Delivering meals in a pandemic: Howard finds volunteering rewarding

Kathy Howard, left, and her meal delivery partner, Colleen Reed, right, pose for a picture while delivering meals during the shelter-in-place order.

Kathy Howard, 70, decided to continue to help the community in retirement after 17 years of working as the director of community services with Care Connection and a lifetime of volunteering.

Tell us about yourself.

“I’ve always volunteered, actually,” Howard said. “I just kind of stepped up some of the things I was doing in the community when I retired.”

Howard retired about four years ago.

“I worked with all 26 senior centers in 13 counties at that point, doing fundraising, teaching fundraising, doing community development activities, those kinds of things,” Howard said.

How are you involved in the community? How long have you been involved with the organization(s)?

“I’ve done different things over the years,” Howard said. “Right now I’ve been involved in, the last four years especially, in delivering meals through the senior center. … The senior center has done a marvelous job of adapting to the changes with (COVID-19). They are still able to take meals to people. I volunteered with the Food Center for probably 30 years. Started soon after we moved here, took my kids to volunteer there when they were still here and I (still) volunteer there. I’ve been on the Food Center Board for the last year and a half. For the last couple years I’ve been on the (University of Central Missouri) Lifelong Learning Board, which I really enjoy. So that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been on the Warrensburg Board of Education in the past, for about 10 years. I’ve been on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Really, just a wide variety of volunteer activities.”

Why do you volunteer?

“I just find it very rewarding for me personally,” Howard said. “People are always so grateful. The things I have chosen to be involved with are things that I think are pretty essential. You get to know people over the years and you interact with a whole group of people, the other volunteers, people who are able to assist. It’s honestly just rewarding.”

What is something you do now that you two or three decades ago would not have done?

“I don’t think so,” Howard said. “A lot of my professional life has been working with people too and working in non-profits or city government. I think that actually what I’ve done, work-wise, has open my eyes to a lot of things and I was often in the position of asking people to volunteer and I always felt strongly that I couldn’t ask other people to volunteer if I wasn’t volunteering myself, so I could understand what I was asking people to do. To me it’s been pretty consistent over time.”

Are you retired? What is/was your career field?

“I’ve done a number of different things,” Howard said. “Before we moved here, we lived in Denver and I worked in non-profits there in the mental health foundation of Colorado. I’ve always done a lot of fundraising, lot of grant writing, things like that. After we moved here, I worked for the regional planning commission. I had just completed a master’s degree in public administration in Denver at the University of Colorado. I worked as a kind of city manager, part-time, in Holden and Centerview for a few years. … And then I went to Care Connection and worked there for 17 years. The last eight years of my career, I worked in immigration.”

Are there any habits/hobbies you’ve picked up from volunteering?

“I wouldn’t say I picked them up from volunteering,” Howard said. “When my last daughter left home, I took up bicycle riding again, which I thoroughly enjoy. With some friends, we have ridden the Katy Trail the whole way now. Took us three years because we were all still working at the time. I truly enjoy bike riding and it’s been a really good thing for me. I am picking up sewing again, making quilts for family members and so forth, which has been a lot of fun. I’m not nearly as proficient at it as some people, but I enjoy it.”

If someone over the age of 55 wants to get involved, where do they go?

“I’d start by just thinking about what I enjoy doing and what seems worthwhile to me and then talking to friends, maybe, who are involved in volunteer activities,” Howard said. “There’s lots and lots of really wonderful places you can volunteer in the community and I think you can make whatever volunteer opportunity you choose match your interest. It’s going to be rewarding to you. But there are so many wonderful causes that need help on a consistent basis. If you really don’t know anybody, I would just call the organization and say ‘hey, could you use some help.’ You’ve got the Fuller Center that builds houses. You’ve got the things I volunteer for. The library, obviously, has the library board and book sales and things like that. There’s lots of city commissions and so forth that rely on volunteers. There’s just a plethora of community needs that are always looking for volunteers.”

Staff Writer Sara Lawson can be reached by emailing or by calling (660) 747-8123.

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