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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 04/21/2021

Theresa Freed 00:00

Johnson County relies heavily on volunteers to help provide a wide range of programs and services. On this episode we'll talk about their work and how you can get involved.

Announcer 00:11

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed 00:25

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go, I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. This week is National Volunteer Week. It's recognized right here in Johnson County. In 2020. The county worked with more than 52,000 volunteers who provided nearly 200,000 hours of service to the county and our community. That's about a value of $5 million. So we of course, thank everyone who offers their time and talents to support their neighbors right here in Johnson County. Today we're going to talk about just a handful of the volunteer opportunities in the county. We're going to start with a new one, a relatively new one, helping out with our COVID-19 vaccination clinics. And here to talk more about that is Johnson County Department of Health and Environment strategic planning division director, Deborah Kellison. Thank you for being here.

Deborah Kellison 01:17

Thank you, Theresa for having me.

Theresa Freed 01:20

Do you just want to tell us a little bit about just the impact of the volunteers have made on on the clinics that are happening?

Deborah Kellison 01:27

We have utilized volunteers across all aspects of running the COVID-19 vaccine clinics. And we've partnered with many sources for volunteers. We've worked with Heart to Heart International. Johnson County MED-ACT has provided vaccinators. We've had volunteers from the various Johnson County volunteer programs, as well as the county employees across all departments, not just the Department of Health and Environment. We have approximately 20 vaccinators per clinic from MED-ACT as well as Heart to Heart International. And we have utilized volunteers from county departments like Public Works, parks and rec facilities and Johnson County Wastewater to provide the outside vehicle traffic and parking assistance. Even on those bitter cold and snow days that we had other volunteers we have about 40 spaces for 40 other volunteers with the logistics of the clinic process, and that includes the checking of appointments, providing vaccine information, and just having a smiling face to greet our residents and then to provide them the guidance to get through the different areas of the clinic.

Theresa Freed 02:37

And I remember just in answering emails from from the public, there were a lot of people who just wanted to be able to do something to help with the vaccination efforts. Can you just talk about that outpouring of support?

Deborah Kellison 02:51

We have. We have I have a whole list of the emails to invite through to the different clinics. And there's, we have about 160 Heart to Heart vaccinators that we send requests out to when we need those. And then Heart to Heart provides about 270 volunteers for logistics. We've, like I said the medic vaccinators and they send over who they can from from medics and also the the county fire departments. And then we have the volunteers for the county programs. And there's about 270 people that have joined us from that group and then county employees across the departments. There's almost 200 of them that have helped us out

Theresa Freed 03:41

The individuals who are actually providing the vaccinations are those volunteers are those those people who you know, are well trained with with the county to do that service.

Deborah Kellison 03:51

So that it's a mixture of both the medic volunteers, of course our county employees, but they're there because they want to be there they volunteered to to be in the clinics on top of their their regular workload. But then we also use the heart to heart vaccinators that are trained medical professionals to provide the vaccines.

Theresa Freed 04:15

Okay, great information and where can people learn more about our vaccination clinics.

Deborah Kellison 04:20

We have a link on our jocogov.org/covid-19-vaccine. At that website you can find out more information there.

Theresa Freed 04:32

And great details about our our volunteers doing great things here in the community. And next we have with us Erin Moeder with the Johnson County Department of Corrections here and if you want to go ahead and just tell us a little bit about yourself and the work that you do for the county.

Erin Moeder 04:45

Hi, my name is Erin Moeder, Volunteers and Programs Coordinator for Johnson County Department of Corrections volunteers help us by bridging the gap between our clients and the community by providing all sorts of services including religious and recovery services. As well as teaching professional skills, hobbies, self esteem and empowerment programs and mentoring. Mentoring is our biggest need. We match adult clients with a volunteer for a one year relationship to help with the transition back into the community. The role volunteers play with our department is invaluable as they serve as a reminder that the community cares and there are people that believe our clients can succeed. If volunteers want to learn more, we do have a website. It can be found in the show notes of this podcast. There is an application process and all of that information is on the website. And I look forward to hearing from anyone that is interested and Dennis Patton with the K-State Research and Extension office in Johnson County. He is up next with some details on volunteering opportunities there.

