In-HABITAT-ing Kansas

We have had some pretty good volunteer opportunities, but they aren’t always easy to come by. We discussed that we really need to be a bit more proactive in finding things we can volunteer for in the cities we plan to visit. By that I mean we are scrambling when we show up somewhere to find where we can help, but we may not be around long and we haven’t had time to research our options. I find it especially frustrating that we make calls or send email to see if we can help and we get no replies maybe that is because we’re only asking about a very specific time in the next day or two, and we would get more responses if we gave them a bit more notice? We are trying to help here and the organizations supposedly needing help aren’t responding, so I don’t understand. You rarely get to speak to a person, just leave a message and hope for a return call. I try to see the business side of things that maybe the staff is already overwhelmed, understaffed and just don’t have the time or manpower to organize volunteers. Maybe all of these experiences will teach us more about volunteer organizations and we will find a new, easier way for not only us to help, but others to start doing it too. At least be able to provide advice to people who want to volunteer on how to go about it? Not to start out negative (I haven’t had any coffee yet this morning), but I just wanted to get that off my chest.

This post is to share one of our best (in my opinion and my favorite) volunteer opportunity we have had yet. Habitat for Humanity. Kat had done volunteering for them in the past, but I never had. We were looking for something to do in Kansas and we had access to quite a few places, Kansas City, Lawrence or Topeka. No calls back from the Kansas city food bank, I spoke to a theater in Lawrence and although the lady I talked to said they had paid staff they did take volunteers sometimes and she would have her boss get back to me…. nothing. We went online to United Way and there were a lot of future things we could do, but none within our dates of availability. Habitat of Topeka was still looking for help, so I signed us up for Tuesday doing construction from 9-4. I had no idea what to expect and Kat wasn’t giving me too many details because it just depends on what they need that day. Anyway, we were going to get to go into Topeka, the capitol of Kansas, so that was good.

It was only a 40 minute drive into Topeka and it was all nice Kansas farm roads. We came into town and right into the neighborhood we would be working in. Our foreman/guide, Danny met us and told us where to park. There were two other volunteers already there at 9am when we arrived. We all introduced ourselves and pretty much went right to work. The job for the day was to try and complete the siding and outside caulking to get it ready for painting, etc. After we laid out the sawhorses and tools Danny asked who could cut the boards with a circular saw, I jumped right in! My jumbo jenga set building was paying off! So, we all teamed up to get boards laid down on the ground so we could walk without getting sucked down into the mud. The rains the night before had really done a number on the ground, it was really super muddy. We hauled out siding from inside the house, plugged in the nail gun and started measuring and cutting. Kat took on the caulking of the seams between boards and covering nail holes.

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It was a pretty mild day, not too hot or humid, but we were still sweaty and dirty when we finally took a break for lunch. We had packed sandwiches because we had no idea where we would be working, but Danny said he usually goes out and asked if we would want to go too. Of course! Right before we left an older guy showed up and started talking with Danny and he just told him we were headed to lunch and they would talk later. Well, we only went about three blocks down the road to a pizza/ burger place and there was Cliff. He joined us for lunch too. The other two guys had other lunch plans, so it was just us 4. They all chose wisely on their lunches by getting burgers and a patty melt. I chose a personal pizza and it was a little like a cheap, very old, and forgotten in the back of the freezer pizza. So, I had lots of Kat’s tater tots! I miss a good pizza, but we haven’t really searched very hard to find it, but we will soon.

Cliff was a talker. He was once a shop and a history teacher, but is now retired. After learning we were traveling he told us as much about Kansas as he could in a short time. The three areas of the state, tree country, hill country and the plains ( hope I got all that right). The main crops are corn, wheat and soybeans. The population of Topeka is about 180,000. He gave us some advice on where to go in South Dakota. My favorite part was that he has a son who is a ballroom dancer and he is too. He asked if we danced and we said no, not really we just don’t seem to have the rhythm down. He said that whenever he asked a lady to dance and she said she couldn’t dance he would first, take off his glasses, look into her eyes and tell her “Darlin, it isn’t the way your rhythm or the way your feet move, its all about you and I looking into each other’s eyes as we hold each other close”. Haha. He offered to take us dancing g on Friday. We weren’t going to be around, so, sadly we had to decline. He bought us lunch and that was super nice of him. We were happy to have met him and heard his stories.

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I was so excited by the end of the day on Tuesday after we did a full day of hard work. We didn’t finish the siding, but almost and it really felt good to see what we had accomplished. Even though we were hot, sweaty and dirty Danny invited us out for a beer. Well, of course we said yes and he took us over to the new Restore location that they are moving into and then we walked a block to the new art section of town. We each had a nice cold beverage and chatted a bit more, then said our goodbye. Since we were in the capitol city of Kansas we just had to go drive by the capitol building. I was surprised that downtown was really not busy. It should have been rush hour, but it was super empty. An interesting downtown with all the old brick buildings mixed with some newer, modern ones. Not a lot of restaurants or anything that would make you want to hang out around there. So, we did a drive by photo shoot and decided to head home to the camper.


This doesn’t do the artsy district justice, but the architecture is what I expected from Kansas in the old days.


Topeka capital building.


We didn’t stop for gas on the way back and that meant we would need to do it in the morning before we left for Nebraska. However, in the morning about an hour after we woke up we started getting severe storm warnings and we went back and forth about whether or not to leave before we decided just to stay put and try to get some stuff done in the camper. As it turned out the storms quit early, but who knows how the road was on the road to Nebraska, so it was a good decision, no schedule = no pressure. Later that day we took a quick trip for gas and got the tires rotated on the truck. We were ready for an early departure. Looked like a 3 hour-ish drive up to our next destination near Omaha, Nebraska.


Look closely and you can see all the little bugs we left behind at Clinton Lake.


Told you the winds were strong.

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10 Responses to In-HABITAT-ing Kansas

  1. Tracy says:

    You ladies are an inspiration! Hoping your next stop is awesome! 🙂

    • Kat says:

      Why thank you ……… for calling me a ‘lady’! The next stop was awesome, and we even doubled up on the volunteer activity – two in one state. But that’s a story for another time.

  2. Debbie says:

    That sounds like an amazing day. I’m envious. I don’t see the bugs, but I believe you. I have welts all over me from the critters in Belize. They love me more than you…I bet. So it would have been good for me to be with you…I’m an insect repellant for everyone in a 10 foot radius of ME!

    • Kat says:

      Debbie, you’re always welcome to come and hang out and build houses – bugs or no bugs! I’m usually alright with the bugs staying away – what do they say “you catch more bugs with honey than vinegar”………. I obviously am like a fish and chip shop and full of vinegar!

  3. Breck says:

    If possible, keep the saw on the side of the cut that is not “falling off” for safety reasons.

  4. Kelley says:

    Love the story and the pics! So fun and it was still in Kansas! 😉Have fun in Nebraska!

    • Kat says:

      Kansas was Kool (I think I might write a post about the American propensity to substitute C’s for K’s, and to do some quirky spelling – there’s some really wrong things out there).
      Anyway, definitely enjoyed Kansas.

  5. Danny Jones says:

    Kat and Bert,
    Thank you for your words of encouragement and gratitude. I continue to learn so much from our volunteers. Your enthusiasm and willingness to dig in and get it done was greatly appreciated.
    Good luck on your next adventure(s)!

    • says:

      One of the best parts about volunteering is meeting people like you. We really enjoyed our day working with you. Thanks, Bert and Kat

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