Many people make a list of things they wish to achieve in the new year.
In the coming year, local volunteers are encouraging people to put “serving others” on that list.
Volunteering comes in many forms — including visiting with hospice patients, walking dogs, helping at a church, cleaning yards or working in an office for an organization, Volunteer Coordinator Judi Hawkins said.
Volunteering can include youth and retirement-aged individuals and many others in between — St. Mary's Colgan children can be seen throughout the year cleaning up residents’ yards and each year Pittsburg State University students put one of the largest community service projects called the Big Event. Several youth also help out at The Lord’s Diner and local nursing homes.
A way people can get involved is to connect with local groups, such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus and many more, whose purpose is to serve people in the community.
“We have a good time when we are here,” Knights of Columbus member and The Lord’s Diner volunteer Ken Robertson said Thursday at the diner.
Another club member and volunteer Jeff Wilbert agreed.
“The people we serve are extremely appreciative of the meal,” he said.
Most of the time signing up to volunteer just takes a phone call or asking to join a friend who volunteers, Robertson said.
For Dennis Dechant, Thursday was his first time volunteering at the diner. He also happens to loves to cook.  Dechant said people can find a way to take something they are skilled at or love to do and turn it into a service for someone in need.
In between serving people, preparing meals and busing tables, the volunteers sit down and visit with the diner’s guests.
Hawkins said people can also volunteer as a couple or group of friends, which she said has benefits for relationships.
Volunteering is a way many people can be surrounded by community members and to keep busy after retirement. Animal lover and retiree Susie Lloyd spends a couple hours a week at the Doggie Bag, which runs primarily on volunteers. Profits from the store benefit the SEK Humane Society.
“Even if I only stop in for an hour or two there is always something to help them, it makes me feel productive,” she said. “It’s fun to do and I also feel like I’m doing something that serves a purpose — something that helps you, other people and animals.”
“About 30 minutes of someone’s time in this store is just phenomenal,” Store Manager Susan Major said.
Hawkins said she has come across individuals who felt like they could not volunteer because they did not have transportation, “however, organizations are always looking for talented individuals to make blankets, booties, hats, etcetera,” she said.
Knitted Knockers volunteer Lois Baima, creates ‘huggable’ prosthesis, Knitted Knockers for women who have undergone a mastectomy or double mastectomy. Although Baima has her own transportation, it is an example of something a volunteer can do at home — or in Baima’s case, wherever she’s at.
For others, volunteering is a calling they found within their faith. Frontenac resident Diane Street volunteers with Avalon Hospice and the Church of Nazarene.
“I volunteered because Christ asked us to be servants and I serve him and I like to share and just be good and kind to others,” she said.
In the past, Street volunteered for the flower ministry and for 20 years she visited with Avalon patients who are deaf.
“It gives me joy, it makes me feel happy,” she said of volunteering over the years. “I like to share. It brings it back to you.”
When Street was teaching early childhood education, her life was impacted by volunteers who would go and read to the children.
“I would always love it when someone wanted to read to the kids,” she said.
Diane said to volunteer and “get out and share, there are so many things you can do.”
Walking dogs. Car rides. Preparing meals.
Hawkins agreed.
“Volunteers come in all ways shapes, and forms,” she said. “At times, as a volunteer you may question the extent of the impact that your time and efforts have had.
“Please always remember that what you are doing is making a huge difference.
“Thank you for your compassion and your awareness, and knowledge to help improve lives of others in your community, but thank you also for knowing that the experiences you will live and the people you will encounter will teach you more than you could have ever imagined.
“Thank you for your patience, respect and perseverance. Most of all thank you for your kindness, care and love and for being the inspiration the world needs.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.