How do you commemorate the September 11 attacks and honor the sacrifices made by so many Americans on that memorable day? By giving back to others.
A 9/11 Day of Service grant from the Kansas Volunteer Commission will be used by United Way of the Plains to develop comfort kits for children and care kits for first responders in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the event this year. The volunteer event involves three separate activities that take place on Saturday, September 18.
United Way of the Plains Volunteer Center Manager, Becky Springer, said she’s procured materials to build 40 comfort kits for the Wichita Police Department to keep in their vehicles and give to children they encounter through their work. Springer said, “The comfort kits consist of a stuffed animal and a book. The stuffed animals are assembled by our volunteers and include a special birth certificate. The kits are used by area law enforcement to help calm children that officers encounter during difficult situations.”
Fifty care bags are also being assembled by volunteers to thank area law enforcement officers for their work. After consulting with officers about items they need while on the job, Springer said volunteers will decorate individual bags and then fill them with nonperishable snacks, ink pens, notebooks, antibacterial wipes and other donated items. Volunteers will also compose thank you notes to include in the bags.
Some of the sixty volunteers expected to participate will also work in the Give Items of Value (GIV) Warehouse to sort donated products that are then used by area nonprofit organizations to offset their overhead costs. Last year, 190 nonprofits saved over $1 million by shopping for free at the GIV Warehouse.
Most of the volunteers for the event are from the Wichita Mom organization, a local parenting group that promotes participation in family-oriented events. Springer said, “Volunteers from Wichita Moms have been helping assemble the comfort kits for several years. Their members are always enthusiastic about giving back to the community. This is a meaningful activity for them to do with family members and it gives them an opportunity to actively demonstrate the importance of caring for others.”
The Kansas Volunteer Commission distributes grants for volunteer projects throughout the year and United Way of the Plains has been awarded two additional grants in 2021. One grant has funded volunteer activities for Mental Health Association’s Compeer mentors and mentees as well as young adults in the Rise Up for Youth program. Another grant has funded a volunteer program for at-risk teens to work with police officers in a monthly activity. Both grants involve assembling comfort care kits for law enforcement officers to offer children.
Springer expressed appreciation for all three grants. “Through the generosity of the Kansas Volunteer Commission we have been able to produce a total of 230 comfort care kits and 50 first responder kits. More importantly, our volunteers have enjoyed working on meaningful projects that improve the lives of their neighbors. It’s a great partnership and we hope to continue working with the Commission on future initiatives.”