Thursday, April 2, 2015

45th Annual Helping Hands Volunteer Appreciation Brunch

Yukon Public Schools has over 750 volunteers engaged throughout this school system rapidly transitioning from rural area to burgeoning suburb. The goal for the diverse army of volunteers is to
preserve the small town feel and village caring for every student.

Management of this many people each year takes strong management skills and organizational design in addition to much vision, energy and persuasion. Christine Sorrels, the director of the YPS Helping Hands Volunteer & Miller Mentor Program, is practically irresistible, totally indomitable, and perpetually perky. Her equally laughter-loving, enthusiastic accomplices are Christal Whitmire and Donna Klukas. The three make the hierarchical volunteer organization work as effectively as the ancient Roman Army in its heyday.

For more about event organization, read last year's blog posted on May 8, 2014. 

Various volunteer groups

Christine Sorrels,
 the heart of the
YPS volunteer army

According to Christine, one hour of volunteer time is worth $22.56. At the end of the school year, based upon current figures, the total volunteer hours for Yukon PS is 60,000 hours. Those hours translate into $1.4 million pumped into Yukon students through personal relationships and special involvement. 

[2013 data,]

By the way, Christine reminded us that April is National Volunteer Month.

As we arrived, a group of volunteer leaders greeted us while Christine, Christal, and Donna were roving and hugging all present. Just about everyone knows everyone else because of the intentional outreach to and maintenance of community.


A spirited song and dance to "Car Wash"
Some attendees remembered those Sixties-inspired outfits.
The Yukon Middle School Theater Performance 
Class performing

Each group has a seating assignment. 


Fruit, biscuits, gravy, eggs...
Requisite, celebratory cake

Logistics and Groups

This year the color scheme was blue, white, and peach. The blue craft paper tablecloths were decorated with personalized messages for each volunteer group. Volunteers are also seated either by schools or specific groups so that school staff and volunteers are close together. 'Impossible to be a wallflower here. Dismissal to the buffet line is also done by group. Administration and guests have tables, but most principals sit with their volunteers. The administrative office and board were well represented.

Rows of tables of Academic Tutors

Mentors do not worry about tutoring because Yukon has many upperclass students who tutor regularly either one-on-one or within a classroom. They earn points, recorded by "Christine & Company."

Service hour tracking is critical to earn a Presidential Service Pin, which volunteers of all ages can earn. Yukon Public Schools allows a Presidential Service Pin to be worn with graduation robes. Every school can instigate such a program, track results, and report.   

Mark Burke, WATCH D.O.G.S..
 stands in front of a
sign bearing his name and service points.

Sorrels, Dr. Simeroth, Dr. McAdoo

Dr. Jason Simeroth follows the script as does Christine. He even read aloud her comment that he could add anything super duper great, fun, and/or inspirational.

Dr. Simeroth, superintendent of Yukon Public Schools, was asked to mentor a student this year! Dr. Simeroth said that he was hesitant to commit to mentoring with his crazy schedule. Within 15 minutes of his first meeting with Mark, his mentee, Simeroth knew he would continue. Over the year, he has watched his mentee's demeanor change, growth occur, and confidence increase. We really like this kind of school leader! He is part of an elite and increasing number of Oklahoma school superintendents who mentor.      

Among the volunteering groups recognized were Terry's Kids  Arising when recognized from their own tables, these elementary students willingly help their teachers before and after school. Yukon indeed teaches volunteerism early. Kudos to these youngsters!

Part of the Z-shaped, snaking buffet line


Gene and Treva Hill, 2014 Mentors of the Year for Yukon Public Schools' Miller Mentors, who are still mentoring multiple students sometimes alone or as a pair.

Below is Gary Cannon with Sophie, a HALO service dog. Gary is also one of the WATCH D.O.G.S.

Sophie didn't appear comfortable posing for the photo, but the moment she stepped up to the receiving line, she was a pampered, beloved star receiving devotion from and giving it back to her fans. 

Valerie Foley and Dana Pybas, mother and daughter volunteers

"Val" has volunteered since in high school. Although she has recently had her second kidney transplant, she does not let it interfere with her service work.

Christal Whitmire

Shaun Caven, director of kayaking and head coach, OKC Boathouse Foundation, spoke briefly about the kayaking opportunities for all ages this summer at Lake Overholser. Through a grant from the Anne Lacey Foundation, the Overholser Route 66 Boathouse Adventures will be open this June. 

Christine is from Manchester, England. Shaun is from Scotland. Christine introduced her friend in a Cockney/East End/Scottish accent mixture, which entertained us all.

Donna Klukas and Jenna, her lovely daughter, who is also a long-time volunteer. Although she is now a nurse at Mercy, Jenna makes time for the students.

The Awards

Crystal clock for Valerie Foley

Closeup of the engraving 
on the silver tray for Jenna

The silver plates were so 
shiny that the reflection of 
what the photographer was 
wearing is almost perfect.

Final Comments 
Virtually everything, including food and awards, is donated each year. Review page one of the program. Yukon really does have community service and volunteerism as part of its culture. 

A nursery is provided for those who wish to leave their younger children there until the event ends. Is that customer/volunteer service or not?


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