Karen Jenkins Story
I’ve always been one to give of my time to others. As far back as high school when many of the scholarships I received were because of my community service, I’ve been volunteering. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t volunteering for SOMETHING. Recently much, much of my time has been volunteering for a non-profit that is very important to me- Boone Ballerz. You see, I’m the mother of 4 children, all of whom have played youth basketball growing up. I believe youth sports are not only important for the physical activity, but for the social lessons learned, the teamwork developed and the simple thrill of victory that is experienced for the first time. Three years ago I found out that the youth basketball league in Gray (Boone Hoops) was dissolving and there were no plans to continue. In reality it may have been time as participation was dwindling, the relationship with the local schools was sketchy, and there were no teams for girls older than 4th grade. Through the end of that year I tried to learn what I could by being a part of Boone Hoops, then starting from scratch I held parent meetings, formed a board and created a new league that I was determined to be all the best aspects of Boone Hoops as well as bring new ideas to the table to make it the best in the area. Now Boone Ballerz is a thriving Certified 5013c charitable organization with a functioning volunteer board, financial transparency and more than 400 kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade participating. Two things I did as president to specifically target girls in our community, were to add cheerleading (more than 75 girls now cheering) and bring back the older girls’ basketball division. While it’s difficult to count the hours involved, I would estimate I’ve given hundreds of hours each year to this endeavor which included creating a legit league with a website, online signups and developing great relationships with area schools. Some of my duties include answering every parent’s concern or complaint. I’m a liaison with the schools, parents and coaches. I order uniforms, trophies, organize a Championship Saturday with an announcer, balloons and fanfare unmatched in any area youth league. I’ve also made sure the league is truly part of the community with the league’s benevolence program benefiting other area charities. We’ve collected and donated to Gray Community Chest, The Washington County Animal Shelter and Good Samaritan Ministries. This year, every Saturday 8:30am through about 2pm December through March … there were 32 teams and 8 cheer squads making lifetime memories and myself and the other board members were there for all of it to make sure it ran smoothly. Literally hundreds of families in our area are benefiting from the hard work we’ve put into this league over the past couple of years. The best thing is, I believe, is- because of the way it was set up and ran, it will be a smooth transition from one board to the next for years to come.
Another charity in which I’m actively involved, is Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. 2011 I had two out of town friends who lost their babies at birth and used Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – a National charity that takes pictures of the babies for the family. I checked to see if there was anyone doing that here- there wasn’t. So I contacted a photographer friend we both volunteered to be a part of the charity here. Although not a photographer- I’m an organizer and a leader. I’ve worked hard to get several photographers to volunteer as well as to communicate with local hospitals and the media about the service over these past few years. Now every Tri-Cities hospital calls me when there is a stillbirth and I reach out to photographers to give these mothers precious memories of their child. I often think how sad it is that every time there’s a stillbirth I’m called. But I have a heart for this service and I know that my sadness is nothing compared to the family’s… Since 2011 I would estimate we’ve helped nearly a hundred families have the only photos they’ll ever have of their lost children. I believe (and studies have shown) that having these photographs help in the healing process for these families in our community and open the door for communication about a topic that was often swept under the rug for years in our society.
It would be hard to put a number to the hours I’ve donated over the years. Admittedly there were many, many hours at the beginning meeting with hospital nurses, media and photographers to get the program running locally. I also work to keep the local hospitals stocked with brochures (both English and Spanish) ordering and delivering them. Now, I receive a few calls a month in which I then spend time reaching out to find a photographer. Sadly, we’ve recently had the last active photographers step away from the charity. So I will once again be spending a significant amount of time reaching out to the media and all area photographers through email and calls in the next few weeks to try and get more volunteers. Because, unfortunately, there are no fewer families needing this service as there was when I first started. And because of the attention in past media reports and word of mouth, families expect the service in their time of need. I will work hard to be able to provide that to them through finding volunteer photographers.
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