by Nancy Dashwood
HOWARD LAKE Kira Karels, a 2014 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School graduate, is well on her way toward a law degree, and, she hopes, a career in family law.
Karels, 22, is the daughter of Marvin and Gayle Karels. She has seven siblings: Timothy, 23; Kerstin, 20; Jeremiah, 15; Ezekiel, 13; Isaiah, 12; Elijah, 10; and Jayden, 8.
During the summer after her first year of college at North Dakota State University, Karels got involved with a student group on campus called the Volunteer Network.
The NDSU Volunteer Networks with hundreds of nonprofits. Karels’ favorites were Habitat for Humanity, the Linus Project, and The Salvation Army.
“I was the campus volunteer coordinator for Habitat before I started at the Volunteer Network,” Karels said. “The builds always guaranteed a hard day’s work, with many rewards.”
The future lawyer was not afraid to get her hands dirty.
“I’ve helped get roof trusses on top of a shed with only man power,” Karels said. “I’ve also ripped insulation from houses infested with mold. Whether it’s a build or deconstruction, you always saw immediate results of your work.”
Bringing it home
That NDSU Volunteer Network morphed into an idea Karels wanted to bring back to her hometown of Howard Lake.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Howard Lake community,” Karels said. “Although I am eager to explore the world, it’s the best feeling to drive across the train tracks and make my way around the lake to my parents’ house. A volunteer program just seemed like a great way to give back to my hometown.”
Following graduation from NDSU in May 2017, with a degree in political science, she has worked for a law firm closer to home, in Litchfield.
Karels took her law school admissions test in early February, and is waiting to hear back from several different law schools to which she applied.
Karels initially began the process of bringing a volunteer network to Howard Lake by explaining the concept to Howard Lake Area Chamber of Council members in a written proposal.
“My proposition is to add a volunteer section to the HLACC website,” she wrote. “I believe its existence would do much to enrich the community. The focus would be toward students, with the intent of helping them gain invaluable experience, and build resumés.”
Karels’ choice to approach her hometown’s chamber was thought out well in advance.
“The chamber of commerce makes an effective promotional base for volunteer work, since it is already connected to many businesses in the area,” Karels stated. “It helps that the local school system is a member of the chamber, as well.”
Karels envisions students and adults volunteering and having a good time together as they do so.
HLACC members give enthusiastic response
“Kira has met with the Howard Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to share her vision and enthusiasm for the network,” HLACC President Jeff Schoess said. “We are excited to work with her, and set up a local resources tab on the website, to identify volunteer opportunities, to sign up as a volunteer, and to receive credit for the number of hours served as a volunteer.”
Putting it all together
The newly-formed team of Karels and HLACC members are now working together to establish a viable volunteer network.
“The chamber is helping to set up the program, recruit businesses and non-profits, and overall promotion,” Karels said. “No classes or training are required by us.”
Schoess agreed, a volunteer network promoted by the chamber represents a win-win situation.
“We hope this resource will encourage students, mothers at home, and retirees to become more active in our community,” Schoess commented. “Their volunteering at Good Samaritan Retirement Community, at the local library, Love, INC., our annual Howard Lake Business Expo, or Good Neighbor Days will be a real asset to our businesses, ministries, and families.”
Karels said people may volunteer as much or as little as their schedules allow.
“People can contact the program and be matched up with other non-profits looking for daily volunteers,” Karels said. “The program will be able to assist people looking for a one-time serving position, or a long-term commitment with volunteering.”
Karels intends to honor her commitment to the Howard Lake volunteer program and attend law school at the same time.
“While attending law school, I would maintain the online resources, such as matching up volunteers with opportunities, and answering questions,” Karels said. “The chamber and I will connect during the monthly chamber meetings.
Paying it forward
“This is a long-term project,” Karels said. “The ultimate goal is to create a volunteer program that is widely used and beneficial to the community. In doing so, we hope to help the youth create positive futures.”
Karels emphasized that some home-based volunteer projects will be available, as well. “We will also promote volunteer options that can be done in the home, such as making blankets or teddy bears for children in need,” she said.
Schoess indicated it will be easy for people to get involved.
Members of the HLACC anticipate launching the program in March. Interested people may watch the chamber’s website for information at www.HowardLakeChamber.com.
“Please contact us at our email address, info@HowardLakeChamber.com, to share your ideas for volunteering and feedback,” Schoess concluded.