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United Way In the News

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Yankton School District staff and faculty’s commitment and dedication to youth success is inspiring, and for many, expand beyond school hours. This is especially true for Jennifer Kirchner, Yankton High School Counselor, who donates her time and talent each and every year to ensure the success of the Yankton High School Drama Program.

According to YHS Staff, Kirchner is an integral part of every drama production, and her dedication has not gone unnoticed. Colleagues were so inspired by her efforts, they wanted to recognize her in a special way. Recently, at the YHS opening production of Seussical, students and community members celebrated Kirchner while receiving the United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton Volunteer of the Month Award. 

“Jennifer is amazing, she really helps us stretch our dollars and is incredibly creative”, stated Amy Miner, English Teacher at YHS and Seussical Director, “She graciously gives of her time freely, and we appreciate all she does!”

We asked Kirchner to tell us a more about herself and her volunteerism.  

My husband, Brandon, and I have lived in Yankton since 2012. We moved here from Vermillion when we both completed graduate school.

I began volunteering in early elementary school. My parents were very active in the Elks Club and our church so we volunteered as a family. I can remember being 6 or 7 and asking funeral guests if they were done with their lunch plates so I could take them to the kitchen to be washed. 

I continue volunteering because you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Watching a project go from an idea to a reality is an incredible process. I love working with and meeting new individuals who have the same interests and enjoy the challenge of a new project. 

I volunteer at Yankton High School Drama Program - I make and find many of the props we need during a show. It's my job to be as frugal as possible, so I am usually looking for odds and ends when stores put seasonal items on clearance. I got a lot of funny looks at Walmart the day I purchased 100 pool noodles for The Little Mermaid and it was snowing out.

I also volunteer with the Lewis and Clark Boy Scout Camp with my husband. We cook supper for campers on Wednesday nights during the summer. In the past, we have created programming for lock-ins at the Summit Center, and two-day summer camps for scouts in elementary school. 

Volunteer work is enjoyable because I love the challenge! When I'm given the task of creating something my brain goes into MacGyver mode. What can I make without buying anything? If you would have told me two years ago that I could make 40 CATS wigs out of panty hoses, yarn and hairspray, I would have laughed; but that's what happened!

My best volunteer experience was when I got to be the Easter Bunny at the Governor's candy scramble in Pierre several years in a row. Little kids would come tearing up the drive to give me a hug or a high five. It was great fun!

The advice I would give to those thinking about getting out there and volunteering in their community is don't be afraid! It's as simple as an email asking if an organization needs help. 

For more information on local volunteer opportunities or to nominate a Volunteer of the Month, visit www.yanktonunitedway.org/volunteer or call United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton at (605) 665-6766.

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