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Celebrating SevenDays | Others

Give a Little, Make a Big Difference

People holding hands
At an interfaith event earlier this year celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr., respect for and engagement with others led to this communal moment. On the third day of SevenDays, the challenge is to erase the walls that separate us from our neighbors. (Photo: Flatland))
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This story is part of our coverage of Kansas City’s SevenDays project, which aims to bring people together to conquer hate and celebrate diversity. The project is led by Mindy Corporon, who lost two family members in the April 2014 shootings at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. For each of the seven days, Corporon joins us for a video intro to the day’s activities (above), and Flatland is running a daily dispatch from students at the Missouri School of Journalism, inspired by the day’s theme. Journalism student Josh Matejka wrote on today’s theme, “others”.

Dana Bass spends her days managing thousands of people who work on big, expensive projects. And it all started with Christmas carols.

“The earliest memory I can think of [volunteering] was caroling with the church I was with,” Bass says. “We went to different area nursing homes … We even went to our little city jail.”

Bass is the Volunteer Director for Kansas City’s Habitat for Humanity branch. She’s been at the organization for 12 of her 25 years in nonprofit management. Bass is also a site manager for AmeriCorps, an agency that sends out long-term volunteers — like Peace Corps, but in the United States. With AmeriCorps, Bass has been to Louisiana to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina with 2,000 volunteers from all over the country. She’s even worked with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

So Bass has seen a lot in the nonprofit world. And, in Kansas City, she likes what she sees. She says Kansas City is one of the most giving and philanthropic cities in the country, and research bears this out. A 2013 study by Charity Navigator listed Kansas City as the third most charitable city in the United States, beating out Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City.

According to Bass, it’s the people that make it happen.

“Everyone at Habitat for Humanity gets to know the families and the children [that we help],” Bass says.

Volunteers at Habitat for Humanity KC work in home construction and preservation. Some are sent to help families put together their first home. Others take part in smaller, but no less important, maintenance projects.

“We’ve served more than 350 families,” Bass says. “There’s been a lot of improvement in the areas we’ve built.”

“We thank volunteers every day, but many times volunteers say, ‘You don’t understand the impact you’re having on me.”

And this volunteer work doesn’t just impact the Kansas City area. Bass recalls that in 2012, Habitat framed two houses in the parking lot of Kauffman Stadium around the time of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. She said former and current players came out to help. One player was sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The other was sent to Joplin, Missouri, in an effort to aid victims of the Joplin tornados.

Bass’s job isn’t simple. Juggling 3,500 to 4,000 volunteers never is. But she says the work is worthwhile. Not only for her, but for her volunteers as well.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands of people who come together to help other people,” Bass says. “We thank volunteers every day, but many times volunteers say, ‘You don’t understand the impact you’re having on me.’”

It’s this dynamic that Bass hopes people will see when considering volunteering.

“Just a few hours of your time,” she says, “can really have an effect on the people you’re helping.”

This story is part of the KCPT and Hale Center for Journalism project Beyond Belief, a series of stories and discussions about faith in our city. The project is part of Localore: Finding America, created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers. Principle funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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