About the Karen Viola Award
Karen Viola is a longtime supporter of the YWCA and gave so much of her time and energy helping with our accounting when we were in a time of need. She was with us full-time as a volunteer during a transitional period for this organization. In 2016 we honored Karen by naming our Volunteer of the Year Award the Karen Viola Award. Since then, we have recognized former front desk volunteer Vickie Deaton, former Advocacy Chair Kim Montoya, former Concealed Revealed and Resource Development volunteer Carrie Riordan, and Human Trafficking volunteer advocate and veterinarian Allison Crow. All of these distinguished volunteers serve as an inspiration to staff and supporters alike for their incredible generosity and charitable spirit and continue to model our mission within the YWCA and throughout the greater Topeka community.
Meet Kevin Williams, “Director of First Impressions”
Kevin first came to the YWCA shortly before the pandemic began, and has been a steadfast front desk volunteer or “Director of First Impressions” ever since. He is also a LinC Bonner Scholar, a program of Washburn University, where he is currently studying social work. YWCA CEO Kathleen Marker says of Kevin: “Kevin is a source of stability, knowledge, warmth, and empathy to every guest who walks through our doors. Kevin goes above and beyond in so many ways – from volunteering to take our recycling, to encouraging folks in the community to get involved or donate.”
If you’ve called our office or walked through our front door in the past year and a half, there is a good chance that Kevin, or one of our other incredible front desk volunteers, helped you find the right office or the answer to your question. YWCA Northeast Kansas relies on volunteers like Kevin to keep our daily operations running smoothly, and to maintain a supportive and welcoming atmosphere for every person who walks through that door – from the toddlers in our Early Learning Center to survivors accessing the Center for Safety and Empowerment.
In His Own Words
Why did you choose to work with YWCA Northeast Kansas?
“As a survivor and former client, I experienced the importance of the mission and the work being done. I wanted to give back to my community and the YWCA.”
What is your favorite part of what you do?
“Being a friendly face for clients, parents, and staff. Also, ensuring that clients, parents, and staff feel supported, safe, seen, heard and welcome when they come through the doors or call seeking assistance.”
Tell us about your favorite feminist icon.
“How does one choose just one? RBG, Oprah, AOC, Dorothy Day, Michelle Obama, Brene Brown… the list is immense! If I had to choose, I would choose the advocates I work with. They are the ones I see show up and do the work everyday. They are the frontline to seeing systemic change through empowering community members. Culture change starts with front line advocacy. When change occurs in individuals, then society shifts to adapt. Once society adapts to demands for change, this is when we see systemic change.”
What does YWCA’s mission mean to you?
“Personally, it’s the reason I am where I am. The mission has helped me find that in myself and the want to spread it to others in the community – seeing the mission in motion caused me to question how I was spending my time to do so. This led me to the decision to go back to college, to educate and empower myself to do so.”
Thank you, Kevin, for everything you do as a member of the YWCA Northeast Kansas team!
Learn more about volunteers opportunities at www.ywcaneks.org/volunteer.