In the first few days of an ominous summer in Lawrence thanks to COVID-19, Shania Lamm, a member of the Lawrence Rotary Club and Central National Bank employee, contacted the Ballard Center with one simple question: How can I help?
The COVID-19 pandemic made volunteering for group projects almost impossible even though the need was higher than ever for projects serving people below the poverty line.
However, when the Ballard Center received a $2,000 grant from Frontier Farm Credit’s Working Here Fund and a $500 grant from the Kansas Volunteer Commission to use on The 9/11 National Day of Service, the idea for a project formed.
With the help of volunteers from Lawrence Rotary Club on September 10, the Ballard Center created 68 kits filled with nonperishable food, bottled water and other drinks, toiletries, and clothing such as socks and gloves in preparation for the winter months ahead.
“Even though it seems like the world has stopped right now, there’s still a lot of people who need and want help,” Lamm said.
These kits are to be distributed to homeless individuals in Douglas County that are also Ballard Center clients. Ballard board member John Krehbiel has already distributed some of the bags to homeless individuals in need. The bags, according to Krehbiel, went fast and were “greatly appreciated.”
“The really nice thing about volunteering is you’re helping other people and it also makes you feel really good about yourself,” Lamm said. “I think that’s why a lot of us (in Lawrence Rotary) like volunteering.”
The 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of an effort launched in 2002 by 9/11 family members and support groups who worked to establish a charitable service day as a forward-thinking way to honor 9/11 victims, survivors, and others who rose up in service response.
“It’s really important to honor those who lost their lives and those who responded to 9/11,” Lamm said. “I think it’s a really nice way to honor their memory and service.”
The project was made possible not only by the grants received but by the 50 bags donated by Central National Bank and another 18 by Harvesters.
Even with the grants and donations Ballard Center received, the project needed a volunteer group to take over for things to run smoothly. Enter the Lawrence Rotary Club.
Members of the Lawrence Rotary Club shopped for $2,000 worth of groceries at Checkers to use in the kits and stored the groceries until it was time to build the kits on a rainy September Thursday.
Ballard Center staff ordered socks, gloves and toiletries from Amazon and JCPenney.
“It was a really great example of people being able to pitch into a project,” Lawrence Rotary Club member Amanda Petersen said. “I went grocery shopping and volunteered to keep track of the math. The (Lawrence) Parks and Recreation department was great in helping us find a place outside under shelter since it was raining.”
Now, thanks to the work done by the Lawrence Rotary Club, the Ballard Center has bags filled with food supplies, toiletries, and socks and gloves that homeless individuals will use and rely on daily.
For that reason, the experience was a rewarding and worthwhile one for the rotary club.
“We’re all feeling different kinds of stress during this pandemic and we’re all struggling in different ways,” Petersen said. “We have a lot of opportunities to give back.
“As a community, we can pull together and help families who are struggling in a really tough time.”
If you’re interested in a volunteer project, contact Evan Riggs via email at [email protected].