OVERLAND PARK, KS (March 8, 2016) -- Many Tallgrass Creek neighbors are frequently on the lookout for those who need a little extra help. Residents work together on various projects – from shoes to cookies to coupons -- coordinated by the retirement community's Hugs Committee which assists the disadvantaged and homeless around the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Earlier this year, Hugs volunteers encouraged residents to donate gently-worn shoes for those in need and provided a large bin in the community's living room as a drop-off point. The effort, known as Soles4Souls, resulted in an overflowing bin of more than 100 pairs of donated shoes. Committee chairs Fran Wolfe and Bunny Brown coordinated delivery of the shoes to a local retailer partnering with the national Soles4Souls organization that distributes shoes to disaster relief areas.
"We do this once a year," says Fran. "Our shoes can end up nearby helping victims of fires or tornadoes or in other disaster relief areas around the world."
Another familiar (and delicious) effort provided by Tallgrass Creek volunteers happens on "cookie day" each month. That is when about 50 Tallgrass Creek residents deliver dozens of homemade cookies to the community's Resident Life office where Fran and Bunny box them for pickup by Marcia Merrick, a Kansas City, Mo. resident and tireless volunteer. Merrick uses the cookies in the 400 sack lunches she makes and delivers each day to Kansas City's homeless.
"The smell of freshly-baked cookies fills the Resident Life office on cookie day," laughs Bunny. "People always drop by to see what's happening."
The baking effort started in 2010 when Fran and Bunny heard about Merrick's humanitarian efforts to feed the homeless. They asked each participating Tallgrass Creek resident back then to supply two dozen homemade cookies.
"We were very pleased to get about 600 cookies that first month," says Fran.
But as word (and mouthwatering aromas) filtered out, more residents wanted to get involved. Today, about 2,500 cookies are donated each month to Merrick's sack lunch campaign with many residents baking anywhere from two dozen to many dozens of cookies each month.
The array of cookies baked by Tallgrass Creek neighbors is astounding and always includes Bunny's snickerdoodles and Fran's molasses cookies. Residents also bake chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar, and other homemade cookies, many from recipes that have been handed down through the years.
"Marcia tells us the folks she's helping are always excited when our cookies will be in the lunches," says Bunny. "They should be. We have some incredible bakers here."
The volunteering at Tallgrass Creek goes beyond shoes and cookies. Earlier this year, residents collected hundreds of cans of food for a local food pantry as well as gently-worn clothing, hygiene and baby products, hand-knitted blankets and scarves, holiday gifts, and more for the disadvantaged. Volunteers also gather on Monday mornings outside the Sunflower Bistro to clip hundreds of newspaper and magazine coupons for donation to local non-profit agencies and food pantries.
"Volunteering seems to be a way of life at Tallgrass," says Fran. "People here are very generous and want to help."