Volunteer Stories

Together, Bulldogs transform lives and strengthen communities. Select one of the photos below to jump to the corresponding alumni volunteer story. Do you have a volunteer story, you'd like to share? Send it to us here, to be featured on this page.

Crystal Everett

AS'10, JO'10

Crystal Everett

Crystal Everett Testimonial
No Photo Available

JO'70 (Bruce); FA'69 (Jan)

Bruce and Jan Thorsen

Bruce and Jan Thorsen Testimonial
Kourtney Kirkpatrick

GR’18

Kourtney Kirkpatrick

Kourtney Kirkpatrick Testimonial
No Photo Available

BN’06

Bryan Klopack

Bryan Klopack Testimonial
Nikki Syverson

JO’03

Nikki Syverson

Nikki Syverson Testimonial
Don Baird

JO’68

Don Baird

Don Baird Testimonial
Lucca Wang

AS'11, JO'11

Lucca Wang

Lucca Wang Testimonial
Lynn Place

JO’74

Lynn Place

Lynn Place Testimonial
Carl Pietrzak

LA'61, LA'63 (Carl)

Carl and Connie Pietrzak

Carl and Connie Testimonial
Tami Campbell

AS’93

Justine Campbell

Justine Campbell Testimonial
Crystal Everett

Crystal Everett

 

College/Year: AS'10, JO'10
City: Kansas City, Missouri

“Volunteering is important to me in my quest to be an active member of my community as well as my purpose to be of service. In my years of volunteering since high school, I have given my time, treasure, and talents to a number of organizations and truthfully, it feels good to do so,” says Crystal Everett, a 2010 Drake graduate who earned bachelor’s degrees in public relations and sociology.

A volunteer since high school, Crystal began serving as a mentor in the Kansas City Public Schools system in 2018, and intentionally asked to be placed with a student at her former elementary school.

“The impact of mentoring is immeasurable and I know that even by spending one lunch period per week with a student helps them to build additional positive relationships with support adults,” says Crystal.

Crystal now works for the Kansas City Public Schools and says she is honored to continue to be of service in this capacity.

“My advice to those considering volunteering is to not underestimate their impact,” says Crystal, “I encourage people to support organizations and causes they care about and sometimes, it takes trial and error to figure out what that is.”

For Crystal, that has been about being of service to the people and places that have provided something for her and her family.

Crystal leads the organization of DU Good Day for the Kansas City Regional Alumni Board. Last year, she engaged the group in a volunteer experience at her daughter’s child care facility, United Inner City Services—St. Mark Center. The group donated art supplies and spent time creating decorative aprons for teachers, along with words of affirmation that are still posted around the building for children, teachers, and staff to see.

Crystal also supports Drake in other ways, volunteering for admitted student open houses, serving on the Black Alumni Reunion committee, and supports anything the School of Journalism and Mass Communication asks of her.

No photo available

Bruce and Jan Thorsen

 

College/Year: JO'70 (Bruce); FA'69 (Jan)
City: Clive, Iowa

Bruce and Jan Thorsen noticed the dire need to supply food for the hungry and became involved in helping those who need food the most. The Thorsens volunteered to combat food insecurity in North Carolina for 25 years and continued when they moved back to Iowa in 2015. They work with the Good Samaritan Food Pantry in Adel, a town just west of Des Moines. At Good Samaritan, they check in food donations, stock the pantry, help pick up rescued food, and raise funds for the nonprofit. The couple says they feel good knowing food is getting directly to folks who need it and rescuing quality food that 5 years ago would have gone to the landfill and now is going into Iowa stomachs.

Additionally, Bruce has served on the Iowa Dental Board and the SJMC National Advisory Board. Both Bruce and Jan have assisted University Advancement in identifying prospective donors from across the country.

No photo available

Bryan Klopack

 

College/Year: BN’06
City: Washington, D.C.

A former Regional Alumni Board member, Bryan Klopack, has dedicated his time to volunteering with Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and the Special Olympics. He graduated from Drake University with a degree in management and marketing in 2006. After five years of volunteering, began working for the nonprofit as vice president.

Kourtney Kirkpatrick

Kourtney Kirkpatrick

 

College/Year: GR’18
City: Altoona, Iowa

Kourtney Kirkpatrick graduated from Drake in 2018 with a master’s degree in public administration. That degree led to her becoming the fundraising director for HOME, Inc.

“Growing up I never knew exactly what I wanted to do for a career, but I always knew I wanted to help others. Thankfully, as an adult I find myself fulfilling young Kourtney's wishes as I work at Des Moines' oldest affordable housing agency,” says Kourtney.

Over the last ten years she has volunteered with several organizations including the NAACP, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

Kourtney knows how much non-profits rely on volunteers to fulfill their missions. Volunteers assist in providing the life-changing services and help bring awareness to the organization to help drive the mission.

“My advice to anyone interested in volunteering would be: do some research, find an organization that matches your passion, and go for it! Agencies can always use additional support,” says Kourtney, “And if housing is something you're interested in, hit me up!” (kirkpatrick.kourtney@homeincdsm.org)

Nikki Syverson

Nikki Syverson

 

College/Year: JO’03
City: Des Moines, Iowa

“I have a passion for building relationships, strengthening organizations, and making our community the best it can be,” says Nikki Syverson, who graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations.

Nikki volunteers with the ByDegrees Foundation and Orchard Place and serves on numerous boards and committees around the Des Moines metro area.

“I believe volunteering for a nonprofit organization is one of the best ways to blend skillset and passion to truly make a difference in your community,” says Nikki.

Nikki also owns a non-profit consulting firm and has over 15 years of experience with nonprofit management, fundraising, and strategic planning.

