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Apr 01

JCPRD has always relied on volunteers. Would you like to get involved?

Posted on April 1, 2022 at 2:55 PM by Becky Burnside

Back in 1955, JCPRD got its start through the efforts of volunteers with the local Sertoma Club and its sister organization, La Sertoma. More than 65 years later, JCPRD still depends on volunteers to help deliver its award-winning services and facilities to the local community.

“Volunteers are crucial to our operations at JCPRD,” Explained JCPRD Recruiter / Volunteer Coordinator Faith Eissler. “Each year, we count on our volunteers to help build and maintain our trails; remove invasive species; coach our recreational leagues; assist with our program operations in 50 Plus, the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, Ernie Miller Nature Center, the Tomahawk Hills and Tomahawk golf courses; put on productions at the Theatre in the Park; assist with Kansas City Corporate Challenge; assist with our many special events like triathlons and duathlons; and many more projects and activities throughout the year.”

 The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week, which is April 17 through 23, is “Better Together,” which Eissler said is an apt description of the relationship between JCPRD and its volunteers.  

“When we volunteer together, we are able to provide programming opportunities for our community,” she said. ‘’These programs provide social opportunities, networking, and a great way to pursue hobbies and gain experience.”

She noted that in 2021, JCPRD utilized more than 6,000 volunteers who contributed over 70,400 total volunteer hours.

Eissler said people volunteer for a variety of reasons, including to participate in something they are passionate about, to gain experience they can use to set themselves apart on their resumes, to accumulate service hours for school groups, and as part of corporate retreats, projects, and scout groups.

Current volunteers Bill Araujo and Donna Bolen recently took time to talk about why they volunteer for JCPRD and what they like most about it. 

Araujo has been volunteering at the Ernie Miller Nature Center since 2007. He also previously volunteered as a docent at the Kansas City Zoo for about 14 years.

“I volunteer at JCPRD because it is a great place for me to interact with people of all ages,” he said. “My goal is to try to inspire them to see the beauty and enjoy nature. I especially like to teach about the wonders of nature and animals. What better place to do that? I love it when the kids and parents seem to get it and understand the message I'm trying to convey about nature. It's the connection we seem to make that makes me feel good and warms my heart. I love what I'm allowed to do. Besides that, the people I work with there are talented, creative, and love nature too.”

Araujo plays the "Old Man" character in EMNC’s Ecology Encounters program, he works with the raptors to help to socialize and train them for use in programs, and he regularly presents owl, raptor, and other programs for the public. As an accomplished wildlife photographer, he has also donated some of his work to JCPRD, the nature center, and the zoo.

Bolen has been volunteering with JCPRD for 28 years, where she is the director of the Side by Side Experience, a 50 Plus performing group which presents variety shows to entertain folks at nursing homes, churches, and senior centers. Bolen plans the programs and shows and serves as the group’s master of ceremonies.

Donna for blog“I volunteer because I love to sing and I love people,” she said “I love it when the residents at the nursing homes sing along. It makes you feel good after a rehearsal as well as after a performance. I especially love it when one of the residents with memory problems knows some of the songs we sing. It is such a blessing to get to be with the residents for a while; they seem to enjoy the group and seem happy.”

Araujo and Bolen are just two examples of volunteers who find rewarding experiences participating in coaching others and helping the community through continuing programming. 

Available volunteer roles range from youth and adult recreational  league coaches (basketball, softball, volleyball, fastpitch, soccer), Johnson County Museum volunteers, helping out at the Ernie Miller Nature Center, the Kansas City Corporate Challenge, special events of all kinds, bluebird monitoring, helping to create and maintain unpaved trails with the Urban Trail Co., scout projects, KC Wildlands, golf course volunteers, Special Populations/Olympics volunteer coaches, Theatre in the Park productions, and assisting with programs at JCAHC.

Currently, Eissler said, JCPRD’s biggest volunteer needs relate to Kansas City Corporate Challenge and upcoming special events such as duathlons and triathlons. Coaches for Special Olympics programs are also an ongoing need.

To learn about volunteer opportunities and to apply, go to JCPRD.com/247/Volunteer-Opportunities or contact Eissler via email at [email protected].