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Points of Light

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KASPAR: Russ Kaspar uses a megaphone to speak to the crowd inside 51 West during the Points of Light Volunteer Fair.
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VOLUNTEER FAIR: Kaspar Media's third-annual volunteer fair was well-attended inside of the 51 West Event Center on Tuesday in downtown Frankfort.
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SIGNING UP: Tuesday's event gave the public a one-stop shop for volunteering opportunitiesin their community.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

About 25 nonprofit organizations, clubs and city departments gathered for Kaspar Media's third-annual Points of Light Volunteer Fair, and everyone involved was pleased with the amount of people who attended Tuesday at 51 West Event Center in downtown Frankfort.

“The mission is to connect all the nonprofits to not only interact with each other but also to interact with students, young people and people who are plugging back into the community if they have been gone five, 10 or 15 years,” said Russ Kaspar, president and CEO of Kaspar Media. “It is a great way for seniors or transitions in life.”

April is National Volunteer Week, and the many booths open at the event provided locals with a wide array of ways in which they can lend their time to the community.

“Follow your passion,” Kaspar said. “If you love the animals, the stars at Camp Cullom or the Salvation Army – there are so many wonderful mission opportunities here. There are so many good opportunities to not only serve but to follow your own passion.”

Kaspar started the volunteer fair three years ago.

“This April was always our Home, Garden and Auto Show,” he said. “For whatever reason, that never really quite gelled like we wanted it to, so we tried to transition into something that was meaningful for April. Of course, we have some community sponsors that make this possible, like Encompass Credit Union and also the Center Township and Wampler's (Services).”

Center Township Trustee Kevin Evans says it is great to have all of the organizations in our community that need help come together.

“It is also great to get them all under one roof because they start talking about potential projects with each other and areas of need in working together,” Evans said. “Center Township is obviously big on community involvement and developed what we call the united nonprofits with United Way. That way we can pull all of our nonprofits together. So, when Russ approached us and said 'Hey, we need some sponsors to keep this event going,' it was a no-brainer for us. It is always good to get these people together, and we are just helping pull them together with WILO and all the other sponsors.”

The United Way and the YMCA were among the many nonprofits in attendance.

“It is great,” United Way employee Diane Landes said. “It brings people out, and we need volunteers all the time – young and old, we will take you. We need people to help sort clothing and help pick up stuff from people that we we can resale. We need everything. We have a food pantry that is very nice and serves at least 700 people a month, and it seems to be getting larger.”

Kim Stevens, the Clinton County Community YMCA's wellness coordinator, also appreciated the opportunity.

“I think it is a great opportunity to let people know that, at the Y, we do need and use volunteers quite often,” Stevens said. “And also to let them know what kind of opportunities are available – everything from child care, reading books to young children, helping us with cleaning, office work. There are all kinds of opportunities for volunteering at the Y.”

Among the city departments attending the volunteer fair were the Frankfort Fire Department and the Frankfort Parks Department.

“This is my first time, and I have been real surprised,” parks superintendent Travis Sheets said. “There is a really nice crowd and a lot of folks interested in what is going on in the community. It is surprising how many volunteers we have had. We have a lot of volunteers and groups that come to volunteer, from helping with the leaves to cleaning up flower beds, clear up to the Christmas lights and the petting zoos. So, we have a lot of volunteers that come through.”

Free food and beverages were available at the volunteer fair, and one lucky nonprofit won $500 to spend however it needed, and another nonprofit won $250. Those in attendance were able to enter a drawing to win a two-night stay for two at French Lick Resort.

Kaspar hopes the volunteer fair is successful in matching talented people with organizations who need them.

“If we could just unleash the talents,” he said. “I feel that in every community there is perhaps that teacher at Wesley Manor that knows how to teach children to read. Let's utilize that. Maybe there is somebody that used to be a merit badge councilor. Let's brush the dust off of that and get them to show the stars to an 11-year-old again. Maybe there is an 18-year-old that wants to be looking for a job in three to four years. Why not have a couple really good things on their resume as a volunteer initiative to really show the world the kind of compassion they can bring to the workplace when they are applying for that job.”