Dennis Patton 05:47

Well my name is Dennis Patton. I work with Johnson County K-State Research Extension. And I get the pleasure of working in the horticulture program area. And my main emphasis is in ornamental horticulture which is turf landscape trees, shrubs, flowers, and then I also have the wonderful role of getting to work with our extension Master Gardener volunteers here through extension in Johnson County. At extension, we rely very heavily on volunteers because we have a small staff of professional staff what we call extension agents whose job is to guide the programs to help meet the needs of residents here in Johnson County and various areas such as horticulture, family consumer sciences 4-H and youth, natural resources, the environment. And since we run a very small staff and extension's model always been through our 4-H and youth program is to utilize volunteers to help with the educational mission. We have a network of what we call masters programs here through extension, master gardeners, master food, master naturalist, master 4-H volunteers. And really we think of them as unpaid staff. There are a lot of times our main program delivery for meeting a large number of people in Johnson County with our population and the number of requests we get. In my particular program with master gardeners. We have about 467 master gardener volunteers who work in about 30 different projects. We maintain nine demonstration gardens we have a speaker's bureau, we have a gardening hotline for questions, we do youth education, we have a garden tour coming up here in May. And all the goals are to help improve the quality of life in Johnson County. Through landscape management, proper tree selection, proper use of pesticides, water quality. And the same can be said for like our master food volunteers who their role is with food and nutrition, food safety, and our master naturalist help with natural resources. Here again, pollinator education, native plants, invasive species. And then of course, our master 4-H volunteers are very integral in helping to teach the youth new skills that they can apply later on in their life. Extension all has a little over 1200 volunteers that support of the seven agents in our office that work with volunteers here in Dotson County. Another unique volunteer group we have at the extension is what's called VITA, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. And we have a cadre of highly trained people that help prepare tax returns for people in a certain income range. And during tax season, you know, February, March, April, they are totally busy working with a very diverse background of clientele, to help them bring their taxes up to date. Many times this group of people sometimes are reluctant to have their taxes done and they work so easy with people to feel at ease and make sure getting their income tax prepared is done. So VITA is another very important volunteer group. We have here an extension, you know, listeners here in Johnson County can get involved in any of our various activities. You know, I think one of the great things about being a volunteer for Extension is that your job is to help educate and disseminate information. But while you're doing that, you're also learning yourself. So a lot of times we find our volunteers and extension are lifelong learners. They want to feel like they're making a difference and impact in the community where they live. And they also want to be around people with like interests. So in my program area, fellow gardeners flock together and the master food volunteers does though a lot of times have an interest in food nutrition, baking, cooking. And so it's this like group of people that you can find a place to connect. So we're looking for volunteers of all ages. You know, a lot of our programs do tend to happen during the day. But we also have evening weekend events. And most of our programs do require that you go through some sort of educational background training to help prepare you for a role as a volunteer. If you're interested in any of our Extension opportunities for the volunteer, I would just suggest you reach out to us talk to one of those people in charge of the various volunteer programs and just see if there's a role that fits for you. Because we'd love to have additional volunteers always join our program because as we know, Johnson County's growing population with growing needs and extension wants to try to meet those needs as much as possible because that is our mission to help educate the citizens of Johnson County.

Theresa Freed 10:17

And finally, Brandy Hodge joins us with information about volunteering to help some of our homebound residents.

Brandy Hodge 10:23

Hello, my name is Brandy Hodge, and I'm with Johnson County Aging and Human Services. I am their community relations manager. One of my roles to this department is leading the volunteer efforts, whether that is volunteer recruitment, volunteer retention, or volunteer recognition such as this week. Johnson County Aging and Human Services is very fortunate to have such a large volunteer program. Last year we had 915 community volunteers serve over 15,000 hours. And in a typical year, we have over 25,000 hours served by our volunteers. Last year. During the pandemic, we had some staff step in and serve. While we weren't able to utilize volunteers, we could not have done it without these outstanding members of our county employees. So we want to thank all of the county employees who stepped up and helped deliver meals for us if someone wants to get involved in our department, we have four different volunteer opportunities. The first volunteer opportunity is the home delivered Meal Program. Through this program, the volunteer would pick up meals at one of our local nutrition centers, and then deliver those meals to homebound seniors here in Johnson County. It takes about one hour over your lunch, and you deliver to about eight to 10 different houses. We also have a volunteer opportunity called Catch-A-Ride through Catch-A-Ride that is providing transportation to medical appointments to the food pantry or social service agencies. This program is extremely important as it provides a valuable service such as transportation, and the volunteer stays with the client the entire time, volunteer set their own hours and geographical distance are willing to drive for this program. The third program we have is within our food pantries. Right now due to COVID, we are only utilizing one volunteer each pantry per shift. However, there is always a need for people to host food drives or hygiene drives. So that is a definitely a way that people could get involved with our food pantries. As you can imagine, the need is very high for donations at this time. We also use volunteers in our office for a variety of task. Again, due to COVID. We have kind of stepped back the number of volunteers in our office. But currently we have volunteers assisting with filing with newsletters, putting together menus for home delivered meals, and a variety of other administrative tasks. If someone is wanting to get involved with our department, you can go online to jocogov.org. And search volunteer opportunities. There's a portal where you can actually sign up for an orientation. All of our volunteer programs do require an orientation and a background check unless you're wanting to host a food drive. And then if that is the case, then he can just go through me. You can contact me at 913-715-8859 we could not do it without our volunteers. The volunteers have proven to be such a great impact on our community. And I think everyone here today would agree how important our volunteers are and how much they mean to the programs and services that we're able to provide our community here.

Theresa Freed 13:44

You can get much more information about volunteering for Johnson County on our website, that's jocogov.org. Again, what you heard here today, just a small sample of some of the great opportunities to give back to your community learn about county government and maybe grow some skills and experience. Thanks for listening.

Announcer 14:02

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening