WARSAW — Volunteering is something available year-round, whether it be building a house, spending time at the food pantry or helping some animals that need a home.
For some, it’s a little extra special around the holiday season. It’s the countdown for families and individuals who are grateful for the gift of selflessness in others.
This year, programs like the Cardinal Elf Program had such an abundance of volunteers they had no more clients to give. Dating back to 2007, the program only started with a few volunteers but is now swarming with an abundance of volunteers.
“I took a tour of the Cardinal Center about two and a half years ago, and I think our whole management team at Zimmer Biomet fell in love with the team members here,” explained Thelma Chavez, representative of Zimmer Biomet. “It’s part of our guiding principles to give back to the community. We doubled from last year and Elf about 147 people.
“My mom raised us saying, ‘you’ve got to give to get. You’ve got to share.’ This is fulfilling because I’m able to do something and make a difference in someone’s life, which could impact their whole family.”
Michelle Boxell, the community relations director at CS, stated about 4,000 people are impacted through family programs alone. There are individual sponsors who have been Cardinal Elves for a few years as a way to spread joy during the holiday season. The elf program isn’t their only holiday involvement, but it is a big one they plan to be a part of in the future.
Elves are given a list with the name of the person they’d be shopping for. While the elves aren’t expected to buy everything on the list, it does give them good gift ideas for what the person would like. The spending range is typically between $25 to $75, though some elves will take on more than one client to give as much as possible.
Jennifer Lancaster, who also volunteers in the Red Bird Art Studio, has always tried to give back since her children were little. It sets a thoughtful foundation of selflessness. Seeing the joy on others’ faces is a motivating factor for Lancaster, as she’s also been a part of the group who delivers the gifts.
“Having more volunteers than clients is a good problem. It shows what a generous community we have and I think it’s amazing,” said Lancaster. “I think if more people in the community could come and see what Cardinal Services does, they’d be more involved. I was born and raised in this community, but I didn’t really know or have an understanding of the amount of people CS touches.”
Adam Clemens, who also adopts a family through the Kiwanis Club, had learned the gift of giving from his parents who used to sponsor women in the Cardinal Group Home. Even now, his parents continue to be elves though this year, Clemens and his wife teamed up with his parents due to the lack of clients available for sponsorship.
“I think the phrase ‘it’s better to give than receive’ first sunk in for me, growing up, at Christmas time,” he reminisced. “As I got older, I wasn’t so excited about my own gifts but to see other people’s enjoyment when they opened theirs. Just imagining people getting these gifts is fulfilling.”