Prairie Village News 7/9/19

Faron Wahl, Manager.

Unlike the way things were not many years ago at the village, we can only operate today with a dedicated, paid team who are on the grounds daily throughout the season, as well as a few of them whose work stretches into and through the off-season. This team is our core, and without them, things would quickly grind to a halt.

Even many of our long-time members and regular supporters don’t always realize this, as it’s not automatically apparent. We can still appear at a passing glance to be a rural non-profit run entirely by volunteers, with a paid person or two around to keep the lights turned on, answer the phone, and sell a few snacks and souvenirs.

Those days are behind us, as we’re simply bigger and busier than that approach will allow. Out of dozens of examples I get asked about, two of the easiest to explain are building opening and closing and mowing. Both relatively simple functions occur here pretty much daily, but both involve more than meets the eye. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg, as things like reservations and concert sales often take a full season for staff to learn.

Opening and closing buildings for our visitors involves a pack of keys, daily knowledge of what’s being worked on by maintenance, a weather check, and an overview of our current guest count. New staff spend at least a week absorbing just this one little daily task, simply because it involves multiple considerations and repetition to do it usefully. It’s not hard; it just involves more than it would seem.

Mowing operations are carried out at some level on most days but are far from random. I draw up a mowing schedule weekly, based on weather, growth rate, camper reservations, reunions, special group agreements, and what area of the grounds will see the most focus by the upcoming weekend. The weather tends to shift that plan almost daily, making us adapt our approach while in no way lessening the task at hand. When we’re ready to roll, the timing and start location matter a great deal.

Additionally, new people coming in who would like to help mow need key and fuel access and receive some basic safety training, all best done with advance planning rather than by drop-in when we’re already humming through that day’s plan. While not intended to insult anyone, we simply can’t afford to do less than this, as safety and liability considerations are incredibly real today and they potentially affect every ounce of our future survivability.

We often have kind folks ask how they can volunteer at the village. The answer is one requiring thought and planning yet laced with thankfulness. The best way to plug in good volunteer help is to visit about it in advance, so it works in tandem with what’s already organized and happening rather than with a randomness that, while fully well-intended, can literally cost us additional work and hours to make it happen.

To be truly effective, it is incumbent on us to assess volunteer offers for skill set, interest, availability, and capability, and then plug them in with intentional planning so the kind work being offered propels us forward, directly helping us achieve that week’s goals to be ready for our guests and events. This requires a deliberate and methodical approach, even though some are surprised to learn things are really that orchestrated.

So, here it is in a nutshell: While we have a compulsory reliance on our paid staff, we continue to love and need our great volunteers. If you offer and we can’t press you into service right at that moment or on that day, please understand it’s not because your intent is somehow less than appreciated.

Volunteerism is alive and well at the village, and we are deeply grateful for the significant component of our existence it represents. When we plan well and marry it up effectively with our ongoing operations, the value added by our volunteers exceeds any dollar figure we can throw at it.