’t have families,” she recalls. “We would make baked goods and coordinate clothing and food drives for them. My mom is over 70, but she continues to inspire me, participating in Habitat for Humanity and many other organizations.”
|Aisha also started participating in charitable work at an early age. “Growing up in church, we always fed the homeless, volunteered at local schools, raised funds for different organizations and assisted the community,” she explained. “At various times I participated in several pageants and plays and worked as a professional model, so I felt obligated to volunteer at domestic violence shelters, make speeches at fund-raising events – in short, do all I could to assist in bettering our community.”
|Aisha (3rd from right) and her volunteers at a blanket drive.
Why do you feel giving time and money to others less fortunate or to your city is so very important?
“I have a favorite quote from Kathy Calvin, CEO of United Nations Foundation: ‘Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference,’” said Aisha. “I’ve lived a blessed life, with a good home and three hot meals a day. I know a lot of people who aren’t as fortunate, so I vowed that as I got older, I’d instill the same charitable interest in my children and anyone around me. I want to help however I can.”
Angie agreed, “I’ve been so lucky. My family is healthy, we have food and a roof over our heads. It's easy to forget or not look to see others in need. We’re all in this together, and when someone needs a hand, it’s an amazing feeling to play a small part in that.”
“I think it provides perspective,” Brittany mused. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget people who are hurting or who need help. And you don’t need to make grand gestures to make a big difference. A little kindness goes a long way!”
What are your pet initiatives for this year?
More work at Gillis, said Brittany, and hopefully helping to start new garden projects at similar centers. Aisha is already hard at work as Detour’s board president, coordinating three events that’ve already taken place, with multiple events to come. Angie plans to focus on several: American Cancer Society, EMAP, CIMA, Rady Children's Hospital, Adopt-A-Family and Wounded Warrior.
Inspired to help out?
Check with your local Charity Committee member for opportunities close to you.