PHOTO: MHS Senior Grace McClusky volunteered with the district’s Curriculum Director Gretchen Kriegel during her years in high school. McClusky said she was the co-creator and photographer of a film the district made to help with fundraising efforts. It was last shown at the Foundation dinner and auction in March. (Photo submitted)
PHOTO: Janann Kraus of Monticello shows off a quilt square she’s working on, depicting an Amish horse and buggy scene. Kraus, who volunteers a lot of her time with Above & Beyond Hospice Care in Monticello, takes her quilting work with her to patients’ homes as a conversation piece. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
National Volunteer Week, April 21-27, was established in 1974, and has grown dramatically each year. The honored week has drawn support from U.S. presidents, governors, mayors and other respected public and elected officials.
This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is “Celebrate Service.” The idea is to honor people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their respective communities.
According to the National Volunteer Week website, “This is an opportunity for individuals, families, service and nonprofit groups, and government entities to celebrate ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things through service.
National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change-discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to foster positive transformation.”
The Monticello community definitely has its share of dedicated volunteers young and old. At any time, people are more than willing to lend a hand, help a neighbor, volunteer their time towards a community event and more.
Janann Kraus has been a dedicated volunteer for many years, learning the practice first hand from her parents, growing up in rural Hopkinton. Kraus comes from a large family, she’s the oldest of 10, and she said she took care of her younger siblings through the years. Once she was older, she helped look after her ailing grandparents as well.
Today, she carries on that practice by volunteering with Above & Beyond Hospice Care. Kraus said she sits with hospice patients so the caregiver and family can get away.
“I visit and talk with the patients,” she said. “We talk about life, how they grew up and pray together. I really enjoy it.”
Kraus said her parents were good about helping others, a common practice among rural neighbors.
“I’ve been with Above & Beyond since they started,” Kraus said. “I believe I was one of their first hospice volunteers.”
Before Kraus’ husband, Walter, passed away a little over a year ago, they were both avid community volunteers. As members of Sacred Heart Church, they’ve helped with church events, read to school children at Sacred Heart School, helped at the Monticello Senior Dining site doing dishes and serving meals and with the local 4-H clubs.
“Our kids were in 4-H, so we were always busy with that,” recalled Kraus.
She still makes time to stop at the school and read to the youngsters.
“As a volunteer, I just hope I’m helping out,” Kraus said, plain and simple. “I want to make someone else’s life better.”
With her love of quilting, Kraus finds it handy to bring her quilting work with her on patient visits. She said the quilt squares make great conversation pieces.
As a hospice volunteer, Kraus is not just there for the patient, but the family as well. She said by being there, the caregiver gets some relief time to themselves. They can get out and go shopping, have a cup of coffee or spend some time away with friends for a day.
“It gives them a little enjoyment,” said Kraus of alleviating the caregivers.
As a community volunteer, Kraus said she appreciates the life she’s had, along with the precious time she spent with her husband.
“Being a volunteer is the Christian thing to do,” she said. “If you’re able and healthy, you should help out in any way you can.”
Monticello High School senior Grace McClusky is no stranger to lending a hand in the community. Volunteering is something she’s enjoyed since she was just 9 years old.
In the early 2000s, McClusky wanted to do her part and help raise money for the Monticello library’s capital campaign to eventually build a new library in town. So she set out to rake leaves for people, set up lemonade stands and sell snacks at flag football games.
“I thought I would just raise $300,” admitted McClusky.
Much to her surprise, she ended up raising $1,149! In a feature that ran in the Monticello Express on Jan. 7, 2004, McClusky is shown donating her funds to then-Library Director Nancy Digmann.
McClusky said she remembered Tom Yeoman saying that if 1,000 people raised $1,000, they would have a new library.
“I asked my mom if she would donate $1,000,” McClusky recalled, laughing. She then tried to raise the money herself.
“I liked serving the community then,” she said today. Because of her contribution, McClusky was able to take part in the ribbon cutting for the new library.
“That was the first big goal I set for myself,” she said.
Since then, McClusky has helped raise money for the Heritage Center, she helped with maintenance at her church (Berean Bible Church), she supervises child nursery time during church services, was a staff member and teacher during her church’s Vacation Bible School, takes pictures for local families and high school seniors, speaks at D.A.R.E. graduation ceremonies, assists in teaching beginning clarinet lessons and was a classroom helper in Monticello fourth grade classrooms.
All that, and she still found time to put in 530 hours of volunteer time to earn her Silver Service Award upon high school graduation in May! Some of her Silver Service hours were spent at Camp Courageous, helping to create and put together a video for the school foundation committee and many other numerous community events.
“By volunteering, I am learning the importance of stepping outside of my comfort zone, setting goals and getting to know others,” explained McClusky. She said being involved in her community, as well as many extra curricular events in school, is just part of the experience.
“We’re always told to get involved,” said McClusky. “I just enjoy serving people in any way I can. I’ve met so many wonderful people in the community.”
Time management was something McClusky learned to implement, as she’s been working three part-time jobs in the midst of all her service time.
“It’s just a habit to put others before yourself,” McClusky said. “It’s about doing things for others.”
She said it’s a myth that young people don’t care about their community. “I’m all about the willingness to serve,” said McClusky. “This community does so much for us.”
For herself, being a volunteer has allowed McClusky to develop the habit of putting others first.
“What I’ve gained from community service is indispensable,” she said. “It keeps me motivated.”
There’s many ways one can volunteer in the Monticello community: schools, churches, civic groups, non-profit and service organizations and more. Look for ways you can lend a hand today!