Updated: Mar 5
For over two decades, community organizations and volunteers have joined together in true community collaboration to brighten the holiday season for local families through the Yankton Toys for Kids program. Toys for Kids provides not only opportunities for community members to give but for those less fortunate, it provides hope and holiday magic.
United Way of Greater Yankton was thrilled to recently honor Yankton Toys for Kids Coordinator, aka Mrs. Claus, Lisa Ryken as December’s Volunteer of the Month.
Lauren Hanson, Executive Director at United Way of Greater Yankton, nominated Ryken sharing, “Lisa has been a blessing to the continuation and strong tradition of hope that is Yankton Toys for Kids. Her dedication and long hours, cultivating community partnerships and generosity, have brightened the holiday season for so many families within our community. We at United Way are grateful for our partnership and friendship with Lisa. She is an amazing community volunteer and a great example of true holiday spirit!”
We asked Lisa to share more about her volunteer efforts.
I began volunteering 20 years ago by helping Pat Robinson do Toys for Kids out of Robinson-Ehret dealership. I continued to help her year after year, including traveling home on weekends to help when I lived away from Yankton. I took over as coordinator of Toys for Kids in 2019 when Pat decided to hang up her Mrs. Claus hat.
I continue to volunteer because it is rewarding. I believe I was called to work in the helping profession. As part of my employment, I get to see people’s lives transformed every day and volunteering is just an extension of that work. I continue to devote my holiday season giving back because every child needs to be seen and heard. We all need a “Santa” in our lives and if this is the way I get to be that person, I will do it as long as possible.
I mainly spend my time volunteering all of Nov/Dec coordinating Toys for Kids. This requires between roughly 140 hours of my time over the course of 4-5 weeks. I am responsible for setting up our “toy shop” as well as picking gifts for each child, wrapping and organizing families. I spend time shopping for children’s requests. I then take everything down and put in storage. I line up other volunteers to help wrap and organize and do all this as efficiently as possible.
I enjoy volunteer work because it helps one get out of self. I think it’s very important to spend time helping others in order to appreciate all one has in their own life. I can get too caught up in my own life and this helps me appreciate all I have and recently, it has allowed for teaching opportunities for my son. I strive to raise a compassionate and empathetic son and believe him seeing me volunteer and give back is one of the best ways to teach those things.
The Yankton community is full of opportunities to help others and knowing you were able to bring cheer during a time that for many is not joyful, is rewarding. If you have children, consider involving them in your volunteer work. It’s a great way to teach compassion and empathy to growing minds. We can all find a few free moments in our lives to give back to others. It allows you to meet new people, learn different things available in the community and should also provide a warm heart when it’s over.
To learn more about local volunteer opportunities or to nominate a Volunteer of the Month, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call United Way of Greater Yankton at (605) 665-6766.