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Volunteers make a daily difference in the lives of others

By: Charles Bolinger


Volunteer Carol Fears as Mrs. Santa Claus, posing with her husband during O’Fallon’s Tree Lighting Ceremony in November 2015.

Volunteer Carol Fears as Mrs. Santa Claus, posing with her husband during O’Fallon’s Tree Lighting Ceremony in November 2015. [City of O’Fallon photo]

Volunteers truly make a difference when they donate their time and talents to further an organization’s mission. April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and Mid Rivers Newsmagazine highlighted three places where volunteers make a difference every day.

Carol Fears – City of O’Fallon
Carol Fears has volunteered for 14 years at the city of O’Fallon, longer than many employees have worked there.

She worked for about 30 years at Mallinckrodt, retiring as the director of the drug and medicine division, where she took phone orders from hospitals and doctors’ offices.

“To give back – that was taught to me as a little girl,” she said. “I volunteer because it’s heart-fulfilling.”

Fears’ favorite volunteer event is the city’s annual Daddy-Daughter Dance.

“I missed it one year and I cried the whole day. I get such a thrill and a kick out of seeing these little girls dragging their daddies in and the daddies don’t want to be there. Fifteen minutes later, they got their ties loosened and they’re out there dancing.”

Her second favorite event is when she portrays Mrs. Claus at Christmas. Her volunteerism is contagious, as she has recruited eight to 10 other people, plus her son and her granddaughter. Her son is
a regular volunteer at the city’s Fourth of July event.

“If you’re not happy, you will not do a good job. You do a good job when you want to be there,” she said. She noted that matching people with volunteer tasks that interest them is key.

Kathy Halstead, O’Fallon’s volunteer services director, said Fears volunteers for about 60 city events annually. In addition to helping O’Fallon, Fears volunteers at Marygrove Children’s Home and at her
church.

“Carol helps us with filing, between events she inventories and orders supplies,” Halstead said. When Fears has downtime, which is rare, Halstead said she will reach out to other departments to see if they have tasks with which they need help. “She is multi-talented and she is a staple here. She has grown as the department has evolved and she has helped us grow through those changes.”

Halstead said Fears earned the city’s Motivated Volunteer Award in 2008 and the President’s Call to Service Award in 2015, a pin that she wears on her shirt collar. Fears’ identification lanyard is studded with other volunteer accolades.

“It’s not about awards,” Fears said. “Sure, it’s great to be recognized but I don’t go around bragging about them.”

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service
Volunteers seem to be wall-to-wall at Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service. From Sr. LaVerne Wester at the reception desk, greeting and checking people in, to Cindy Grumich in the food pantry, who sorts and packs items for clients to select.

The care service serves individuals and families in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties, providing shelter, food and clothing for people of all faiths. However, the basics are just the beginning of what it strives to provide.

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service volunteer Yvonne Welker sorts food items in the Care Market.

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service volunteer Yvonne Welker sorts food items in the Care Market.

“We have approximately 120 weekly volunteers,” said Karen Grant, director of development. “Most come on a designated day of the week and work as though this were a paying job. We have some of the best, brightest and most dedicated volunteers in the world. The care service wouldn’t run as well without them.”

“I’m 85 years old but I love to volunteer,” said Wester, who has volunteered there for about eight years. “The care service doesn’t leave people where they are; they help them get back on their feet.”

The service’s ultimate goal is for its families and individuals to overcome their crises, using care service tools and assistance to achieve self-reliance. To help people get back on their feet, the care service offers housing assistance, children and family development, street outreach, disaster recovery and adopt-a-family services.

Many steps away from the main entrance, C. J. Tiburzi takes client calls in the case management section of the building. She explained the satisfaction she derives from donating her time and talents.

“I enjoy helping people, being able to serve this area and hopefully try to eliminate homelessness out here,” she said.

Nearby, Dolores Borgstede, a 10-year volunteer, creates and labels folders to be stuffed with information packets. She is one of the many volunteers whose tasks sometimes fall under the heading, ‘Other duties as assigned.’

In the food pantry and warehouse, Pat Schulte and Lee Dunn supervised and coordinated Easter Basket distribution during a recent visit. They said this area is in ‘constant flux’ – people carrying boxes, pushing carts or dollies. Schulte said her other duties include stocking shelves and receiving food from delivery trucks.

Not far away, Pantry Lead Cindy Grumich sorts food received from area grocery stores.

“This is the best food pantry in the area,” she said. “We give our clients a very nice array of products – dairy, desserts, meat, produce and breads.”

Aimee Weatherford – United Services for Children
“Volunteering makes me feel like I’m making a difference,” Aimee Weatherford said.

Weatherford, who has her own challenges, volunteers weekly for United Services for Children in St. Peters, a nationally accredited nonprofit organization that provides developmental learning and pediatric
therapy services for children of all abilities. She has volunteered at United Services for 15 years.

Volunteer Aimee Weatherford reads to children at United Services for Children in St. Peters in 2015.

Volunteer Aimee Weatherford reads to children at United Services for Children in St. Peters in 2015. [United Services for Children photo]

“After being dropped off by her driver, she navigates our building independently,”said Ann Neuner, United Service’s director of educational services. “Aimee wheels up to the counter, signs in, then motors
her way to Room 410, where she has been reading to the 3- and 5-year-olds all year long. The children are the reason she gives her time to United.

“I have watched so many of them grow up. I volunteer for the kids and the looks on their faces when I’m done reading to them,” Weatherford said. Then she added, “But I do whatever they need me to do at United.”

“No one looks twice at Aimee’s wheelchair because there are children in the class who navigate around the halls and classroom in different ways; some in walkers and others in smaller wheelchairs,” Neuner said. “The children are learning more than literacy from Aimee. They are learning about how tenacity, grit and hard work can get you closer and closer to your goals.”

Neuner said parents who see Aimee in the halls also see firsthand how a young woman with a disability can be independent and contribute to the greater good in a very special way. Last year, the class made her a special gift – a sweatshirt decorated with all of the kids’ handprints.

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