When Hays resident Korinna Parker’s boys graduated from Hays High School, she wanted to continue being involved in volunteering, but this time in the community, not just at the high school.

“After they all graduated, I went through Leadership Hays,” said Parker, a Lane County native who has lived in Hays all her adult life. “I felt I needed a refresher course or some knowledge. I’ve always been interested in our community. It’s a great community and a good place to raise children.”

Parker recently became chairwoman of the Care Council, a group of 12 selected volunteers who recommend the allocation of social service funding with money from the city of Hays, Ellis County and United Way of Ellis County.

She takes over from Nikki Mihm, director of volunteer and associate services at HaysMed.

A member of the United Way Board of Directors, Parker now leads the Care Council volunteers, who review annual funding applications from local social service agencies and visit each of the agencies to review their services.

The role of chair requires good management and facilitation skills, as well as organizational, communication and listening skills, said United Way of Ellis County executive director Sherry Dryden.

“You have to facilitate communication within the groups,” Dryden said. “And there have been times in these visits when recommendations and suggestion are made on how to improve and enhance.”

Mihm served as chairwoman for four years.

“Nikki has a quality about her of kindness and compassion, with much encouragement,” said Dryden. “Korinna has those too — encouragement and a very positive demeanor.”

Last September, 17 agencies submitted applications to the Care Council and all were approved for funding, according to Erica Bergess, administrative assistant for United Way, which oversees the Care Council volunteers and receives the funding applications from agencies.

Care Council begins taking applications again this September, Bergess said. The 12 Care Council volunteers make site visits to each agency in December and January, she said. While the chair of the Care Council is changing, the application and review process will not, said Bergess.

Care Council has been active for 27 years as a way to streamline funding requests for local social service agencies. Volunteers represent the city of Hays, Ellis County and United Way of Ellis County. The 12 volunteers go through an application process to serve on the council.

Parker and Dryden on June 20 went before the Hays City Commission at their regular work session and asked for $168,000 from the city in 2020, an increase of $4,000 from the previous eight years.

Dryden reported to the city commissioners on the services the agencies have each provide in 2018.

Access public transportation bus provided more than 65,000 rides; First Call for Help provided information referral to 557 people and provided them with 1,185 services, and gave transient aid to 264 individuals; Big Brothers Big Sisters had 16 new youth in its program providing one-on-one mentoring to kids facing adversity, as well as helping the 190 already in the program; Hays Senior Center provided more than 35,000 meals; CASA served more than 344 people; and Cancer Council of Ellis County worked with Hays Rec Commission to help reduce skin cancer with sunscreen stations at Hays Rec events.

New applicants are Western Kansas Child Advocacy, which cooperates with the City of Hays Police Department and the Kansas Department for Children and Families to serve 113 youths; and the Center for Life Experience, which has served more than 500 people through its grief support programs.

“We appreciate your work,” said Mayor Henry Schwaller IV after Dryden’s presentation. “Thank you for all the hours you put in.”

City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs mentioned that years ago she served on the Care Council and can appreciate the work that goes into the process.

“I don’t think people really understand how many hours goes into allocating these funds and how many visits you make,” Jacobs said, thanking Dryden and Parker.

Parker, a legal assistant at Jeter Law Firm, 1200 Main St., joined the United Way board in 2017 and has been a Care Council volunteer in 2018 and 2019.

“We go out and meet the agencies and find out what programs they need funded,” Parker said. “It’s been enlightening for me. I think these are services that are needed and I enjoy it, it’s very rewarding. There are some delightful and wonderful people who run the programs.”

United Way kicks off its next fundraising campaign Aug. 23, said Dryden, in collaboration with the Hays Public Library. Parker encouraged the public to donate.

“These are services that are needed in our community,” she said. “I can’t imagine our community without these services being offered to our people.”