Don Baird

Don Baird

 

College/Year: JO’68
City: Houston, Texas

Don Baird has been volunteering since the mid-1970s, when he got his start sponsoring a Junior Achievement Group while working at IBM. Through the years he has volunteered with many programs, from youth summer camps to a prison ministry. As his career advanced, Don, an advertising/public relations major, had opportunities to get more involved by sitting on the boards of non-profit organizations. These include being on the board of a literacy program where he served as treasurer and serving at his church as finance chair.

Don’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. As a result, he got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association walk and has raised close to $200,000 over the last 10 years, and currently serves as a board chair for the organization’s Houston and Southeast Texas chapter.

“I have found that volunteering with nonprofits is a way to give back and share some of the knowledge and resources that I’ve gained throughout my career,” says Don, “There is a great need for volunteer support in so many areas. Unfortunately, far too many people do not reach out and participate, partially due to time, money, or the fact that they feel that they have nothing to offer... My advice is to find something that strikes your passion, get involved and make a difference.”

Lucca Wang

Lucca Wang

 

College/Year: AS'11, JO'11
City: Lawrence, Kansas

Lucca Wang is an advocate for connections, a benefit that comes with the college experience, and something she has carried with her after graduating in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in public relations and studio arts. She is the chair of the Kansas City Regional Alumni Board (RAB), which gives her an opportunity to be connected to a network that of Drake alumni and Drake students, faculty, and staff. This position helps her be connected herself and contribute to helping others get connected.

“Being supported and connected is vital in life and helps enable the well-being of communities, the Drake community and also the greater Kansas City area community. I enjoy being connected to people and being able to connect people with each other,” says Lucca.

Volunteering is important to her as it is a way she can give back and add goodness to some part of the world.

Lucca started volunteering for Drake in 2017 when she moved back to her home state of Kansas. She reached out to the RAB chair to learn more about getting involved and volunteering.

“My advice to someone wanting to get involved is: Reach out to people; don't be afraid to say, ‘Hello’ and express your interest to see what the possibilities are,” says Lucca.

She recommends thinking about your own time and how much you can commit, so you can set viable boundaries.

In addition to volunteering, Lucca also works in the non-profit world, something she knew she wanted to do since she was 18 years old and a first-year student at Drake in 2007.

“It is important to me to contribute progress and innovation, and enhance and enrich peoples' lives,” says Lucca.

She currently works at the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

“I know that every day I am working, I am contributing to enabling someone to gain access to information that will either help them help someone else or their community or that will help them themselves,” she says, “I am dedicated to my values of integrity and doing good—and that is what guides my life, personally and professionally.”

Lynn Place

Lynn Place

 

College/Year: JO’74
City: Seabrook, Texas

Lynn Place is a volunteer for the Houston Food Bank's Fresh Food Fairs, which have been taking place nearly every Saturday since May. Families line up in local parking lots before 7:00 am to receive fresh food. Lynn’s church sponsors one of these food fairs and they distribute fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products and breads in bulk. Each week, about 370 families are served, representing nearly 2,000 people, over 50% of which are children. Nearly 32,000 pounds of food is distributed each week.

Lynn says it is heartbreaking to know that so many people in the Houston area are in such a bad situation. She encourages alumni in the Houston area to join the efforts to help their neighbors. If this opportunity interests you, contact the Houston Food Bank (713) 223-3700 to find opportunities in your neighborhood.

In addition to her work with the Houston Food Bank, Lynn, a 1974 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in advertising/public relations, also chairs the Houston Regional Alumni Board.

Carl Pietrzak

Carl and Connie Pietrzak

 

College/Year: LA'61, LA'63 (Carl)
City: Houston, Texas

Carl and Connie Pietrzak have been delivering Meals-on-Wheels every Wednesday on a specific route since May 2007, averaging about 18 locations on a 20-mile round trip.

The clientele has changed over the years, but they have one woman who has been on the route all 13 years. The folks they visit are usually physically impaired and often economically impoverished. Connie and Carl view the work as more than just dropping off meals, it’s a chance to form connections.

Carl will often bring in their mail from the mailbox, the paper from the driveway and has even done minor “gardening” for a few people.

“It’s just a good feeling to be helping folks,” says Carl.

Carl has also been a longtime volunteer for the admissions and alumni teams at Drake. He has attended many college fairs on behalf of the University and is a go-to in the Houston area when it comes to student recruitment.

Justine Campbell

Justine Campbell

 

College/Year: AS’93
Located in: Colorado

Justine Campbell, AS’93, is an ultrasound technician at a Colorado hospital. The work has carried her to Haiti. There, she volunteered with nonprofit NYAGI, which brings basic, life-saving ultrasound technology to remote, rural, underserved communities through hands-on training and an interactive educational platform that enables continuous learning. This interactive learning resource, called 7D Imaging, is an iPad-based education platform loaded with a selection of ultrasound specialties, and it has become critical in the effectiveness of the nonprofit’s approach.

“Given that diagnostic ultrasound is immediate, safe, and portable, it made sense to me to contribute my 17 years of experience as a registered ultrasound technologist,” says Justine.

Before Justine joined the team, NYAGI had traveled to Nepal twice to teach skilled birth attendants life-saving ultrasound skills. When it came time to schedule the next trip, Justine advocated for Haiti.

“On each trip to Haiti, our NYAGI team hosted week-long intensive and accelerated hands-on training sessions. On our first trip, we worked with the local healthcare professionals to develop basic ultrasound skills,” says Justine.

During the training, NYAGI team members taught OB/GYN, emergency, pediatric, cardiac, and musculoskeletal ultrasound, focusing on life-threatening conditions.

“We heard astounding stories about how ultrasound could have, and will, save lives in Haiti,” says Justine, “It was quite possibly the most profound experience of my lifetime, one that will forever give me perspective and a sense of accomplishment.”

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