Assistance League of Kansas City® – The Value of Volunteers

Assistance League of Kansas CityThe BBB Cause Connection
“Highlighting Kansas City BBB Accredited Charities”
Author: Jennifer McGlothen

Cindy McGinnis is the Board President of Assistance League of Kansas City®, an accredited charity of the BBB of Greater Kansas City.  When I asked her what is the best-kept secret about the organization, she alluded to the value of their volunteers.

Assistance League of Kansas City

When I think of the word “league”, here is the definition most closely associated with my frame of reference:  “the aggregation of persons, parties, states, etc., associated in such a covenant or compact; confederacy. an association of individuals having a common goal. A group of athletic teams organized to promote mutual interests and to compete chiefly among themselves: a bowling league.” (Dictionary.com)

I had to adjust my thinking to connect the word league with a charity.  And when I think of people volunteering at charitable organizations, I would never imagine them solely responsible for fulfilling the mission and handling the management of an organization with 33 years of history and nearly $1million in revenue!  That’s exactly the case at Assistance League of Kansas City®.

Assistance League was the first nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization founded in the West to recognize the potential of volunteers in helping those less fortunate to a better, more meaningful life. Today, chapters across America address the emotional and physical needs of children and adults of all ages regardless of race or creed.  Founder Anne Banning and a group of Los Angeles women began this work in the mid 1890’s.

Back to the amazing part, Assistance League of Kansas City® “raises its own funds and has no paid staff; all programs and resource development activities are staffed and operated by over 300 member volunteers with two auxiliaries: Heartland Auxiliary and Assisteens®.  Each year their members donate over 50,000 hours of service and touch thousands of lives in our community.”

A few years ago, I met then Board President, Pat Reiner and we worked through the accreditation process.  Our process does not require site visits, so I didn’t get to visualize the work of this organization until I recently met with Cindy and Strategic Planning Chairman Ann Whittaker and took a tour.  This is where I have to say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes.

We started at THE ReSALE SHOP, an upscale thrift store located at 6601 North Oak Trafficway, where sales support their programs.  Everyone has a picture in their mind of a thrift shop. What I saw didn’t match the picture I had!  The store was its own building and the inside was impressively clean and organized with loads of merchandise like a department store.

Assistance League

A couple of items caught my attention when I roamed this sprawling space right before St. Patty’s day. Wearing those green shoes would surely ward off pinching!  And I felt really old when I caught a glimpse of that writing machine relic because, as opposed to a laptop, I carried one off to college!

Assistance League Assistance League Assistance League

My jaw dropped when I saw the space for the Operation School Bell® program which provides brand new clothing and supplies to local elementary and middle school students in need.  Talk about organization!  The students get to come, shop and try on their selections, something they may not necessarily get to do often.

Assistance League

Assistance LeagueI’ve just highlighted two of the ten programs through which this organization serves the community! But here’s one more! I couldn’t resist including Operation Hug. Over 78,000 bears have been distributed since program inception in 1988. That’s 78,000 hugs comforting children in crisis.  Sometimes, I just need a hug, so I can imagine the love these cuddly little bears provide to children.

Nonprofits are asked to measure so many things in being accountable to their funders and supporters. That’s a reasonable request because funding must be used and managed effectively. Easy to measure outputs just as Assistance League can measure ReSALE Shop merchandise sales and what portion of that supported programs, they can measure how many children were served by providing needed clothing or bears.  But how do you measure joy or comfort?  Not that easy.

What is the value of volunteers delivering love in our community? Unmeasurable!

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