50 Faces of Volunteers – Kristie VanGorkom

Nominated by Leah Ferrig with Johnson STEAM Academy

Tell us a little about the volunteer : I’m a 17-year resident of Cedar Rapids, originally from Colorado. I co-own kittd, llc, a small, woman-owned company here in Cedar Rapids that makes on-the-go activity kits for kids. We create toys that give kids opportunities for creative, unstructured play, even when they’re traveling, out to eat, or in waiting rooms.

At first, I volunteered so I could be more involved in my son’s education and see what was going on in the school. But as I got to know the other kids in his class better, I wanted to do whatever I could to help them succeed in reading or just to know that there was someone there who wanted to listen to them and cared how they were doing. The kids open up so much during a one-on-one conversation, and are really available at that point to learn, to listen to advice, and to really internalize and mirror caring.

On an average week, I volunteer 1-3 hours at the school; during book fairs it’s between 3-5 hours a day. The thing I enjoy the most is connecting with individual students, really listening to them and understanding what they’re into, what motivates them, and what challenges they face every day. They teach me so much about the world and about what kids need to succeed educationally, to be confident, and to thrive.

Kids who are more confident and who understand that their education is the thing that will push them forward in life, are the kids who are going to make a big difference in their communities as they grow. They’ll be the ones who take leadership on issues, who will start businesses, who will encourage and support others along the way. I can’t wait to see what some of these amazing minds do in this community!

I’ve taken an active role with a few other parents, encouraging the ones who I’ve seen who show a true interest in the kids, and have invited them to join me in staffing book fairs, counting out and sending notes home with kids, and bringing them along with me to PTA meetings. It helps to get them when they have kids in the youngest grades, so they’ll stick around for a long time, learn the culture of the school and community, and make a big impact!

kristie_vangorkom

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Johnson STEAM Academy

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 5 years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight? Kristie is an amazing volunteer! She is very reliable and has been coming in every Thursday each week for 5 years to count out and deliver to each classroom our Notes Home Folders. She always has a smile to share and has been great about recruiting others to volunteer with her. In addition, Kristie has chaperoned  fieldtrips, done clerical help, assisted with Lego League, helped with Book Cart, and also in the classroom. She is the Head of the Book Fair Committee that runs both the Barnes & Noble’s Book Fair and the in-house Scholastic Book Fair. Without her dedication, strong leadership, and invaluable guidance we would not have these book fairs, which provide money to purchase new books for our school library. Kristie is such an asset to our school and an inspiration to other volunteers.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa selects one nomination to feature every other Wednesday. 

Nominating is easy! You’ll submit a short paragraph or two about the volunteer(s) and their experience. The who/what/where/when (or for how long) and, most importantly, the why of their volunteer cause. We have provided some questions to prompt responses. It’s also strong requested that you submit a photo with your nomination. This is a great opportunity to help showcase a dedicated volunteer or volunteer group in your community! 

Ready to submit a spotlight? Access the online form here

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