Youthful volunteers use day to serve seniors
Despite the cold weather and the threat of up to three inches of snow, members from the Leavenworth County 4-H Club gathered Saturday morning in Tonganoxie for the seventh annual Youth Service Day.
The more than 125 volunteers gathered in teams and started their day off at 8:30 a.m. at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds, where they grabbed all of their brushes, dusters, buckets and rakes to help around the house at homes of more than 30 homebound senior citizens throughout the county.
"I love doing it," said Nicole Allen, who was in charge of setting up appointments with clients and organizes and communicates with the different teams. "Some (clients) are so happy that someone actually cares enough to come to their house that they cry. They offer to pay us money and they want to bake us cookies."
The day is a special event for the 4-H Club because it is entirely run by the youth volunteers. They are responsible for gathering the volunteers and finding the clients to be helped.
While many of their clients are repeat customers, the 4-H'ers also call potential clients or even go door-to-door looking for someone who needs help.
Missy Saathoff and her daughters Hilary, 15, and Kaitlyn, 17, and her son Matthew, 12, as well as their friends Debbie Allen and her daughter Tina, 14, helped one elderly woman who was in the hospital. They raked leaves, planted flowers and did any other kind of outdoor work they could do at the woman's home. The team members ended their Youth Service Day by going over to Missy's grandparents, Ruth and Ralph Robbins, to do some housework.
This was the fourth year the members of the team have participated in Youth Service Day. This was first year the Saathoffs were able to get Ruth as a client.
The four kids and their moms raked some leaves outside, mopped the floors, cleaned and dusted the light fixtures and even washed the curtains at Ruth and Ralph Robbins' house.
"I think it's so wonderful. I'm so proud that they do that," Ruth said as she sat in the dining room of her freshly cleaned home.
Kaitlyn said anybody would enjoy coming out and helping, even if it's just to sit down and chat.
"You need to get out there and help others because one day you're going to need help," she said.
Missy Saathoff said the kids always look forward to Youth Service Day.
"They don't even want people to think about paying them. I think it's a good lesson for the kids, that they should give and not expect payment, to do it out of the goodness of their hearts," she said.
On top of the housework for clients, the 4-H teams made and signed cards as well as gave seniors plants donated by the Family Tree Nursery.
"This is not just a way of saying, but a way of showing the community cares," said Beth Hecht, 4-H youth development extension agent for Leavenworth County.
Hecht said some teams or 4-H clubs even adopt a client and keep in touch with them, visit them or add them to their individual service projects, like holiday cookie baskets.