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2023 October Volunteer of the Month - Vivian Van Essen

“There is no silver bullet to success. It takes an army of people, a safe environment, high-quality programs, and unique experiences to level the playing field for all kids.” A statement from Boys & Girls Club of America as they strive to build great futures for America's young people. Locally, the Boys & Girls Club of Yankton inspires and enables all young people in our community, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Volunteers are a big part of the Boys & Girls Clubs mission as they assist in making great futures a reality for the next generation.

Community Member Vivian Van Essen spent time volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Yankton prior to the pandemic and was excited to return when the organization began to welcome back volunteers. Now, Vivian donates her time at the Club at least 2 days per week - always producing fun ideas about games or activities, evident by the constant group of youth sitting with her and participating in activities she leads. Because Vivian keeps her group numbers small, she has meaningful conversations with members and forms solid relationships. Vivian is a dedicated volunteer, striving to be a consistent presence and role model for youth.

Because of Vivian’s commitment of time and talent to our community, United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton was honored to present her with the October 2023 Volunteer of the Month Award.

Taylor Slaght, 4th and 5th Grade Coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club of Yankton shared that, “Vivian shows a deep desire to help Club members form healthy relationships, not only with adults, but also with the peers around them by having deep conversations about how they can be a good friend to everyone. Vivian impacts at least one different member every time she volunteers at the Club.”

We asked Vivian to share more about her volunteerism, in her own words:

“I have lived in the Greater Yankton area since 2000 when I got a job working with youth and families with Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health Center. I began volunteering in many areas with my local United Methodist Church, Habitat for Humanity and Pathways Shelter where I lead a weekly bible study now.

After retiring in 2017, I began volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Yankton where I lead activities to help youth gain social skills. I also volunteer at River City Domestic Violence Center when someone needs a listening ear and deliver Meals on Wheels at Sunrise Apartments for The Center.

Volunteer work is enjoyable because I so enjoy seeing young people work on making good decisions that will affect their futures. I also enjoy checking in on people who sometimes need help or just a kind, caring visit.

The advice I would give to those thinking about getting out there and volunteering in their communities is the more I give the more I receive from the youth and those who can share with me, both their positive and painful situations, while looking for better ways to handle their concerns and problems.”

Thank you, Vivian, for all you do.

To learn more about local volunteer opportunities or to nominate someone for United Way’s Volunteer of the Month Award, please visit, email, or call United Way of Greater Yankton at (605) 665-6766.

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