Their accomplishments are before us every day. They’re the people who help us find our way in times of need at Boone County Hospital. They’re the ones who do the heavy lifting when it’s time for a community festival.
They even make sure we never have to sit through a basketball game without a bag of fresh-popped popcorn! Sometimes they team up and pull off a project as large as renovating an historic cabin in a popular city park.
Many of the things they do for us are small, but how fast we would miss them if there was no one to do those things
Volunteers are the people who turn a town into a community. Boone Living magazine this month went in search of volunteers — young and young at heart — to learn what it is they find so rewarding in giving up their own time in order to be of service to others.
Wills Evanski started volunteering for the Boone Chamber of Commerce several years ago. He looks forward to helping out with festivals and special celebrations both spring and fall, and sounds like he wouldn’t mind being even busier.
“I love helping people,” Evanski says. “It gives me something to do and keeps me off the Internet,” he adds with a chuckle.
Evanski is so dedicated to the annual Pufferbilly Days celebration that he schedules a vacation from work each year just to have the time to be of service.
“I take a week off from work, and I help set up for the festival,” he explains. “I spend a lot of time at the festival and do whatever I can to help them out.”
Set-up for Pufferbilly Days takes a lot of man hours and people willing to give of themselves. Wills says he’s happy to do whatever he can, from setting up tents to carrying in picnic tables, and then cleaning it all up when the festival has run it course. And, for Evanski, that’s the hardest part of it all.
“I really like the festival, and it makes me sad when it all ends,” he says.
Fortunately all the volunteers have a chance to unwind together with wrap-up sessions when the work is done.
“We go to a friend’s house for a wrap-up, or to the shelter at McHose Park. That’s a lot of fun,” he adds.
As is often the case with volunteers, Evanski says it’s a great way to meet new people in the community. While he’s a big fan of Emily McColloch, who joined the Chamber as Events Coordinator about a year ago, he still treasures the friendships he’s made with those who came before.
“I kind of miss Brenda Miller; she’s a sweet lady,” Evanski says.
In addition to Pufferbilly Days, Wills volunteers for the Chamber at the annual Omelet Breakfast in the spring. Throughout the summer, he stays busy volunteering for local Little League games.
“I go out to the Little League park and help them do scoreboard keeping,” he says. “I love watching the kids play.”
Mark Westberg is another local volunteer who finds that helping others is a great way to help himself. Westberg started volunteering at the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad after he graduated from high school in 1991.
Westberg’s specialty is a simple thing, popping popcorn, but it’s often the simple things in life that add flavor to happy memories.
“It’s a happy atmosphere,” Westberg says of the depot, greeting people who have come in to take a ride on the train and relax for an afternoon of family fun.
Westberg’s “office” is the caboose parked just outside the depot where he pops tons of popcorn each summer, and then takes it in to the depot to sell. His work is all volunteer and done mostly out of love for being able to be a part of his community.
“It’s my hobby. I get to meet a lot of people, and I help tell the visitors where things are,” he says with satisfaction.
Westberg is also a familiar face at most high school sporting events in Boone. For decades now he’s been supporting the local Boosters with popcorn sales. In just about every season, from football to swimming, wrestling to basketball, and his favorite pastime of baseball, Westberg can be found at sporting events selling his famous popcorn.
“It’s fun to see a lot of different people, and sometimes you see friends that you haven’t talked to for a long time,” Westberg says.
The Boone High School Boosters were grateful enough for his support that several years ago they nominated Westberg for the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. Then-Gov. Tom Vilsack presented Westberg with the award, a moment he won’t soon forget.
JoAnn Grimm is a young-at-heart volunteer who enjoys knowing that her efforts make a difference at Boone County Hospital. Far from taking it easy in retirement, she can take pride in giving back to her community and staying active.
“I enjoy seeing the people and doing something constructive,” Grimm says.
For some 25 years, Grimm was a familiar face downtown as catalog manager at the former JC Penney store. When she retired from there in 1994, she knew she didn’t want to just sit at home. She went to the hospital and signed up to work as a volunteer at the hostess desk.
Volunteers are often the first people who greet visitors to the hospital. They provide a comforting voice and knowledgeable information to help people find their way around and let them know that everyone is there to help.
“We always want to put people at ease when they’re here,” she says.
Grimm volunteers one afternoon every two weeks in the hospital gift shop, but she substitutes for others and so is still a frequent face at the hostess desk when needed.
In addition to her volunteer work at Boone County Hospital, Grimm volunteers twice a week at Lincoln Elementary School reading to students.
“I love the little first graders; they are so interesting and just a lively bunch,” Grimm says with a warm smile. Staying connected with children seems to help keep her young.
And if the school and hospital isn’t enough, Grimm also finds time to volunteer at her church. She and her daughter team up to organize funeral dinners as needed at Community Christian Church. It’s a much-needed ministry and a comfort to families at a difficult time.
Grimm adds that it takes a lot of volunteers to provide for families, putting out the call for even more volunteers to step forward with salads and bars or to help serve. It may seem like a small thing, but for a bereaved family, that action of caring makes a difference.
Whatever the volunteer opportunity is, Grimm says those who have never volunteered really don’t know what they’re missing. And while she understands that time is limited in today’s world, she believes that everyone has at least a little time to give.
“You always have a few hours available,” Grimm says.
Once a person finds an hour to volunteer, she’s convinced that they’ll be hooked enough to keep on giving.
“It benefits you as a person to get out and do something constructive. It’s very satisfying,” Grimm adds.
Dr. John Murphy may be retired as a physician, but it’s likely that he would be happy to give this prescription to just about anyone: doing for others is a great way to rid one’s self of many troubles. Not everything, but it sure can help.
Murphy is a long-time volunteer in Boone and continues to be most active with the City Parks Commission. His passion in recent months has been restoration efforts at an early day shelter in Herman Park.
The Gutterridge Cabin at the Equestrian Center had had little done to it in more than 40 years, according to Murphy. When the renovation is complete this spring, he expects it be one of the most popular cabins in the park system.
“I think this will be a real asset to the community, and I think it will be our most popular shelter house,” Murphy adds.
But none of it could have happened without volunteers, and in particular the volunteer leadership by members of the Boone Parks Commission.
Mike Swarts is chairman of the commission this year and has been rolling up his sleeves all winter long to assist the full-time staff in restoration efforts.
“I enjoy working with the guys and seeing what their challenges are, and hopefully we can meet those challenges that they have,” he explains.
Now in his sixth year on the Parks Commission, Swarts agrees that it’s important for people to take a role in caring for their community.
“I’ve always been interested in getting our park system improved, everything from our buildings and grounds to our cemetery,” Swarts says of his volunteer work on behalf of the parks.
Both Murphy and Swarts would much rather talk about the renovated shelter than their own volunteer efforts.
Moved to its present site in 1969, the ancient cabin was donated to the park system local attorney Bill Doran, who had used it as a horse barn at his property on Kate Shelly Drive. With pine car siding that smells as fresh as a forest, the cabin has come a long way this winter. New windows and a new furnace will make it a comfortable place in most any weather.
“It’s gone from looking like a dungeon with a leftover haymow to a neat little ski chalet,” Murphy says.
And none of it would have happened without volunteers.
“It’s pretty fundamental that we have people who are willing to do things and to give,” says Murphy.
And, in just about any community, it’s true that it’s usually a small percentage of the people who do a large share of the work in any volunteer endeavor.
But if they only knew the secret — that volunteering gives as much to the person doing the work as it does to the people benefiting — then perhaps more people would join the effort.
If you want to feel needed, the best way to do so is to volunteer.