Volunteer days bring alumni together to benefit local families

Baker Serves at Harvesters

Doug Barth, ’91, loves getting different generations of Baker University alumni together. In his role as director of alumni relations, it’s one of his favorite parts of his job.

But Barth wanted to expand that interaction to include current students, too. He recently found a way to do that through volunteer days at Harvesters in Kansas City, Missouri. Harvesters is a regional food bank that provides food and household products to emergency food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes, and others.

“Volunteer days are a great way to put Baker out there in a good light. We love being able to tie in alumni with students,” Barth said.

Alumni and students involved in Baker Serves, a community service organization that serves as a liaison between students and volunteer opportunities, participated in Harvesters volunteer days in November and March. Wendy (Zimmerman) Conaway, ’93, was one of the volunteers.

“The time I spent at Baker was very special. The friends that I have met are lifetime friends. Baker is what you want it to be. To get the full experience as a student, you need to immerse yourself into the experiences that Baker offers, and you will not be disappointed. As an alum and now having a son, Braydon, at Baker, it brings back fond memories and the need to get involved.”

Wendy (Zimmerman) Conaway, ’93

For Samantha (Woodward) Shores, ’12, the Harvesters volunteer day was the first “social outing” and “date” she and her husband went on after having a baby in September. “We are both members of the alumni council and were seriously itching to see some of our Baker friends. I try to attend the majority of the alumni gatherings offered throughout the year. And, being from Kansas City, I have volunteered at Harvesters several times in the past. I enjoy volunteering for local organizations like Harvesters and getting to meet fellow Baker alums at various events.”

Each volunteer day consisted of morning and afternoon shifts, with 20 to 25 Baker volunteers—wearing bright orange Baker T-shirts—working each shift. The Harvesters facility is divided into sections, and each team of volunteers worked on a variety of tasks: from sorting boxes and cans of food to assembling snack packs for children and food boxes for the elderly.

Barth said the snack packs are delivered to local schools and then sent home with children for the weekend. “Those children are guaranteed to have food for the weekend. That might be the only meal they have that weekend.”

Shores said she spent her shift sorting through thousands of carrots and bagging them into family-sized portions.

“It was far from glorious work, but it always feels good knowing that the job you are doing is benefiting families in our own community. We worked alongside a handful of other Baker alumni. It turned out that the other two individuals at our table also owned homes on land and worked in or owned small businesses. We had the opportunity to hear business advice as well as share stories of living in the country,” Shores said.

Shores said giving back to the university that brought her and her husband together as a couple and helped shape them into who they are today will always bring her joy.

“Baker has provided me with invaluable connections and opportunities. I can only imagine my friendships and involvement will increase in the years to come. And I hope that my small contributions will help bring positive experiences to past, current, and future Baker students.”

Samantha (Woodward) Shores, ’12

Barth said he’d like to make Harvesters volunteer days something the university does a couple of times a year to continue to foster relationships between alumni and students. At the November volunteer day, the oldest alumnus graduated in 1970, and the most recent graduated in 2020.

“It’s amazing to have people together spanning a 50-year range. You realize that we’re just one big ol’ Baker family,” Barth said.


  • Writtten by Jenalea Myers, '08