Monday, September 12, 2022

Bates County MU Extension Office Makes Big Impact This Year in the Community

Butler, MO – Bates County MU Extension Office announced that it has renewed an AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $75,000 from the AmeriCorps federal agency to support 75 RSVP volunteers serving in Bates County for a second year. If funding goes as planned, a third funding year will be possible totaling $225,000 that will go straight into Bates County with specific service projects. The grant will expand MU Extension’s presence in Bates County, which was previously unserved by an AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP project.

This county wide project has involved many programs, which included: Community Gardens, STEM & 4-H Activities, Physical Activity, Weekend Nutrition Backpack Program, Summer Backpack Program, Care Packages, Tutoring, Reading Buddy Program, Back to School Drive, Food Drive, and Mentoring. All these programs have or will occur in Bates County through Extension Office of Bates County. This county wide project has led to many impacts and outcomes. All projects were coordinated by Sara Bridgewater, County Engagement Specialist in Nutrition and Health and Mikayla Neil, 4-H Youth Specialist. 

The Zion Lutheran School was able to set there school up for a tutoring and reading program with new technology. Classrooms received a smart TV to be able to carry out lessons in the classroom and tablets were provided for all the kids to be able to use and have access to. This has significantly impacted the learning environment in a positive way for the students and the teachers. 

Community Gardens have been put in place with collaboration with stakeholders, community members, and volunteers in two locations: Lily’s House and the Zion Lutheran School. The gardens have been a great addition at both locations and both locations were able to work with the MU Extension Horticulture Specialist, Ramon Arancibia, to design and get guidance to implement the community gardens. Both locations also received fruit trees. 

All students from Rich Hill Elementary School received two STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) Robot Kits. All students from Hume Elementary School received one STEM Robot Kits. Volunteers assembled the kits, and the students were able to put the robots together and learning about how electricity works. 

389 student connections were made with this project

100% of students reported this was their first exposure to making STEM robot 

The Carpenter’s Cup in Butler serve many people during the year with many needs. Earlier this year, supplies like diapers, toothbrushes, food items, and more were provided to the Carpenter’s Cup to make up care packages for individuals. Volunteers prepared the care packages. 

During the school year we partnered with the Adrian Elementary School and was able to provide nutritious items for their Weekend Backpack Program. The program provides food for students that may be in need for food for when school is not in session. This program has been run by community members for years, with donations from individuals and businesses. The grant was able to assist these volunteers do the good work they were already doing. 

This summer there was also a Summer Readiness Backpack Program for Preschoolers, Kindergarteners, 1st Graders, and 2nd Graders at the Hume School. Kids received many Sciences, Technology, Engineer, Art, and Math (STEAM) activities.  The program was created to keep students engaged and connected during the summer. The program was well received by students and parents. Quotes from parents:

•“My daughter can now tie her shoes, after receiving the lacing shoe activity.”

•“It’s helped my son recognize his letters better.”

•“The Summer Backpack Program was above and beyond anything I expected it would be at the start of the summer. I was amazed at all the different activities that were provided for different aged children. My 7-year-old enjoyed showing my 3-year-old her activities and teaching her new things like how to sort by color, how to tie, how to count, etc. What a wonderful program!”

•“The summer backpack program has been a great way to keep practicing what my daughter was working on in preschool and to keep her refreshed on her colors and fine motor skills during the summer months.”

•100% of parents reported they thought their kid’s fine motor skills improved 

•80% of parents reported their child learned a new skill

•100% of parents reported they would do this program again if it was offered

Back to School Supplies for Miami Students, was another service project the Bates County Extension Office was able to partner with and accomplish. With collaboration with community members and the Miami Alumni, every elementary student had the opportunity to get all their school supplies for the school year. Elementary teachers also received some goodies to kick off the school year.  One parent expressed, “I’m so thankful for this. You have no idea how much it will help my family out.”

This year more service projects are planned, and more places in the county will be reached. Sara Bridgewater, Coordinator of the AmeriCorps Grant says, “We are very excited for this year and all the community projects we have planned. This would not be possible without the volunteers and the people that do great work for Bates County.”

AmeriCorps volunteers go through a short training, then become official AmeriCorps Volunteers. We purchase gifts and incentives for our volunteers from local businesses in Bates County throughout the year. 

If you are interested in volunteering, please call the Bates County Extension Office at 660-679-4167 or email Sara Bridgewater at for more information. If you are an individual, business, etc. that wants to collaborate or help us expand these great community service projects in Bates County, please contact us. 

AmeriCorps Seniors’ volunteers stay healthy and active through service, improving their own lives as they improve the lives of others. A growing body of research affirms the numerous mental and physical health benefits of volunteerism, including lower mortality rates, decreased rates of depression, and increased strength and energy. 

Today, AmeriCorps Seniors engages approximately 195,000 older Americans in service at 29,800 locations across the United States and territories through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs. Established in 1971, RSVP engages Americans age 55 and older in service, responding to our nation’s most pressing challenges.

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