Earth Team Showcase—Kaiden Anderson
Each employee at the Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Office (SO) has a recycling bin for paper and twice a week we have an exceptional volunteer that takes care of picking up the items in those recycling bins—Kaiden Anderson.
Kaiden is part of a program for special needs individuals currently volunteering within the NRCS Kansas SO. He attends a school that partnered with the previous Earth Team (ET) volunteer coordinator at the SO to provide volunteer services, while at the same time allowing individual students to work on social, motor, and/or behavioral skills. The students get to know the employees and we, in turn, develop a relationship with the students that helps them gain confidence and allows them the opportunity to try new experiences.
Kaiden makes the program exceptional! His contribution, his happy-go-lucky attitude, and his smile give us all something to look forward to. His excitement towards his work is uplifting and makes you want to share in his excitement. His contribution to the ET program is monumental because in reality, this may be the only “job” he will ever be able to perform and he loves it. He comes in with a “go-to” attitude, looks for his special ID badge, and goes to his task. He gets very excited and will often frolic about the office while doing his duty—this brings smiles to the employees’ faces and a bit of cheer to everyone!
The work done by the student(s) is very useful in that the recycling program has to be done on a continual basis so that it is manageable. Having a student coming in the office once or twice a week on a regular basis to assist the 60 plus full-time employees in this task is immeasurable.
Kaiden was born with Tuberous Sclerosis; he is mentally and physically disabled. Kaiden’s life is a challenge. He has had to learn the simple things, like following a path to allow him to service all employees and communicating with people in a different setting than he is used to. The tasks we take for granted (reaching under the desk for our recycling bin, taking any path we choose through the office—even having a job!) are tasks that Kaiden has to work extra hard to learn—these physical movements do not come natural or easy to Kaiden.
Kaiden and the other volunteers before him all bring added value to the ET program. They show that not only are we encouraging and utilizing outside resources to remain within our budget; we are also willing to take chances allow the special needs community to do and contribute more for theirs.