By CRISTINA JANNEY
The ARC of the Central Plains is growing its programs thanks to its expanded thrift store in downtown Hays.
But with that growth comes growing pains. The ARC needs not only more volunteers to work in the thrift store but also volunteers to work with developmentally disabled individuals in activity programs and as a coaches for Special Olympics.
At the end of 2015, ARC moved its Thrift Store from a space on 11th Street to a 30,000-square-foot building at 600 Main.
The new building expanded the store’s retail space by three- to four-fold. It also provided for expanded workspace, so more donations could be accepted and stored.
Morgan Hart, the Thrift store manager, said the increased space has helped the store better organize and display its products. This has increased sales, but Hart said the store needs more volunteers to keep up with all the new customers.
The day the Hays Post visited, a line of customers with shopping carts full of merchandise were waiting to check out.
Hart said the store especially needs cashiers to work on Fridays and Saturdays. However, the store also needs volunteers to sort and price donations and stock merchandise.
No experience is required. The store will provide on-the-job training. Work schedules are flexible, and volunteers need only be able to volunteer as little as an hour at a time.
Clara Korbe has volunteered at the ARC Thrift Store for more than 47 years.
“I have been able to meet a lot of good people,” she said. “I guess I am nosy. I like to see what people donate.”
She pulled out a pair of rose-colored glasses that were shaped like playing cards, a recent donation to the store. Korbe, who manages the seasonal donations, laughed recalling a donation of fake human butts that were donated to the store. Another volunteer piped in, saying the store sold the items.
After a volunteer works for 30 hours, they are eligible for a 50 percent discount at the store. Korbe said she definitely takes advantage of her discount. She she is probably one of the store’s best customers. She recently found a Harley Davidson bicycle for her grandson and often finds brand-name clothing or items in nearly new condition.
The ARC Thrift Store is the main source of revenue for the ARC program. With increased business at the store, ARC has been able to add more programing and is looking to add even more. ARC’s programing is offered at no cost to the participants.
The ARC has added two new sports to its athletics program—soccer and softball. Co-ed softball started last year with 25 athletes and is a Special Olympics sport, and soccer will be a local sport. In total, ARC sponsors seven sports with 70 athletes. The athletes are currently in track season.
Brent Kaiser, ARC activities director, said you do not have to have any experience as a coach or athlete to be Special Olympics volunteer.
“You just have to have a passion for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities—a drive to help them improve their quality of life,” he said. You don’t have to be well-versed in sports. I have volunteers who have never played a sport in their lives.”
The program has about 10 core volunteers who volunteer for multiple sports, but Kaiser said he could use two to three more volunteers per sport. Kaiser said he would like to recruit some younger volunteers.
The time commitment is about an hour per week for practice. Each season the athletes have one regional meet on a Saturday and a three-day weekend state meet in a larger community such as Wichita or Kansas City.
When the ARC moved into the new building on Main Street, it began using one of the rooms for activities.
ARC has already used the space for dances, bingo, Lego building and a special needs Boy Scout/Girl Scout troop. ARC officials hope to use that space to add more non-athletic activities, and the group is looking for volunteers to lead those classes.
This could be classes such as sewing, basic cooking skills, financial literacy or crafts. The ARC provides all materials. ARC officials have also discussed adding a gym program for young children. Right now Kaiser is the only person ARC has available to lead these types of activities
Kaiser said the ARC’s goal is to provide opportunities for those who have disabilities to be able to thrive and improve their quality of life.
Kathy McAdoo, ARC executive director, said the group is trying to offer more opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities without duplicating services offered by groups such as the Hays Recreation Commission and Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas.
If you wish to volunteer for an activity or coach ARC sports, you can contact Kaiser at 785-628-8831 or email him at activities@ARCofcentralplains.org. Those volunteering directly with developmentally disabled individuals will need to pass a background check and complete several short online courses.
Those who wish to volunteer at the thrift store can also call 785-628-8831 and speak to McAdoo or Hart. The store is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.