Celebrate Community: Pitching in

Park City clan honored for volunteer efforts
2010-03-29T00:00:00Z Celebrate Community: Pitching inBRETT FRENCH Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
March 29, 2010 12:00 am  • 

There aren’t many people who volunteer on their vacations. But the Baker family of Park City was on vacation because of their volunteer efforts, so pitching in one day seemed only natural.

“It was a great experience and neat to be able to volunteer when we were there,” said Roni Baker, a Montana State University extension agent for Yellowstone County.

Roni, Mike, Andee and Adam Baker were nominated by United Way of Yellowstone County to take part in a national program honoring volunteers at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., in February. More than 100 families from 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada joined in the celebration.

“I had a hard time thinking we were worthy,” Roni said. “It’s just a Montana value or a rural value. We just take care of each other.”

The all-expense-paid trips included a day of volunteering as a way to highlight the “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” program. Under the program, 1 million people earned a free day pass to Disney for volunteering for a day with an affiliated nonprofit group.

Family values

Roni and Mike grew up volunteering, so it was only natural to pass on the community-oriented lifestyle to their children. In addition to her duties as a 4-H leader, Roni also volunteers at Relay for Life.

“It’s just something we care about so it’s easy to commit to,” she said. “Sometimes I think people just have to find a cause.”

The rest of the family pitches in at Relay for Life, and also work together to clean a neighboring Park City woman’s yard and take meals to families when a member is hospitalized. Mike, who runs an excavating business, has pitched in at a Park City day care to do maintenance work in addition to coaching his son’s football team and working as a 4-H leader.

Although the children get roped into helping, as well, Andee, 9, and Adam, 6, agreed that the work is enjoyable. Andee’s class even performs a monthly task for the neighboring senior center, such as cutting out hearts on Valentine’s Day to decorate the building.

“Doing it as a family is unusual,” Roni said. “But it’s just fun.”

Finding time

In nominating the family, Pam Sanderson of United Way of Yellowstone County said the Bakers have “demonstrated the value of service for their children by integrating service into their family life.”

Kathy Saulitis of the HandsOn Network that matches groups and activities for volunteers said in a statement that volunteering as a family teaches the values of kindness, compassion, tolerance, responsibility and good citizenship.

With families so busy with activities these days, not to mention all of the electronic distractions such as television and video games, volunteering may seem to be a lost art, but Roni said she doesn’t think that’s the case.

“We’re seeing a lot more volunteers,” Roni said. “And for a lot of organizations, finding stuff for people to do is a challenge. So sometimes seeking out group projects is difficult. I think family volunteering is a big part of that.”

Contact Brett French at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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