Ryann Kampeter finds empowerment through Power of the Purse
Ryann Kampeter is no stranger at United Way of Central Missouri events — you’ll see her handing out food at a mobile food pantry or working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City to host a chili cookoff. But if you ask Kampeter which event is near and dear to her heart, she’ll excitedly tell you about Power of the Purse.
Hosted by Women United, a social group through the United Way, Power of the Purse involves a silent and live purse and experiences auction, with proceeds going toward the group’s mission to address challenges women and children experience in the local community. In 2022, the event raised more than $50,000, Kampeter said.
“Those who attend the event would describe it as a really empowering night,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for women in our community to come together.”
Kampeter attended the inaugural event in 2017 and has volunteered with the fundraiser in some capacity since 2018. She said she admires the partnership between the planning committee, businesses and individuals who donate items.
“It’s a lot of helping hands coming together for one really successful night,” she said.
It was a “no-brainer” for Kampeter to get involved with the United Way since the organization supports a wide variety of groups in Jefferson City, from senior citizens to low-income families to children.
“It’s important that we all understand that it’s a big world we’re living in but in order to make this world a better place, we need to start with our own backyard,” said Kampeter, who serves on the United Way’s Board of Directors.
Through United Way, Kampeter volunteers with a plethora of agencies, like The Salvation Army and the Food Bank for Central & Northern Missouri. But Kampeter went one step further and took on a more active role with partner agency Big Brothers Big Sisters. Not only does she serve on its board of directors, but she also helps with BBBS fundraisers.
If you are hesitant to volunteer due to unknown time constraints or other responsibilities, chat with your employer about volunteering over your lunch break, Kampeter recommended. As local sales manager of ABC17 and FOX22, Kampeter credited her employer for helping her get involved.
It’s tempting to volunteer with multiple organizations at once but that could quickly become overwhelming. Kampeter suggested focusing on one or two organizations that have missions you’re passionate about. Even if it’s one hour a week or one hour a month, “anytime is going to make the community that much better,” she said.
“You don’t have to already have a connection or a person you already know with that organization to get involved,” Kampeter added. “Just pick up the phone or stop by that organization. Trust me, every organization, every partner agency with the United Way has a need of some sort, and they will find a role for you to serve.”
Ashley Wilde instills confidence through Dreams to Reality
For Ashley Widle, there’s no better feeling than helping women find their confidence.
Wilde is a regular volunteer at Dreams to Reality, a United Way of Central Missouri partner agency. Dreams to Reality’s mission is to support women by providing interview and work clothes to help them feel confident and prepare for employment opportunities. The nonprofit works with local organizations that refer women in need of professional outfits, and the women can select blouses, dress pants, dresses, shoes and more. Dreams to Reality also offers non-clothing items like interview tips or resume help.
At first, Wilde thought she could be a professional touchpoint by helping women with their resumes, and it evolved into her becoming a “PIC,” or professional image consultant — someone who works with clients to select clothes.
“It’s just helping people walk a little taller and feeling a little more confident in themselves,” said Wilde, executive assistant at Rusty Drewing Automotive.
Dreams to Reality operates a resale boutique, which contains donated clothes that don’t meet clients’ needs that the public can purchase. The funds from the boutique are used to buy client work clothes that are typically not donated.
A lifelong resident of Jefferson City, Wilde got involved with the United Way after she started working on a former employer’s United Way campaign, opening the door to other opportunities like assisting with Days of Caring and Power of the Purse. She also recently joined the Special Learning Center’s Board of Directors.
“You can live in your own bubble and not be aware of what’s going on around you, so it’s important to be appreciative of the things you have,” she said.
Ultimately, volunteering doesn’t have to be between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the weekdays, and you don’t need to devote 10-plus hours a week to make a difference. For Wilde, she was worried she couldn’t devote much time to Dreams to Reality since she was unable to volunteer during traditional work hours. But she learned there was a need for volunteers to work with clients in the evenings and on the weekends.
While it can be intimidating to start volunteering with an organization, Wilde recommended contacting one or two agencies that have missions you’re passionate about. Then, analyze your skill sets as some organizations may need help in non-traditional ways such as marketing or website design.
“There’s more flexibility than you realize in volunteering,” Wilde added.
Sally Moore combines passion for healthcare, volunteerism
It’s important in volunteerism to find something you’re passionate about, and Sally Moore has done just that by combining her love of healthcare and community service to help Central Missouri residents.
As business development manager with Capital Region Medical Center, Moore takes to heart her employer’s mission: “To improve health and promote wellness in the communities we serve.” As part of that, Moore has devoted herself to serving the community, particularly focusing on the United Way of Central Missouri and its partner agencies.
Moore chaired Power of the Pursue a few years ago, and she most recently served as United Way Community Campaign co-chair for 2020 and 2021. She and her husband routinely serve on The Food Bank for Central & Northern Missouri’s Score Against Hunger campaign and volunteer with the mobile food units. She has also assisted with disaster-related projects, like when the United Way helped tornado and flood victims.
