During her lifetime, Hesston resident Ellen Voran noted the words of American author, historian and Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale have resonated with her as a sort of mantra.
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something," Hale stated, "and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
Voran has seemingly stopped just short of doing everything since returning to Hesston (having grown up eight miles west of town) in 2009, spending a good chunk of time volunteering at Schowalter Villa, and was recently recognized as the "Volunteer of the Year" by LeadingAge Kansas for her efforts.
Taking part in the Villa Ensemble initially drew Voran in, but once she lost her singing voice she started to utilize some of her other talents to help out how she could. Having an affinity for quilting, Voran meets with a group at the Villa once a week and their work helps raise money for the Good Samaritan Caring Fund. Additionally, she shifted from singing to a focus helping with the Music and Memory Program at Schowalter Villa.
Schowalter Villa's Music and Memory program helps those with a wide range of cognitive and physical difficulties find renewed meaning and connection in their lives through the gift of personalized music, and Voran helped compile the database of music that is utilized in the program. It was a year long process, Voran said, and an especially gratifying one seeing visitors elated after a specific song resonates with their family members.
"When you're hearing that kind of thing, when you've worked on something and you get feedback like that, that makes it worthwhile," Voran said.
LeadingAge Kansas awards volunteers whose achievements have made a difference to the lives of the people working and living in member organizations and staff at Schowalter Villa attested to that in Voran's case, especially in regards to her work ethic, though she noted it was never done in pursuit of accolades.
"My motivation in doing volunteer work is not for the praise and the recognition, but it still is nice to get a pat on the back," Voran said.
Growing up, the native of Harvey County noted her father, P.R. Lohrentz, was a big influence on her. Voran recalled her family giving money to their church and its causes all the time and her father also utilized his talents to help others, routinely making grandfather clocks for the local Mennonite Central Committee sales to raise money for ministries like peace building, education and hunger.
Pursuing her own interest in quilting (including wall hangings, table runners, tea towels, etc.),Voran has been making goods for the MCC sales for more than 30 years now and she has kept it in the family. Her son is now chairman of the MCC sale in Houston, for which Voran contributes at least one item each year.
On top of that, the former teacher of 34 years (getting her start in Moundridge) has also taken up the cause of current educators with some fellow members of Hesston Mennonite Church, helping raise money for school supplies for teachers in the congregation.
It didn't take much to call Voran to action, as she noted she has been volunteering in some way, shape or form for most of her life, but finding causes she is passionate about just helped solidify her commitment.
"There are many needs around and as a volunteer I match my interests and abilities to those needs," Voran said. "It has been interesting, challenging and enjoyable."