VOKK instills awareness of service
WORTHINGTON -- Pizza, apple turnovers and brownies were the hot commodities Saturday among the spectators at Worthington Middle School, one of several sites for the Wild Turkey Shootout Boys Basketball Tournament.
Serving up those favorites, as well as wide variety of other food items, were members of VOKK -- Volunteer Optimist Kiwanis Kids -- a community service-oriented organization for students in sixth through eighth grades. The club was organized almost two years ago, chartered by the local Early Risers Kiwanis and Optimist Clubs. Middle school teacher Robin Medill serves as its advisor, with support from local Kiwanis and Optimist members.
"Initially we had seven members," said Medill. "Now we've got a group of 26."
The purpose of VOKK is to instill an awareness of community service.
"It's to get them to realize that we might not have all we need or want in life, but there are a lot of people who have a whole lot less and what we can do to help them," said Kiwanis member Pat Henderschiedt, one of the group's key advisors.
In the past, VOKK has participated in activities such as cleaning a two-mile stretch of highway, raising money for St. Jude's Children Research Hospital with a math-a-thon, making Christmas gifts for nursing home residents and collecting baby toys for distribution at the local food shelf.
"We have a lot of fun, but they also learn discipline and how to behave in public," Henderschiedt said.
The group volunteered to operate concessions during the Wild Turkey Shootout in order to raise money to stock infant care items at the Manna Food Shelf.
"When people think about donating to the food shelf, they think about donating canned goods; they don't think about things like formula, diapers, babies' needs," Medill said.
The idea of helping out babies was appealing to the students.
"We're giving our money to the babies," said member Tony Singsaath, a sixth-grader at Worthington Middle School.
"Baby's food actually costs more than regular food," added Brianna Dodgen, an eighth-grader.
Dodgen and many of the other VOKK members were wearing tie-dyed T-shirts that proudly stated "VOKK ROCKS" and had their names printed on the back. The shirts and bracelets with the same slogan were also club projects.
"The reason I joined VOKK was I heard from my cousin that it was a fun activity," Dodgen said. "You get to help others, help the environment, and there are also parties that we get to go to."
Although it meant giving up their Saturday free time and spending it in school, Dodgen and her fellow club members managed to have some fun working in the cafeteria concession area throughout the day. Many of them arrived to help at 7 a.m. and were prepared to stay until the last basketball game was concluded. The adult supervisors also sacrificed their Saturday free time.
"I just enjoy Kiwanis immensely, and it's neat to see the kids come out of their shells," Henderschiedt said. "We're hoping that three, four years down the road, we can see that these kids benefited from our program and become better students and adults."