Since United Way has 28 partner agencies, Moore said, there is something for everyone “depending on how your heart likes to serve.” The United Way and its partner agencies help residents receive health care, education, financial stability and basic needs.
“I really love how the United Way’s partner agencies serve the entire age spectrum, so the agencies fit together like a puzzle,” she said. “You get to serve from the littlest infant all the way to the older adult.”
United Way serves a nine-county market. The majority of those counties align directly with Capital Region’s market.
“It’s nice to serve from a healthcare and clinical perspective through Capital Region and then through the United Way to fill in those gaps,” Moore said.
Volunteering was ingrained in Moore from a young age, and she hopes to instill in her children that love for community service. But the only way to do that is ensuring the organizations she and her children volunteer with are ones they are passionate about, she added.
She also shows her children how simple or short acts of kindness can go a long way. For example, Moore volunteers in her children’s school library and cafeteria occasionally.
“That takes all of 30 minutes but you feel like a superstar to those children and it helps out the teachers and the school,” she said.
Adrian Heckman asks: ‘What can I do to help?’
“If you have, give.” This simple line by memoirist Maya Angelou resonates deeply with Jefferson City native Adrian Heckman, whose mission is to positively impact her hometown through community service.
A product manager for Central Bank, Heckman volunteers primarily through the United Way of Central Missouri and has assisted at The Salvation Army, River City Habitat for Humanity, Thursday Night Live, Red Slipper Warrior Project, and food pantries, to name a few.
“United Way lets me put a lot of different hats on,” she said. “Seeing that it can touch so many people in so many different ways is inspiring.”
Heckman also serves as co-chair for the Dine United Campaign, where local restaurants pledge to donate a portion of their profits to the United Way. The United Way, in turn, advertises the restaurants and encourages residents to patronize the local businesses. This campaign was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It allowed us to help advertise local places and how we can support them and their employees during rough times,” she said. “I’m glad we were still able to have successful campaigns even though the restaurants were impacted.”
Heckman understands how the United Way’s services are making a difference every day. She personally knows people who benefit from the nonprofit’s work. As someone who received assistance growing up herself, she believes it’s important for those who can lend a helping hand to give back to their community.
“Instead of ‘I worked hard, and I deserve this,’” Heckman said, “think, ‘OK, I worked hard, and now what can I do to help?’”
If someone wants to volunteer, Heckman advised, call local organizations and ask them what their needs are. You also don’t need to commit to volunteering for organizations if you realize those specific nonprofits aren't good fits for you.
“As Jefferson City grows, the need grows,” Heckman added. “So, if I can help Jefferson City grow in a positive, impactful way, that’s what really means the most to me.”
Denise Crider inspires students through community service
The youth can change the world. Denise Crider, a third-year teacher at Russellville High School, is showing her students just that by organizing volunteer opportunities for the youth.
Crider has organized several projects — particularly ones about veterans and first responders — for her students to get involved with.
For Operation Bugle Boy, the students volunteer with Veterans Appreciation Night and Operation Leaf Relief. They also participate in the organization’s “I’m Writing This Letter” campaign, where they write letters to relatives and friends who served or are currently serving in the military.
During Wreaths for Heroes, Crider and her students volunteer to place, remove and maintain wreaths on veterans’ graves at the Russellville Enloe Cemetery. Crider also helps with the same project at the Jefferson City National Cemetery.
Giving back to veterans and first responders is a special calling for Crider. Her father and uncles were veterans, and many of her students have enlisted in the military or become first responders.
“We can instill this passion for service in young folks and have them understand that power that lies within them to make the world a better place just by doing a little something-something here and there,” said Crider, who is a language arts, social studies, and academic support teacher.
Crider has also facilitated service days for the National Honor Society’s service days at The Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Agency, Special Olympics Missouri, Samaritan Center, and The Redeem Project.
“It’s amazing when young people see the difference they can make in someone else’s life,” she said.
Crider has individually volunteered with the Jefferson City Breakfast Lions Club, the Jefferson City Optimist Club, The Redeem Project, United Way of Central Missouri, Pregnancy Help Center, Special Learning Center, American Red Cross, and Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Through Faith Lutheran Church, she also participates in mission trips to Central America, where she organizes curriculum and crafts that teach English through Bible stories.
“It’s easy to get sucked in with what’s on social media or on the phone when we could be doing something to contribute more,” she said. “If we would all just chip in and work together, I really think we could do so much.”
There are several opportunities in Mid-Missouri to make a difference, Crider said. If you want to volunteer in the community, she recommended starting small and doing something you’re passionate about. That could involve picking up pieces of trash at a local park, volunteering to sort donations at the food pantry or donating food to the animal shelter.
“It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment — it could be 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there,” Crider added. “Do what you enjoy, and you will be amazed at what happens.”